The Sword's Kyle Shutt on Stoner Metal, High Country, and Anthony Bourdain

"I grew up in West Texas. It was like what you see in Friday Night Lights. The only two bands that came into town were ZZ Top and Pantera, and in a funny way, I think The Sword are somewhere in-between." That's the Sword's laid-back guitarist Kyle Shutt, speaking by phone as the band prepares for a tour bringing them to Culture Room May 10.

As a kid, Shutt's dad turned him on to heavy music like Ozzy Osbourne and AC/DC. He learned guitar and played trombone, and when he was 15, a ska band came to town desperate for a horn player. "They were called Ten Betty Zane. They were crappy. You won't find anything about them on the internet, but it gave me a taste for being on the road in a band. I was 15. I can't believe my parents let me do it, but by the time I was 17 and graduated high school, I moved to Austin to play music."

"When we started out, people called us hipster metal. Now they call it stoner metal. Is Willie Nelson stoner country? Is Snoop Dogg stoner rap?"

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He played in some metal bands and in 2003 met singer J.D. Cronise. "J.D. wanted to be in a band that played something heavier than what he was doing, and I wanted to play something lighter." And with the addition of bassist Bryan Richie and current drummer Jimmy Vela, The Sword was born, smashing through a genre of music Wikipedia typecasts as "stoner metal," a term Shutt isn't down with. "We're just a rock band. When we started out, people called us hipster metal. Now they call it stoner metal. Is Willie Nelson stoner country? Is Snoop Dogg stoner rap?"

Whatever you call it, their music has found a following with The Sword's most recent record, High Country, making it to number 30 on the Billboard album charts. It's a record Shutt says has no unifying theme except for cranking out high-energy rock 'n' roll. "We took a year off. I was scuba diving, J.D. was exploring the mountains of North Carolina, Bryan had kids, Jimmy was BMX racing. The theme of the album was 'no rules.' We fleshed out 17 songs in the studio that [are] the sound of the head space of four particular dudes at that particular time."

They're planning to release an acoustic version of High Country in September, but for now, they're happy to bring high-volume electric versions of those songs to audiences across the country. "We changed the arrangements on a lot of our older songs, so it's something different if you've seen us before. We still don't have enough money to afford pyros, so you'll have to settle for seeing a kick-ass rock band."

And if you want to give the night an extra kick, the band sells its own hot sauce at the show. "It's called Tears of Fire, after one of our songs. We guested on the TV show Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, and it ended up being a commercial for it. We don't bring too much on the road, because if a bottle breaks it's like mace in your eyes."      

The Sword
7 p.m. Tuesday, May 10, at Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale 33306. Tickets cost $17 plus fees via
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David Rolland is a freelance writer for New Times Broward-Palm Beach and Miami New Times. His novel, The End of the Century, published by Jitney Books, is available at many fine booksellers.
Contact: David Rolland