Interview: Horsewhip Talk ‘Consume and Burn’

Florida’s Horsewhip are back with their third LP. The band’s music fuses hardcore, punk, and metal into noisy, dissonant bursts of chaos, but through it all cuts a distinct sense of melody, an underlying thread that ties it all together. And their newest record, Consume and Burn, displays that sentiment as prominently as ever.

Out November 10 on Iodine Recordings, the album marks a shift for the group. With the departure of frontman Mike Grantham following their 2020-released LP Laid To Waste, Horsewhip rearranged itself with Drees taking on lead vocals in addition to his duties as guitarist and main songwriter. The band—consisting of Drees, bassist Jeff Howe and drummer Alex Bond—also brought second guitarist Dave Tetan into the fold.

Fresh off their performance at this year’s Fest, all four members took a moment to speak with us regarding everything that has transpired in the past few years.

When did writing for Consume and Burn begin?

Shaun: During the pandemic. We had a record that was released during the pandemic, and at that time we got together, I guess when we felt safe. We were kind of in a bubble; we only saw each other at that point, so we just started writing without a specific idea of what it was going to be, and that’s how it started.

Dave: So roughly 2021 into early 2022.

Was this before or after the lineup shift?

Jeff: I think it was as it was happening. We released the last record, and right after that, Dave joined the band, and Shaun switched to vocals. I did some of the backup vocals. So we basically relearned everything that we were doing. I think it took us a little while to add a guitar and then try to get me to do more vocals. It was trying for a little bit, I think. I think we splattered in some writing in there.

Dave: Yeah, the first six months was really just me getting up to speed with everyone else, and adding the second guitar to parts we already had one guitar for. There are double tracks on Laid To Waste that weren’t possible to play before that. We made sure it all worked, and then after I was all set to go then we started writing.

What led to the lineup shift?

Dave: Well, I had already been in a band with Shaun previously called Guiltmaker, and I had very much been hanging out with Horsewhip since their beginning. I’ll let someone else take the rest of the story.

Alex: Dave would come along on our roadtrips and do merch, and he was pretty rad and outgoing, and people bought a lot of things from him. We knew he was obviously a good guitar player as well, and we just wanted to beef everything up, so when we switched Shaun over to lead vocals, we thought, perfect opportunity to add second guitar. We didn’t want just anyone coming into the fold just in fear that maybe it wouldn’t work out and things would go south, but since he was already our buddy, and we had actually been on roadtrips with him before, from my opinion, it was a natural fit.

Jeff: He also had a cool guitar.

Dave: It’s flashy.

What’s the guitar?

Dave: This guy Kevin Burkett, he’s originally from north Florida, it’s called EGC—Electric Guitar Company. All of us had them at some point—aluminum neck guitars. It’s just some goofy purchase I made, and it’s ended up as something that’s attached to me, and I cannot get rid of because it’s indestructible, and I throw it everywhere.

What led to wanting to add the second guitar?

Shaun: I wanted to add more dynamic to the live set specifically. I wanted there to be meat in the part of a song; if I was playing lead, I still wanted there to be guitar playing. You do that when you’re recording a record. You play a lead and then have the melody still playing, but we weren’t doing that live. So when I would play a lead, we would lose that dynamic and lose the heaviness that was there. That was one of the reasons why I really wanted to add Dave. Also because being the only guitar player, if I fuck up, you’re going to hear it. Having Dave, if I fuck up, you’re not going to hear it as much.

Dave: And vice-versa.

Jeff: I think also we liked the dynamic of a four-person group, rather than five—like to add a guitar player and another frontman. We liked just being the four of us; it just made it so much easier. Plus, Shaun’s singing voice is killer, so it all worked out really well.

Dave: If you listen to Laid To Waste, Shaun does, I don’t know, 40% of the vocals? So it’s like yeah, you can do this, man.

Shaun: Keep saying nice things. I like this.

Was it a difficult process in making the move to lead vocalist for you, Shaun?

Shaun: Physically, yes, because screaming and playing guitar is exhausting. When we first made the decision to do that, I was like, “Well, let’s try to play a set and set a see what happens.” Halfway through the set, I just felt winded. I felt like I was running a marathon. I don’t want to say I conditioned myself because that sounds real fucking weird, but I just started riding my bicycle a lot more. It helped my cardiovascular so I can keep that up because there’s a lot of vocals going on in those older songs. Mike, our original singer, him and I would go back and forth, so there’s always some shit happening.

Jeff: Call-and-response.

Shaun: Yeah, and taking that lead at first was very exhausting. It wasn’t easy. I didn’t write those guitar parts for me to be singing on them, so I had to figure that out too.

Alex: Yeah, it’s all about conditioning and practice. You just got better at it.

Shaun: Yeah, just kept practicing.

Dave: At our age, you’ve got no choice. You tend to tone it down, you know?

Did your guys writing process change at all through the lineup changes?

Shaun: Sometimes.

Jeff: Some of it. I think there’s a lot of Shaun coming to practice with riffs or even a whole song and then a lot of times getting through it, and then he would call an hour later and be like, “I’m changing this part” (laughs). That was pretty across the board with Shaun doing most of the writing; that would happen quite a bit. It wasn’t bad; it just changed things up at the next practice.

Dave: I think if I were to write most of the material, it wouldn’t really sound like Horsewhip. These guys had already been playing three or four years before I joined the band, and I told Shaun specifically before I joined that I want to make sure that I fit and I’m in my lane, or else it’s not going to work. There’s so much going on in Horsewhip that if we’re fighting each other, or it’s mostly my brain, it’s not going to sound like Horsewhip. But I’m definitely adding something more to that band. More atmospherics, more dynamics, and more detail.

Shaun: One hundred percent. There’s a few songs you came to practice with riffs and I’m like, “Show me that riff,” and we’d work on it that way, which I love. And then I go home and restructure a bunch of shit.

There is a lot of dynamic range on this record, like you said. I’m thinking specifically of the song “Circadian Rhythm.” Did you guys put a particular emphasis on creating songs that move like that?

Shaun: It’s funny, “Circadian Rhythm” was actually the very first song we wrote with Dave, and I think that that song—I remember thinking I have the opportunity to play something different. I could play a dreamy riff while Dave is playing a black metal riff. So that’s a good example, that’s the first song we wrote with Dave and that mindset of it being a bit more dynamic. A lot of our songs do this; they’ll just start, and by the time it’s done, you’ll have a bloody nose; it’s just chaotic mess until it’s over. Which I still like, but it’s nice to have some ebb and flow in a song.

Alex: Yeah, there’s no specific formula. Shaun brings riffs or songs, or Dave brings something. It’s just nice to have more input because a lot of pressure was on Shaun for the longest time to write all the songs, which is a lot to ask of someone. Once Dave came into the fold it was a little bit easier to compose songs and create the structures. Just having an extra person who knows what they’re talking about as far as guitar goes, having that extra input is always helpful for sure, especially if it’s someone you like. No formula, just another person there to help out the process.

And even though there’s a lot of chaos and dissonance to your music, a lot of melody cuts through.

Shaun: I’m glad you can hear it.

Dave: That’s Shaun. He’s a hook master on those one-liners. Our previous band was a bunch of non-distinct guitar parts together mixed with a bassline. We all love post-punk and all that stuff. If you listen to Horsewhip riffs by themselves, you can put it to a drum machine, and it would song like gothy, post punk riffs.

Shaun: Have you done that?

Dave: Not yet.

The record sounds great, too. It’s simultaneously clean and raw. What was recording like?

Shaun: I honestly think I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time writing heavy music. I’ll write a riff, and it sounds cool, but it’s a mess. I think one of the things we talked to John Howard about in the studio was that we wanted the guitars to be heavy and mean sounding, but we also wanted to be able to hear everything we were doing. I think we took six or seven hours just dialing things in. Nerd talk here. We were dialing pedals in and EQ on the amp and all kinds of things just to get it to where it was pissed but still clear if that makes any sense.

Dave: You picked it out. The clean dynamics was definitely through the recording process, but that raw sound was definitely the mastering process. Before we sent those off for mastering, they didn’t sound that gross. It was a little more clean, which is fine. That’s (Howard’s) style, but Dead Air Studios really knocked it out of the park with mastering. I think we made a right decision with going with that.

How long did recording take?

Jeff: A few weekends.

Shaun: That was it? It was a total of six days?

Jeff: Yeah. Not even six full days. Basically five days. But then we did vocals at home.

Shaun: I think by the time we were done recording all the music, it was our last night, and I was going to sing. I think I sang one song and I was so tired, I was like, “I sound terrible; I can’t do this.” So John gave me a microphone, so that week I came back here with Dave, and we tracked vocals. It worked out. I think it sounds ok.

Jeff: I was very unprepared for that part of the record. We did them all in our practice space. I think we did that on the last record too.

Shaun: We did it in my house or something like that. The last record we did we did actually track live.

Jeff: Ten songs in two days, basically.

Shaun: I will never do that again.

Jeff: It was fun. It came out good for what it took to do it. But it could have been better.

Shaun: This time around, I wanted to be the best version of us and take our time. Even with the writing process and just thinking about things a lot more.

Alex: I think the new record overall is an example of the positive evolution of the band, for sure. It’s just a lot heavier, meaner, faster, two guitars, a lot of screaming. I think that’s what we were going for, just a thicker album to stand out from the last one.

Is every record almost a reaction to the previous one?

Shaun: Always. I am never happy with what we produce. I don’t know why.

Dave: There’s stuff on this record that bugs me. It’s not high value enough. It’s just the perspective of, “I would have done that differently.” But to everyone else it’s like, “Yeah, that’s awesome.” I recognize that, it’s just me, my bias. Just wanting to be perfect in some way. Nothing’s perfect, and punk rock shouldn’t be perfect.

For each of you, is there one particular song that stands out to you, and why?

Jeff: My favorite might be “Pain,” and I don’t know why because I had such a hard time playing it correctly, and I still don’t all the time. I think it was mostly comprised of Dave’s riffs that I think Shaun moved around a bunch. I pretty much learned the song in the studio, and it was fun to learn, it’s fun riffs to play, it’s a great song. I like that song a lot.

Alex: I guess I would have to pick “Dissolve.” It’s got a lot of variety in it, just some punishing, brutal parts. Yeah, it’s a lot of parts mashed up together, but at the same time it’s just unrelenting to me, and it’s fun to play. It’s a really fun song.

Shaun: I don’t know. I would probably say “Plague Machine,” mainly because I think Alex’s drums are the coolest on that song. I think his drums are really fucking awesome. And it’s one of those songs that’s not easy to play, but listening to it, it’s not complicated. It kind of makes sense. It’s a quick, short, fast song that just makes sense. As a listener it’s easy. As a player it’s not easy; it’s fucking weird, but listening to it, I think it’s good. It hits a lot of marks for me. It has D-beats; it has blast beats, and at the end, it has some heavy shit. It has everything I like in a chaotic hardcore band, especially those drums.

Dave: Now that I hear everyone’s answers, this is a tough decision for me. They’re all my little babies. I would say “Dissolve” really because it just makes you want to fucking run and jump off a building. It’s that fucking crazy of a song. But I will say this about “Plague Machine” and all the other songs, and Jeff kind of touched on this, that they’re challenging to play. We didn’t have everything pretty much nailed down to a tee before we went in there and all the songs are challenging to play but that’s kind of the point I think. If you want to make yourself better write something that’s out of your wheelset and then buck up to it once it’s recorded. I think we’ve done that.

Shaun: That’s a good point. I didn’t particularly do this on purpose, but I maybe subconsciously would try to push the envelope with Alex to see what he could do on the drums.

Alex: He tried to kill me; I’m convinced of that.

Shaun: I just wanted to see what we could as far as writing weird shit that worked.

Is there an idea of writing to the skillset of the people around you?

Shaun: Yes. It’s a problem because I don’t play drums. So it’s one of those embarrassing things where I’ll come to practice and say, “Alex, like this,” beating on my chest and he’s looking at me like, “I have no clue what that is.” I’m terrible at explaining anything anyway and I’m really bad at explaining drumbeats. So that’s always a funny situation.

Alex: Guitar-speak versus drummer-speak is foreign languages to each other. I just have to sit there for a minute, and I have to figure out what Shaun is trying to say here. What kind of beat is he going for? What kind of tempo is he going for? We eventually figure it out, but to be able to explain to each other how we want certain parts to go is also a challenge. I don’t play his instrument, he doesn’t play mine, and it’s just difficult to explain to someone, “Try it this way,” and you just kind of babble and hope they get your idea. But mostly we just have to play it a few times.

Shaun: I purposely don’t tell Alex right away what I have in mind because I want to see what he comes up with. Sometimes he comes up with a way better idea than I had. For the most part, I like to let Alex run with it and see what he hears me playing. A lot of the riffs, honestly, I’ll be listening to any music—could be a Cure song or a Depeche Mode song— and I’ll hear a melody going on and I’ll be like, “That would be cool if that was faster and with chords and messy and whatever.” So I would go home and work on it like that and I wouldn’t necessarily know what the drums should be on it until I show Alex and hear what he comes up with.

Dave: I think the one thing that I brought to the process was us recording practices. I have a handheld recorder. We would go through a version of the song that was either Shaun just in Garageband and then maybe some automated drums that sounded weird, just to give an example. But the write-and-review thing, we used a recorder but then we just started using our phones at practice because it was much easier to send the files back and forth. The review process of going home weekly and listening back to what we played and being like, “We need to change this,” and, “What do you think about that?” That’s really the important part of the process, I think.

So the record is now out, what comes next?

Shaun: We gotta play a bunch of shows. We’re going to try to book something next year to get out of state for a few days. We were talking about going to Texas, but obviously we have to set that up. We do want to do a lot more. Right now there is a lot going on.

Dave: We’re going to do our own Saint Petersburg release show somewhere in December, more on that soon.

Alex: Next year, play some fests here and there and do some weekend trips, do a week here, a week there, whatever we can do. What our lives will allow, of course.

Consume and Burn is available now from Iodine Recordings. Follow Horsewhip on Facebook and Instagram for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Dave Decker

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