Like the best things in life, Floridian sludge trio Shroud Eater’s self-released debut full-length, ThunderNoise is limited edition. The band pressed up 100 copies on their own, let guitarist/vocalist Jeannie Saiz put the artwork together, and promptly posted it online for willing ears to find it. Well, after hearing their self-titled demo EP last year, my ears were more than willing, and I found ThunderNoise to be a massive-sounding collection of eerie, individualized songs, carrying a creepy vibe, not so much unlike the thousand-eyed storm Saiz drew on the background of the album cover. Rough in terms of production, especially as regards the drums of Felipe Torres—bassist Janette Valentine rounds out the group in considerable fashion—but still a quality outing of atmospheric sludge (not post-metal, and if you know the difference, you know it’s one worth pointing out), rife with energy and the kind of immediacy one can only find in a band still figuring out what they want to be.
In talking to Saiz for the interview you’re (hopefully) about to read, I just wanted to get a basic introduction to the band in an effort to help spread the word about who they are and what they do. Shroud Eater’s ThunderNoise is available now.
Okay. First question. The big one: Who came up with the title ThunderNoise?
That was Janette, actually. Basically, I found a scrap of paper with words on it and she had scrawled “Thundernoise,” and I thought it was fucking awesome. It was kind of like, “Yeah, that works. Great.”
When was that? I could see that being a decision made before the album is even written.
Yeah, it was one of those situations. It wasn’t really something that was like… Obviously, we were planning to record the album anyway, but once that was discovered—I found the paper, she had forgotten about it, and I was like, “What’s this? It’s fucking gold.” You gotta use that.
And you did the art for the record as well, right?
You forgot to give yourself credit.
It doesn’t say it anywhere on the release.
Shit (laughs). You know, I had been doing the album art since probably about last May. I started working on it, and what I started working on was not even remotely close to what’s on there now. I went through so many thousands of variations and sketches, and I was really into this one idea for a long time, and I kept drawing it and referencing it, and I liked what it stood behind, and I just couldn’t get it right.
You just kind of look at something and it doesn’t jive with me. I know it didn’t settle well. Everyone else was like, “Yeah, it’s great!” and I was like, “Egh. I don’t know.” You have to work instinctually.
How did you finally settle on the cover for it?
We basically had no more time; that was it. I guess at that point, I was like, “Alright.” I kind of started falling more into—I don’t know, skeletons are so overused, skulls and all that, but there’s something that’s grim and somber about it, and it ties into the name of the band and all that bullshit. Suddenly it became, I realized I wanted to somehow illustrate the idea of the word “thundernoise” and with that, some sort of dark force.
We live in Florida, we’re in Miami, so there’s all these storms and I’m always seeing them come in from the beach. That imagery is really impactful to me.
Looking at it, I can see the storm stuff, definitely, with the background of the eyes in the clouds. It’s all very manic.
Exactly. I kind of envisioned it like some sort of monster/storm. A storm with a million eyes. Just stuff that I wrote down for myself as something to go with.
How did you guys decide on doing the limited run, DIY physical release?
It’s just really a matter of being practical (laughs). We’re not some huge band or anything. It takes long enough to sell 100 CDs, let alone if we print 1,000 or something. I was just thinking in the short run and see how things happen. We’ll take it from there. I’ll probably end up sending it out. I’m sure at some point we’re gonna run out, but not anytime soon, so I’m not worried about it just yet.
It seemed like a cool way to get a small amount of CDs out there, and I personally like handmade cardboard-type of stuff anyway. I like to hold books, and I like having that experience, so I wanted it to convey that as well, and I thought doing it in a small run of 100 is the best way to go. At least for now.
Would you see yourself rereleasing it, or would you want to just record something else?
I don’t know. We’ve gotten such slag with this whole garbage-can-recording sound that I’m like, “Alright, that’s it. It’s gone. Let’s just move onto the next thing.” I think we’ll probably just go for another release.
Tell me about how the songs came together for the album. It seems like on some of the tracks, there are themes running through. Animals, hunting.
Yeah, definitely. I would say maybe six of the tracks are stuff that we had written—me and Janette—in the interim between our old band and this band now. Stuff that we had for a while that was brewing. We really liked the songs and didn’t want to put them to waste, and once we started jamming with Felipe, they changed organically from there.
He plays a different style than what we were playing with before, so we kind of tweaked to accommodate that, a middle ground that still held the central integrity of the song, but had his style. That’s important. The newer stuff: Generally for songwriting, I’ll just jam with my acoustic at home, and I’ll come up with riffs. I always have tons of papers with random words and thoughts or whatever, and I just piece everything together from there and present it to everybody.
Janette I’ll usually show at home, and we’ll just play it softly, figure it out from there, and then we’ll take it to band practice and play it with Felipe, and then once the three of us start playing, we just figure out, “Maybe this is too long,” or, “This part doesn’t make sense,” or “Let’s change this, let’s change that.” It’s collaborative, but I guess for the most part, I’ve been doing a lot of it.
And what about the lyrics? You mentioned six songs had those themes. Was that just what was on the piece of paper you grabbed?
Pretty much. Some stuff had themes, I guess. Sometimes I name a song before I write lyrics or before I even have a song. That’s the theme, whatever it is, and I try to think about and develop it from there. As far as the lyrics, it’s a combination of scraps and random thoughts and stories, but still trying to relay my own personal experiences and things that I go through and feel or whatever, taken to a more universal approach. I like mythology and stuff like that. Joseph Campbell. He’s the man.
How long were you in the studio for the album?
It was probably about a month that we were in there, mostly just really late at night when we all got off of work, and maybe a couple of weekend days. It was really hot. We recorded in July, and it’s pretty insanely hot down here at that time, and the warehouse that we recorded in—our friends built a studio room and a control room and all that bullshit—but they had this one tiny A/C, and we had to turn it off because you could pick up some of the sound from it on the mics.
So it was being inside a room within a room within a room, and it was just ridiculously hot, and breathing each other’s oxygen, it was pretty intense. I might have gotten kicked out of the bass-tracking sessions, you know… (laughs). It was pretty intense.
But it was definitely good, and we still had fun with it. Sometimes you gotta suffer for your art (laughs), and it was definitely one of those situations.
Wait a second. You might have gotten kicked out of the bass-tracking sessions?
Yeah. You know (laughs). It could have happened, possibly. I might have had to sit outside, have a few cigarettes, just leave. Like I said, we were all breathing each other’s air. Pretty hot. Things happen when people are put into intense temperatures like that.
Are you working on new songs now?
We have one song that’s new that’s pretty much wrapped up. We have a couple other things that have been brewing. After March, we’re just gonna chill out for a bit and work on writing some new songs. We wanted to put out maybe a five-song EP in the next year. That’s our goal or whatever, so we’re gonna try and focus on that and see if we can get some new songs written and wrapped up and hopefully put something else out there. It builds from there.
There’s so many bands. It’s good. I don’t want to say there’s an over-saturation or anything, but there’s a lot of people out there doing a lot of great shit, so all you can do is keep going (laughs).
Shroud Eater’s ThunderNoise is available now at shroudeater.bandcamp.com.
JJ Koczan has never seen a storm with a thousand eyes. He has seen thundersnow, though, and that’s weird enough to suit him just fine. firstname.lastname@example.org.