Shroud Eater's Jean Saiz and Janette Valentine Put Metal in Its Place
It is not easy to be a woman these days. It actually has never been, but within this codex, we'll tackle only the auspices of male-driven muzicks. South Florida, always leading the charge when it comes to progressive, out-of-the-box (no jokes there, please) thinking, is the proud witness to the juggernaut that is Shroud Eater. Arguably one of the better metal outfits on the landscape right now, this three-piece is more than just a "chick band."
And I don't mean that drummer Felipe Torres is not one of the better skin-beaters in the game right now; I just mean our convo with him will come later. Right now, we'll bask in the full glory of the gals on guitar and bass -- twin tornadoes creating a perfect mobile-home holocaust wherever their amps are plugged in. A barren community of satisfied faces and the occasional smirk of cock-fueled assurance time will prove wrong.
These ladies rock. They rock hard. If I could retrofit the world to agree, we would've all known that already. But it don't matter. They don't mince words; they don't cut corners. They work hard. Happy should we the living be who can say we've borne witness to the proper natural order.
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Back in 2010, I had the opportunity and pleasure to speak with Janette about Shroud Eater. Not only is she a friend but an inspiration to me concerning South Florida's underground music scene. As the force behind Shroud Eater, what can you tell us about the band since those nascent days?
Jean: We've definitely grown as a band and grown more into our sound and the way we interact with each other musically. There's a relationship of understanding, interpretation, and emotion that comes when writing a song, at least for me, so having everyone on the same page is what makes a song more powerful, and we're more honed into that current now.
Janette has (finally!) been singing more, which gives me a break but also adds a different element to songwriting. Jan's got some great vocals, although she's shy about it, so it's my job to push her to push herself. Her style is clean and she tips more to the psychedelic side of vocal arrangements, whereas I'm much more primal and rely on yells and screams. It will be interesting to see how we start brewing these two things together in upcoming song arrangements, but I'm excited about the possibilities.
Janette: We've done more "production" in the way of trimming the fat... something we didn't do before. I think this stems from having more experience together and honing in on how we want stuff to sound instead of settling and saying, "OK, this works." There's more thought behind finishing up a song. I've been more involved in writing lyrics as well as singing. I tell ya, I don't like singing much, but Jean's persistence and evil looks have been a driving force in getting me behind the mic. We've received some compliments, and that's been encouraging, so hopefully that means we're on the right track.
As South Florida's leading ladies (and dude) of metal, what can you tell us about the reasonable expectations of fans outside of our community, and how does femininity play into your success?
Jean: I wouldn't say femininity helps what we do at all; in fact, quite the opposite at times. A lot of people within our community and abroad have written us off as "Oh, that band with the chicks," and their interest falls just beyond whether or not they deem us "hot" or whatever petty opinion they may have.
I don't play music to pander to people like this. I play music for me, for my sanity, for my goals, and hopefully people connect with that, not my gender. The few times we've had ladies come up and say that they were happy to see some girls up on stage melting faces, that is a great feeling. Similarly though, there have been ladies who make it a point NOT to support us, because they just "don't like women in heavy music," or, as one lady put it "It feels like my mom is yelling at me." Which is fine. Different strokes for different folks.
Janette: The fact that we're women can certainly be distracting, especially in a male-dominated genre. I've been told numerous times, "I saw two chicks setting up and was wondering what the fuck you were gonna play." It's an odd formula, I guess, so you have to learn to own up to it and do what you do and hopefully transcend the whole "chick" thing. Just because you're a woman doesn't mean you're gonna rock and just because you're a dude doesn't mean you're gonna rock. Music is all a matter of personal preference, and in the end, if people dig your music, then having boobs shouldn't make a difference.
"High John the Conqueror"
Did you ever set out to make a mark in this genre? I'd like to think of myself as "progressive" but I am just one man, and as much as I'd like to see more outfits like Shroud Eater out there, that's just not the case, is it? What do you think balks women from getting out there and taking what's rightfully theirs?
Jean: We set out to play music, but I'd be lying if I said there wasn't a goal of conquest. There is an air of defiance in what we do, because people form opinions before you hit a note -- and so that invariably activates the portion of my brain where I have to absolutely crush whatever bullshit is projected onto me. My objective becomes to absolutely slay, and in that respect I want to make an impression as any artist does. I'm happy to say that I've seen a lot more women playing heavy music both here, through our travels and across many genres; we're lucky to have such a solid collection of bad-ass ladies down here representing in some heavy bands like Orbweaver, Holly Hunt, Nunhex, Faethom, or Testökra.
Janette: Jean and I started playing together and this shit just kinda happened. We're just going with the flow and rolling with the tides. If it grows into more, then awesome. If not, it's still fun. I love the creative process, and for all of us this is a great release. We're happy to see more women being loud and unapologetic and kicking ass. Not because they're chicks, but because they play good shit, and that rocks.
I am a sucker for packaging. I am; anyone will tell you. One thing I love about you guys is the steady aesthetic of your releases. What can you tell us about that process?
Jean: Thank you! Visual art preceded my musical tendencies, and in my day job, I'm a graphic designer so I have a keen sense of color, typography, and visual hierarchy. At least I like to think so. The artwork for our releases or merch I try to string together with a theme. For Dead Ends the color scheme and stark visuals were absolutely necessary and play a big part in the vibe of the record, and my ultimate goal is for someone to sit down with our CD or cassette and look at the artwork, let the symbolism sink in and become a full experience. The packaging I developed for the limited edition cassette release for Dead Ends had a precise vision.
I wanted it to feel like you walk into a comic book store and hanging on a wall next to some toys and ancient books and bongs there's this rad little package of goodies. Stuff like this still intrigues me. I enjoy artwork and packaging for records, CDs, etc... I want to be able to open and hold stuff and feel texture and shit like that. If it's handmade, even better. So that becomes a big part of the goal of a release as well -- not just the musical art, but the visual art that makes the experience whole and unique.
Janette: Being able to download music and not having to physically purchase music anymore takes away from one of the most important parts of the listening process. Listening to a record you purchased while handling the cover and delving into the lyrics, the artwork and photos is part of what completes the experience as a whole. Something that not only "looks" cool but involves you physically is most gratifying. I am very grateful, as is Felipe, that Jean is a talented artist and has killer ideas when it comes to design. The artwork needs to jive with the music in order to complete the whole story.
Touring. Let's talk touring. This past jaunt on the road aside, what are your dreams and aspirations on the road?
Jean: Touring! Only the road is real! I love touring. I wish we could do more. Even playing shitty shows on the road, it's all about chalking it up to the ups and downs of being in a band. Nothing better than playing a really rad show in a place you've never been, to people who've never heard of you, and they walk away smiling, excited and with arms full of merch. For future touring plans, we definitely want to get out across the U.S. and do a full tour -- we're planning right now for a West-Coast/Southern tour which will be a cool trip. Touring abroad is something we hope to be able to accomplish soon. The goal really is to do as much as we can given the time and money we have (or usually don't have).
Janette: "The road is fucking hard, the road is fucking tough." Let's see, meeting awesome people along the way, as well as knowing that people you don't know have been listening to your music and better yet, people buying your music and shirts is certainly awesome. Touring is equal parts fun, hard work and patience. Some shows are better than others, some people nicer than others. But it's a fucking trip and when it's good, it's good. And we're looking forward to the West Coast tour that's in the works. We'll be broke as shit when we return but it's the sacrifice ya gotta make.
"The Star and the Serpent"
What are your thoughts and/or opinions on this archaic world we live in? Forgive me if I can't get over the horse that you girls make a righteous racket that should unnerve the "boy's club" of metal; and rightly so. The playing field has changed. How much more do you want it to change?
Jean: I want the playing field to change so much that no one will have to ask "So what's it like being a girl and playing heavy music?" I want it to be like "This band is awesome," not "this band is awesome for girls." I hope to see that change in my lifetime.
Jan: The playing field has changed and more women are doing cool shit in music, be it metal, doom, punk, black metal, etc... Too bad for the dudes and chicks that disregard a band simply based on appearance or gender. And to the dude-bro with arms crossed over, inspecting my pedals, gear and technique, "You're pretty good for a girl" is not a compliment, brah. Just sayin'.
On that note, what is next for Shroud Eater? Tell me about Dead Ends.
Jean: Dead Ends seems to be the point where the three of us finally aligned to create a more cohesive collection of songs. Janette and I had a more thoughtful approach to songwriting, and it's really interesting, in the end, how things come together. I think we are equally satisfied with the outcome and this EP kinda serves as a springboard for our upcoming full-length in terms of writing, vocals, lyrics and mood. We've already started working on new songs and have been incorporating them into our live set and they have been going across well.
We're going to be recording in early October for an upcoming split we're doing with Junior Bruce. I'll be doing all the art for both sides of the record as well, so I'm looking forward to that. We're in the nascent stages of planning a West Coast and semi-U.S. tour for February of next year with Orbweaver. In the midst of all that, we are planning stuff out for our next full length, so as usual we're keeping busy!
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