INTERVIEW: He Is Legend (12/04/2017)

North Carolina’s finest hard rockers He Is Legend are about to release their long awaited fifth record ‘few’ before popping over to the UK for a string of headline dates to support their dark and heavy return.

We managed to catch-up with frontman Schuyler Croom to talk about all things ‘few’, including why they decided to start a crowdfunding campaign, how the recording process took shape, and how rock bands can learn from the music industry when it comes to releasing albums.

DP!: So we’re on to the fifth album now – ‘few’ is out at the end of the month on April 28th over here. How are you feeling going into the release date?
Schuylar: Very excited. It’s been a long time coming. We crowdfunded this record and we’re excited to be doing a release where the release date happens to be when we are overseas as well. It’s going to be an interesting experience.

DP!: Why did you decide to crowdfund the album?
Schuylar: I think we were at a crossroads with ourselves and with wanting to work on a label at that moment in time. We had to prove it to ourselves that we were worth another album. We kind of left it up to our fans and studied pretty hard, looking at other bands and how they did the crowdfunding route. We were a little wary of it at first because it seemed not so punk rock, but I think at the end it just proved to us that we have a cult following.

DP!: You raised around $71,000 in the end which seems like a huge amount.
Schuylar: Yeah, it was pretty overwhelming. We were certainly humbled by the response in general, and especially working with the artists that we used and having people to come through to help work towards this record was amazing. Down to the artwork on the record and connecting with fans and with people that are really talented.

It’s just really humbling and has made what He Is Legend is, more important than what we knew it was at the beginning. I think it took this to turn the mirror back on us and show us that we had fans who were willing to work for us and work with us and see it to fruition. It just made it that much more important to us.

DP!: On your actual Indiegogo page, you listed out the exact prices that it takes to record an album whether it’s mixing or fees or whatever it was.
Schuylar: Yeah, and some of those were way more expensive than we thought, but that was what we could remember from our last record. We knew when we were going into it that we were going to be asking for quite a bit, but we wanted to be very transparent as to where all that money would be going down to the last penny. I think that was one of the reasons why it was so daunting to start that campaign off at the beginning and also to offer an all or nothing option where if we didn’t make our goal that we would get no money.

DP!: Do you think that crowdfunding is going to become more and more popular with bands if your experience was so successful with it?
Schuylar: I think for a band in the position we were two years ago, or a year and a half ago, I think it’s the perfect option for bands and especially in the rock scene. I think the hip-hop scene is more punk rock than anything these days when they’re dropping mixtapes, and their fans are really there die-hard for them on the streets. To be able to drop a mixtape without warning is kind of the equivalent of what’s happening in the rock scene with crowdfunding, because they know they have a die-hard fanbase on the streets and I think the only difference is getting fans of rock bands to step up and say “we are here for you and we are down with whatever you do and let’s do it”, because it takes a lot more to get five musicians ready to be in studio and bang out an album.

So, I think in a lot of of cases it will work really well for rock bands, but there are other bands that the label route is the only way. Especially for some younger bands that are doing something completely different and I don’t see it paying off too much if you don’t have a following already, so that’s when the up-and-coming bands jump right into going on the road for a label for very little money and doing it for the exposure, but that’s how we got our start. You have to pay your dues.

DP!: I think it’s interesting how bands can release albums differently, so you said about dropping an album out of the blue suddenly. We saw Avenged Sevenfold do that this year which for a band on their scale is something we haven’t seen in a long time in rock music, and also Northlane did it a couple of weeks ago. So, do you think there is a change in the balance and rock music is taking notes from the hip-hop scene?
Schuylar: I’d say obviously it’s pretty fool proof how it’s been happening for people like Beyonce and Drake, but that’s on a grand scale, and, I’m not familiar with Northlane but I know Avenged Sevenfold, though I don’t know how that record did for them. I would hope it did well, and I would hope that that’s the reason why they did it – that being a model for releasing an album. I would certainly love to do something like that, but also it could be like throwing your album out the window if nobody bites. You’ve got to have a lot of confidence that your fans are going to gravitate towards picking it up. But, yeah, I would hope so.

I love seeing that happen, when you wake up one morning and find out that Run The Jewels have released an album on Christmas Day. It’s interesting to see stuff like that being able to fly and that all comes with social media. You don’t have to flyer anymore. It doesn’t necessarily help too much with shows, but you can drop a record on a day and everyone knows about it by the end of the day, and that’s crazy.

DP!: Sure, it gets people talking about it and it’s a big surprise. But you guys started this crowdfunding campaign back in 2015 so it shows the process takes 15 months to release an album. It must be difficult to keep it secret from everyone?
Schuylar: Right, that’s another thing that we’ve run into with people that were involved with it, the fans that really helped out. At most, 95% of them understood that the process would be a long road and that was why we had to kind of explain it, but some people two months in were saying “I haven’t got my album yet”, when we were still recording.

I think most people understood, but there’s also the amount of time it takes to mix and master as well as the amount of red tape we had to put up for ourselves and getting a worldwide release date and making sure we did the proper push so we could do press. Those things are very calculated and important as well. If we had just stuck with the Indiegogo itself and just given the amount of records digital downloads that were out there by utilising ourselves as our own record label then we’d been left to dropping the record like the hip-hop model of – it’s out and hopefully it goes somewhere, which could have been cool, but we at the same time, we needed to know that we had distribution which was one thing we couldn’t figure out on our own, and that really is the a cryptic world of record labels of signing distribution in that way. It’s harder for a band like us to be able to get our albums in-store.

DP!: Were there any moments when you were recording or throughout the whole process that you thought you couldn’t have done it before and it was better because you were in control?
Schuylar: Maybe there were some, because we were completely left to our own devices. I can’t say that Tragic Hero Records were ever in the studio tapping their foot making us get an album out. For our last few albums we really had complete creative control, and were lucky enough to have worked with people that we consider honourary members of the band.

‘It Hates You’ and ‘Heavy Fruit’ were done with Al Jacob who was with us on ‘few’, but also with Mitch Marlow who was a member of the band, and those two people know the band well enough that they really know our sound and what we are going to get out of that studio. We go into the studio pretty much knowing what we want to hear on record, and we are kind of left to our own devices and given the opportunity to create the record the way we want it to sound. We’ve never had somebody dictating this or that in our musical sound and how sonically it’s going to play out.

I would actually say that we have not in a long time had any holds barred on our sound in the studio. We know what we are going to do. If anything, it’s that little bit of magic when something sounds better than we thought, or turns out being a little more interesting than we thought it would be. Those are the things that happen to us in the studio now.

DP!: Usually when rock bands return with a new record, they go through this charade of saying it’s heavier than before and the riffs are bigger and it ends up not being the case, but I found with ‘few’ that it definitely is. It’s darker and rougher than ‘Heavy Fruit’. Did you have a conscious effort to have a heavier album?
Schuylar: I think so. I think once everything was said and done, we looked back and had to say it has the heaviest and moodiest elements of all our records: it sounds like He Is Legend if that makes sense. From the time we recorded ‘Heavy Fruit’ to the time we started recording ‘few’, we went through a lot of shit. We were on the road constantly, trudging through Canada in the snow. We pushed ourselves to the limits touring on ‘Heavy Fruit’ in hopes that that record was going to do what we believe ‘few’ is going to do.

People really love ‘Heavy Fruit’, and we still love ‘Heavy Fruit’, but I think that album was a launching pad with what we ended up being able to do with ‘few’, and I think a lot of the feel and darkness on ‘few’ came from that. It’s crushing and more intense than ‘Heavy Fruit’ was. ‘Heavy Fruit’ had a mood to it, and it just kind of comes the way we’ve always written records. We’ve always changed a little bit, but nothing drastic. Just enough so that our fans see the difference, and they’ve come to expect that.

DP!: So, you’re back in the UK soon in May with a few headline date coming up for the first time since 2014.
Schuylar: Yeah, it was around Halloween last time that we were over. Couldn’t be more excited.

DP!: You’re also popping over to Groezrock Festival in Belgium for the first time where you’ll be playing the same day as Deftones, Underoath, Thrice and a whole load of other bands. What’s that going to be like?
Schuylar: It’ll be awesome to see old friends, and be able to obviously watch the Deftones who we love. We’re playing with a bunch of people we know, and it’ll just be a good time to be there. Festivals are always a little strange, they put you in a fishbowl so to speak. You can wander around and see your old buddies like a high school reunion and get to rock out at the same time. I’m sure we’ll be in a bit of a whirlwind having travelled straight there from the States, but we’re very excited.

DP!: Thanks for chatting to me today, Schuylar. And good luck with the record.
Schuylar: Yeah man, nice talking to you.

He Is Legend hit the road in May on the following dates:

MAY 08 – MANCHESTER, Rebellion
MAY 09 – NEWCASTLE, O2 Academy 2
MAY 11 – BIRMINGHAM, O2 Academy 3
MAY 12 – LONDON, The Dome
MAY 13 – NOTTINGHAM, Rescue Rooms
MAY 14 – BRISTOL, Exchange

He Is Legend‘s new album, ‘few’, is out April 28th 2017 through Spineform Records. You can pre-order it online now via the label’s webstore (here).

You can keep up to date with the band online by following them on Facebook (here), and Twitter (here).

Interview by Mike Heath (@MikeBeef)