Interview with Kyle Shutt of The Sword: Warp Speed Ahead

As of Monday, Oct. 11, The Sword announced that they have cancelled their tour due to the departure of drummer Trivett Wingo, pictured above. Can you guess which one he is?

Since The Sword’s latest release, Warp Riders, the bangers from Austin, TX have been there and back again, so it seems. “I’m doing alright,” says guitarist Kyle Shutt. “I have a touch of the plane-lung right now from all of the flying around we’ve been doing. We just got back from Australia, New Zealand and Japan supporting Metallica again. Fear Factory was out with us on that run, too. We all had a great time.” Indeed there is much to celebrate. With countless shows under their belt, now on this tour, Shutt says the response the band has received from fans hearing the new material from Warp Riders for the first time has been extremely positive. “Everyone seems to dig it. When you look up at the crowd and people are bobbing their heads and smiling to songs that they’ve never heard before, you know you’re doing something right.”

The Sword decided to do a few things different on Warp Riders, this being their third studio release—a concept album with a science-fiction narrative. “It’s based on a story called The Night The Sky Cried Tears of Fire that JD [Cronise] wrote,” says Shutt—Cronise is The Sword’s other guitarist, vocalist and primary lyricist. “The story itself is somewhat of a mash-up of all our favorite types of sci-fi and comic book stories and movies that we all grew up with—sort of like, part Dune, part Star Wars, part Heavy Metal, with a little El Topo type imagery.” The dramatic element of Warp Riders was so grand in scope and impossible to cover entirely within the confines of a rock album that Shutt explains the album as “more of a soundtrack to a movie that doesn’t exist…. The music came first and foremost, so even if you don’t care to delve deeper into the story, it’s still a solid slab of heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll.”

It makes one wonder what adding a narrative into the music does to a band creatively, but more specifically for The Sword, what kind of challenges did a record like Warp Riders present the band? “We wrote all of the music over the course of about six months, and we had a lot of different sounding songs that needed something to tie them all together. Having a story to base all of the lyrics around really helped all of the music jell. Since JD is the one that writes the lyrics, it was easier for him to write about a common theme with lots of different musical palettes to use as inspiration, rather than just writing about random fantasy elements like he had before.”

The Sword also worked with an outside producer for the first time during the recording of Warp Riders, Shutt described the decision as a way to “ease the pressure of being in charge of everything.” He also adds, “When we had self produced, we would let ourselves get away with things…. (Having an outside producer) only made the album better, and I wouldn’t have done anything differently. Consequently, this is the first Sword record that I actually listen to on a regular basis.”

The first single from Warp Riders, “Tres Brujas,” is a pretty accessible track from The Sword. Opening up the album the way it does—from the writing, to the performance, to the production – the song has strong vocals and a big chorus that kicks the whole concept behind Warp Riders into gear. “‘Tres Brujas’ was our way of showing people how we do things down in Texas,” says Shutt. “We have a certain swagger that I think is sorely lacking in the heavy metal of today. The main riff and chorus riff are mostly the same two notes, kind of like [Van Halen’s] “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love.” They really allow a lot of room for vocal melodies, which JD is becoming better and better at with each album we make. Really, we’re all getting better with each record, and I think it shows on a track like that.”

Later on in the album, the track “Night City” brings the same sort of vibe that “Tres Brujas” has, pinning itself as the album’s straight up rock ‘n’ roll throw-down. The song is about a planet in the same solar system as the main planet of the story, Acheron, where urban sprawl has claimed the entire

surface. Says Shutt, “It’s always dark there, and it acts as a space port for illegal trading and general debauchery. What better way to musically visualize a hard drinkin,’ pirate-filled space station than with an ass kicking rock song?” This being considered, the song is somewhat of a departure for The Sword, sounding more like ZZ Top than anything commonly regarded as heavy metal. And overall, Warp Riders has less thrash elements to it then The Sword’s previous work, but this seems to be something that Shutt and his band mates are comfortable with. “The mood of the music we wrote is lighter and less aggressive than it has been in the past. There’s definitely heavy, thrashy songs on the record, but the attitude of it all is more positive than a lot of metal bands around today. We’re not really angry people trying to spread that anger, or breed the hate if you will. We just write the songs we hear in our heads, and this time around a lot of rock ‘n’ roll came out of us.”

There have been a lot of metal bands throughout history, and metal has also changed and evolved over time. But The Sword is perhaps the only band that has gotten close in spirit to what American greats like Metallica and Slayer did, without being imitators. Having now toured with Metallica, and having seen what that band gets into first hand, Shutt speaks on a personal note about The Sword’s major influences. “Metallica and Slayer were hugely influential to The Sword. Metallica themselves are a bunch of really cool dudes that are actually into new good music and taking it to the people. They treat all of the bands that open for them very well and that can’t be said about most of the legends still around. We’ve never played with Slayer before, but we will be in February during the Soundwave Festival in Australia with Iron Maiden headlining. I absolutely cannot wait for that.”

Still speaking from the heart, Shutt also reflects positively on the place The Sword calls home, especially after spending so much time abroad, playing shows out on the road. “Austin is a great place to live and be in a band. Rent is cheap—although it is rising, and it’s right in the middle of the country, making touring out to the east or west very easy and not as expensive as, say, living in LA and touring up to NYC and back.” But with Warp Riders receiving critical success and fans coming out to support The Sword’s thunderous live show, Shutt doesn’t expect to see Austin anytime soon. “We fly out to L.A. tomorrow to start our US run of our world tour, and I can’t wait to see what the West coast crowds are going to be like.”

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