Shroud Eater: Paul Robertson Interviews Guitarist/Vocalist Jean Saiz

One of my favourite ‘discoveries’ since I started writing for Thee Shaman, back in the mists of time, is definitely Miami-based hessian barbarian triad Shroud Eater. I loved their sound from the get-go and have enjoyed making their acquaintance online via Facebook, coming to know them as people and seeing them refine their sound and go from strength to strength over the last few years.

They’re just back from a triumphant US tour with fellow Miamians(?) Orbweaver, and have a new EP out called Dead Ends – their first release available on vinyl. I managed to speak to guitarist/vocalist Jeannie Saiz just before they left and here’s what she had to say….

Shroud Eater

It’s been a while Jean – too fucking long – since we had some Shroud Eater action here on The Sleeping Shaman. It seems like you had quite the busy time this last year, so for starters do you want to fill the boys and girls at home in on what went down in 2013 for you fine gals and guy?

Well let’s see here, 2013 started off with a slew of pretty damn cool shows. We opened for Corrections House in January (huge highlight of my year), went on tour up the East Coast with Holly Hunt (and broke down for three days in Philly), released DEAD ENDS with The Path Less Traveled Records in July, released it on tape via my cassette label Primitive Violence, did a southern tour in September, opened up for Black Cobra in our Miami during Art Basel, and just a few weeks ago got the official vinyl release of DEAD ENDS with . and Divine Mother Recordings. Those are the highlights in a nutshell!

Now, you had throat surgery last year, if I remember correctly, how did that impact upon you and the band?

Indeed I did. I was in a very dark place in the months leading up to the surgery. The condition I had was a rogue gland in the base of the throat (the parathyroid gland) that turned whacky and affected everything from my calcium level to my nervous system, bone pain, lack of sleep, chronic fatigue, depression, anger, feelings of emptiness & hopelessness. Only when the gland is removed do all physical, mental and other symptoms cease. So basically my usually morose self was amplified by a thousand and I was a miserable sack of shit. It really warped my brain and my sense of self, I didn’t know if I wanted to continue in the band, and about a month before the surgery, we went in to record DEAD ENDS. After those sessions (and recording a brief vocal guest spot on Orbweaver’s EP) I had no idea what would become of my voice or my ability (or desire) to use it. We took three, maybe four months off from shows, band practice, band life in general in the hopes to heal physically and mentally as well. Once we got back into playing, I did notice and continually go through losing my speaking voice after long sets or shows,where it wasn’t an issue so much before. It didn’t stop us from doing shows and by the time we got more into the roll of actively playing and plotting out band endeavors I became more focused on making up for lost time. I feel like once the gland was taken out this weird fog I was in was lifted and I became much more focused with what I wanted to do musically, artistically, life in general. It was weird to think how long I had been living feeling shitty and assuming I was just turning into a miserable prick.

How productive are you as a band? You’ve always struck me as a very together and productive unit, do you write a lot?

Fairly productive. We could be more productive but as I mentioned previously there are other responsibilities that take up our time. Personally I go through bursts of writing. I have a bank of riffs and song ideas that we still haven’t gotten around to playing or orchestrating. We’ve had some songs come about from just jamming together, not many but some. I want to write more, I always want to do more – I sit in an office working for 10-11 hours a day sometimes, so by the time I get to the point where I CAN play, I’m just exhausted mentally.

Shroud Eater 'Dead Ends' Artwork

2013 was the beginning of Shroud Eater as a touring machine – you got around a fair bit – and you have another round of shows coming up this very next week with Orbweaver, so I guess it’s something that agrees with the three of you? Or four, if you count Melvin..

Seven if you count the three dogs Janette and myself have! Touring is something we enjoy doing, and it’s just something you have to do as a band. It agrees with all of us, yeah, but it also takes a lot out of us in a personal sense. The three of us are in our thirties and have a broad range of responsibilities that we have to account for. I mean Janette runs/owns her own business so when we take off for tour it’s not as simple as just taking the time off – there’s a lot of pre-planning that goes into it, particularly for her. Either way, we make touring work, the three of us, to the best of our ability and to the most of our possible schedule. Touring is one of the great rewards of being in a band – going someplace you’ve never been, and riffing everyone’s face off. It’s part of the job.

Another big thing that’s happened for you lately is your EP Dead Ends coming out on vinyl – how does it feel to finally have a record out there? Any plans for a vinyl version of ThunderNoise maybe?

Man, I spent a good two hours just staring at the vinyl when they came in. It feels great, like a “legit” accomplishment for us. I love seeing the artwork in the larger format, I love the feel and color of the vinyl… I don’t even think of ThunderNoise anymore – if anyone has interest in putting out a vinyl re-release I wouldn’t be opposed but I’d rather spend my energies on new prospects. I think we’ve grown a lot as a band, or grown into this band, since that record. So yeah, out with the old, in with the new!

Something else that we’ve been seeing a lot of over the last year is your artwork – you seem to have really stepped up your game as far as productivity goes, so how is that going for you?

It’s been going good! That’s another thing that I decided to focus my energies on post surgery. I’ve always drawn, since I was a child. The band has become a great funnel for my artistic leanings, and in turn has given exposure to my work to others who may be interested. I’m still learning and trying to improve or do something different with each piece I work on, but it really pleases me that the response to my work has been positive. I try to keep an underlying theme throughout every piece – dark, twisted, and a little tongue-in-cheek… Basically I try to keep it fun and brutal. I like throwing in dumb details, like the shirt design I did for Hot Graves, there’s a demon with fire coming out of his ass. As of late, I’ve been working with Idle Hands Productions down here in Florida doing custom illustrations for a steady stream of punk, hardcore and ska shows. Like I said, the drawings have been getting a great response and that’s the best motivation to continue putting my work out there in the public forum. And if anyone wants to have some custom work drawn up, get in touch!

Shroud Eater - Photo by Bleeding Palm

You mentioned your label, Primitive Violence, earlier, and you’ve released the cassette version of Dead Ends and the cassette version of Orbweaver’s Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon, both initially in fancy-pants packages and very nicely done. Any plans for any further releases?

I love the ‘header card/plastic baggie’ packaging, BTW, reminds me of old toy packaging from the ’70s.

Thank you, I was definitely going for that aesthetic! I do have plans for further releases, in fact I just sent out the order for the my third release, which is a band based out of Nashville, TN called Forest of Tygers. It’s a duo who plays math-y, dark hardcore and mixing some death and grind influences. Their debut EP is going to be called “Bruises” and the deluxe package on this one is going to feature a SUPER cool bonus item, guaranteed. I want to try to do two releases a year, at least to start. It gives me time to put aside funds, plan stuff out, and work with people who share a similar music/life philosophy.

Speaking of future plans, what’s coming up for Shroud Eater? The release of the Dead Ends 12″ is imminent and you’re about to head off on tour with Orbweaver, so what’s next?

Dead Ends 12” was released already, copies are flying around the world to their new owners. We’re heading on tour in a few days, after we return we have a handful of shows booked, and then.. I don’t know, actually. I’ve spent the past five years of this band planning and plotting and constantly thinking what we’ll be doing for the next six months – I need a little break and some time to focus on other things that always take a back seat to the band. Just need to readjust.

Thanks for your time Jean, always a pleasure. Any final words for the boys and girls at home?

 Thank YOU Paul….Um, final words: “Don’t overreact. Don’t underreact. Always have an escape route”

Dead Ends is out now on 12″ Vinyl via Red Moth Inc and Divine Mother Records.

Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Twitter

Interviewed by: Paul Robertson