Interview with He Is Legend vocalist Schuylar Croom | By Nicholas Senior
He Is Legend’s ever-shifting brand of slightly psychedelic, definitely manic hard rock has never wavered in quality since their fantastic debut, 2004’s I Am Hollywood. There’s a certain ineffable quality to the North Carolina-based band’s music that makes it memorable and quintessential. It’s almost as if there were something magical afoot. On their newest LP, Few—released April 28 via Spinefarm Records—it surely feels like they’ve pulled a rabbit out of a hat. It’s a dazzling, mesmerizing listen, wooing you into the woods for a special mind-altering show. Plus, it fucking rocks.
The band stayed at a cabin during recording, and vocalist Schuylar Croom loved being immersed in nature. “It gave us a good way to be a little more creative, tune out and recharge your batteries,” he explains. “For me, that was a pretty pivotal thing. I enjoyed the solitude out there. Being out in the cold, starting fires, not being really bothered in a bustling city did a lot for us. This record’s a real personal jaunt, lyrically. Recording’s pretty taxing, so it’s important to make sure you have some solitude. After six, eight hours of recording, the recharge is a lot easier if you go back to a cabin and drink a bottle of wine, rather than going out to a bar and seeing a bunch of people.”
Few—which is He Is Legend’s fifth studio record—was successfully crowdfunded, and Croom notes that this gave the band some perspective, appreciation, and a bit of anxiety. “This is probably the most important record we’ve done, because it was so dire for us to get it out, and with the way we’ve always worked, it seemed like it had more importance,” he says. “There’s a vast difference when you can take your time and produce things you want, rather than having someone tell you how much time you’re allotted. Just with our morale, it was just a different record. Having people involved from the crowdfunding site made it a lot more humbling to us, to know that there were more people involved than our core [group]. I noticed the extremes from all the other records shined through on this one: heavier, moodier, and more manic.”
Despite being the heaviest album the band have written in some time, Few expands on their mesmerizing sonic soundscapes. There’s a stronger sense of an occult influence lyrically too. Croom agrees, “I’ve been doing that for a while. It’s fun to tiptoe around those things. It’s not necessarily something you talk about out loud, but people have been talking about the occult for decades. They’re meant to be shrouded. Music is a form of magic: using your brain to pull things out of thin air.”
“Regarding the occult, the biggest thing that’s most misunderstood is that it all comes from a place of passion, devotion, and love,” he adds. “The only reason it carries that title was because it was antireligious in the first place. Most of it teaches that you have the universe inside of you, and you control your own destiny. With the state of life right now and how our world has been crumpled up like paper, you can find your own self in those little creatures of life. It’s easy to find things to be upset about, but it’s good to find the silver lining of those things and make them a part of your practice. Being positive is hard to do. It’s much easier to say, ‘Fuck this place; this is terrible.’ It takes a lot more discipline to make life worth it.”
That magical spark ignites within the evocative guitar parts and soundscapes the band create. “I pull from the sounds that the band creates,” Croom concurs. “The way that [guitarist] Adam [Tanbouz] writes guitars is like a voice having the song tell a story before the story has been told, which makes it difficult and easy at the same time. Figuring out what the song is telling is the challenge, but it’s fun. It’s a bit of magic, a couple of witches throwing shit into a pot and stirring it,” he laughs. “That’s why we still do it, why it’s still so fun. Mixing these things together and having them turn into something way more than what we expected, that makes it worth it.”
Croom isn’t shy about his frustration at the world. “It’s when those things rear their head and you notice that blatant racism, hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia exist in the world,” he says. “Will it ever not [exist]? No, of course, and how does that affect your day-to-day life? It depends on how much credit you give it. We should all be really pissed off right now and angry and looking for a way to express that rather than just bottling it up. I think everybody should find an outlet for art, whether it’s playing a drum set or a punching bag—whatever it is, as long as it’s not spraying an AK-47 at somebody. The world’s fucking crazy right now, but has it ever not been? That’s when art flows out of people; look at the ‘60s.”
Despite all this tumult, Croom admits he is very fortunate. “I’m in a lucky position with all my bros to be out and sing positivity,” he shares. “At a rock show, you have no judgment, and people are here to dance and have a good time; they’ve been waiting all week for it. At the end of the day, I don’t want to speak about politics. It’s the same reason I don’t want to talk about religion. I’ve never understood how a stranger can come up to you, and the first words out of their mouth are, ‘Do you know Jesus?’ It’s like, ‘Wait, if we’re going to be friends, this can’t be your intro. We have to find common ground first before we disagree on something.’ It’s off-putting.”
“It’s the same way with politics,” he concedes. “You can’t go up to somebody and ask if they voted for Trump. Even if they didn’t, it’s still a tough question to pose to someone, and [it’s] not very friendly. That’s the nicest thing about rock ‘n’ roll, this freedom of expression and the way that we can, anywhere in the world, go and the community is strong, and they can assume that you’re at least not a fucking asshole,” he laughs. “There’s a lot to be said about the state of rock music and how it’s experiencing this resurgence at this time. Rock music’s always pushing for a revolution and a sense of community.”
Music can be a great unifier and a source of connection for different people around the world. Maybe a small revolution isn’t so difficult to achieve, and maybe there’s a little dose of magic in Few that can bring about some positive change. He Is Legend’s best record yet will surely unite all those who appreciate top-tier rock tunes and worship at the altar of the riff.