Kyle Shutt & Jimmy Vela of The Sword at the Majestic Theatre in Madison, Oct. 14, 2015
photo by Sal Serio
Touring in support of their sixth album, the ambitious and critically acclaimed ‘Used Future’ released in March of this year, the Austin, Texas, based powerful hard rock foursome THE SWORD return to Madison for a highly anticipated date at the Majestic Theatre, Sunday, July 29, with opening band Ume. Maximum Ink reporter Sal Serio spoke to lead guitarist Kyle Shutt prior to the band hitting the stage in Chicago on June 20th. The other members of The Sword are vocalist and guitarist John D. Cronise, bassist Bryan Richie, and drummer Jimmy Vela.
MAXIMUM INK: The Sword will be playing Madison July 29 at the Majestic Theatre, on the next leg of your tour.
KYLE SHUTT: The Majestic is an awesome venue. We were there the last time with All Them Witches and Kadavar, right?
MI: Right! That was a great time.
KS: I know!
MI: I was looking through your press kit, and it was cracking me up a little bit because every periodical was referring to the ‘Used Future’ album as “the return of 70s rock” or “the return of Southern Rock” [both laughing] and… I mean, that’s the music I grew up on, so, I get it, but what I feel when I listen to the new record is the logical progression of a band growing and maturing. I don’t see it as a throwback to 70s rock… I see it as the ultimate Sword album.
KS: I do too. That really means a lot, thank you for saying that. We have grown to this point. The music we write has always been a reflection of who we are at that time. Albums are a little snapshot of a band [at that place] in time, but unfortunately that’s all you’re left with. People fall in love with tiny little snapshots of time like that, and when you move on past that, it’s natural to miss the old times, I guess. But we’re very much a modern day rock ‘n roll band.
MI: I think the one complimentary thing to take away from those comparisons, is when you are talking about a band like a Zeppelin or a Thin Lizzy, that music is timeless and people can really relate to it, and retain it their entire lives, so, if that’s the point those writers are getting at, it should be considered a real feather in your cap.
MI: The Sword isn’t like party-metal, and you’re not doom and gloom either, so, when you play your concerts, what sort of mood do you hope to convey, or what kind of experience do you hope your audience take away with them?
KS: We’re just a kickass rock ‘n roll band [and] we try to not overthink it too much. If we could afford pyro and lasers and stuff, I’m sure we would have some! [laughing] We try to make our music be the lasers, and just be badass players. Most of our favorite bands, like Steely Dan, or any of those bands from the 70s like you were saying, could all play their asses off. We try to bring that to the table, without it being so flashy that you end up being a prog outfit, or something.
MI: Well, you know, it’s a good thing you don’t have the huge columns of flame, ‘cause that probably wouldn’t end up so well in a place like the Majestic Theatre here in Madison! [both laughing] But, another thing I thought was interesting is that The Sword has four new videos from the latest album. I thought they were visually quite non-metal, no big boobs or “let’s slam beers and party” themes going on there. Rather, there’s digital art, and landscape videography. Does the band have direct involvement with the inspiration for those video concepts?
KS: Yeah, absolutely! Especially with the “Used Future” video, and that whole video game concept. That definitely all comes from us, or at least we’ll have an idea and then find a videographer that’s better at [realizing] that kind of thing than we are. When it comes to art, I do have a vision, but I enjoy collaborating. It becomes more than what I can do.
MI: The artwork is so cool on the ‘Used Future’ album cover, a lot of my friends have mentioned that car…
KS: Yeah, that is so badass. That’s not a constructed thing, that is actually a real photo. Our singer J.D. had this idea to do a cover kind of like that, and we were going to have somebody build it out of a photo collage, like a Hipgnosis kind of a thing. It just wasn’t coming together, and we starting looking on the Internet for pictures of cars, and found this lady in Germany who takes pictures of crazy custom hot rods, and lo and behold, there was the picture. So we bought it from her. The guy that owns the car actually got in touch with us. [laughing] It’s pretty funny, that’s a real car and a real picture.
MI: Wow! Do you know what make and model that is?
KS: I can’t remember, but it’s customed out. I think it has broken land speed records out at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I’m pretty sure it’s going to go out there this year to do it again, to break a class record. That thing actually moves. [Note: research has determined that the car is a 165 MPH 1952 Buick Super Riviera]
MI: On the next leg of the tour, including the Madison date, you’ll be touring with Ume, who are not metal whatsoever.
KS: No, they’re like a really great hard pop rock band, from Austin. We like doing tours with bands from Austin, like, if you come see our show with Ume and The Sword in Madison, that’s kind of what it’s like bar-hopping in Austin. You end up seeing a bunch of different kinds of bands, so it’s like taking that Austin vibe out on the road. Also, we were two of the bands on the Anthony Bourdain “No Reservations” episode for Austin, so we thought it would be fitting to go out and celebrate his memory.
MI: As a member of a band, and also as a rock fan, what is your impression of the current hard rock scene in the United States?
KS: It’s always a roller coaster ride. There are so many factors that can affect how any one tour goes. As a whole, it seems very divided, like everything else in the world right now. Segmented. I miss the 90s where everybody liked Cypress Hill just as much as they liked Primus, just as much as they liked Metallica. I feel like everybody liked “everything” a little more. These days it’s like you listen to ROCK, and you go to the ROCK FEST, and its only ROCK. Or you’re in to EDM, and you go to the EDM Fest, and that’s all there is. I feel like there’s not a lot of bleeding of genres as there used to be. So, in a way, it’s smaller, but I say everything has its ups and downs. Its cyclical, so pretty soon kids are going to get sick of laptops, and guitars are going to be cool again. I swear to God! [laughing]
MI: On tour, there are so many dates, and you’re playing almost every single night. How do you keep it fresh, and keep the energy level up night-to-night?
KS: The crowd kind of dictates the energy level in the room, as much as I wish it was us. We’ve never been the band to tell our crowd how to act. You know, we never tell everybody to jump at this part or whatever, [both laughing] we don’t talk to them like a pro wrestler! We’re players, we go up there and want people to hear the noises these four guys make, that is way bigger than it should be. So, since we don’t tell the crowd what to do, [they] can really call the shots. Sometimes a crowd will just fuckin’ GO OFF, and sometimes a crowd will be stoned out of their minds just sitting there staring at you, and you wonder what you’re doing wrong. [both laughing] But at the end of the day, we go out there and talk to people, and everybody seems to have a great time. But… keeping the energy up every night, you just have to take care of yourself, and the energy will take care of you. Try not to eat flaming garbage every day. Try not to drink a whole bottle of vodka every day. It took me ten years to learn that lesson.
MI: What hasn’t The Sword done yet, that is still on the band’s bucket list?
KS: Man… I really want to go to the Pacific Rim… start in Alaska, go to Japan, hang out in some of the [other] East Asian countries, go down to Australia, New Zealand, Hawaii, and then come home. That used to seem a lot more feasible, because we used to go to Japan a little more often. But we would really just like to go to Alaska to play. We were going to try to do a more extensive South American tour this year, but who knows? It would be fun to play space! I don’t know if that’s going to happen either. Hey, we’re going to have a Space Force coming now… they’re going to need entertainment, right?
MI: Absolutely! [both laughing] I hope you get to play space!
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