INTERVIEW: Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey of BUTCHER BABIES (August 2021)

After a year and a half, touring—the lifeblood of most metal bands—is back. For Butcher Babies, the return to some form of normalcy begins Saturday, Aug. 28, 2021, at the Metal in the Mountains festival in Pipestem, West Virginia. From there, the band will launch its “Butcher Babies vs. Goliath” tour, on which it will perform its debut album, “Goliath” (2013), in full, along with material from later albums and new songs it has been releasing over the past year. (The next single is coming Aug. 27.) The tour, a celebration of female-fronted bands, also will feature Infected Rain (playing its first-ever U.S. shows), Stitched Up Heart and, at select shows, Kaleido. Butcher Babies frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey took time out of their busy rehearsal schedule to talk to Live Metal’s Greg Maki about the tour, their debut album, new music and more.

LIVE METAL: Things are still very uncertain, but touring has returned and you’re hitting the road in about a week and a half. It’s been over two years since you played a show.

HEIDI SHEPHERD OF BUTCHER BABIES

HEIDI SHEPHERD: Yeah, yeah, it’s been over two years since we played a show, and it’s been over three years since we’ve toured. So, yeah. We played two shows in 2019. We were spending our time writing and recording, so we didn’t really get to play many shows. It’s been three years, so we’re really excited about finally going on tour.

Are there some nerves, too, about going out there, particularly in the situation that’s happening now?

CARLA HARVEY: Yeah. I think the biggest thing is that we have to be extra careful that no one gets sick, because that would bring the whole tour down, and we want to be out there and keep doing what we love. We have not only the band, but we have a bunch of employees—we have a road crew, we have management—and we want to make this the best experience for everybody and keep the train rolling. So we’re just gonna do the best that we can to stay healthy and, at the same time, have fun.

I’ve seen that you’re still planning to do meet-and-greets and VIP experiences. How will those things change?

HEIDI: We are doing them. The thing is we had a bunch of people who purchased them for 2020, and they were so gracious enough to keep their spot for future tours. So we had them on hold, basically, for a whole year. So now they get to use that spot for this upcoming tour. We do have pre-parties. We’re gonna follow all the local guidelines for all the different places we’re playing. The pre-party, people get to come in, we’re playing a game of Pictionary with the band. It’s limited to 35 people. We’re keeping it small and short. And then we have an after-party, too, where people get to actually come on our bus, which we have precautions that our tour manager took classes for to ensure everybody’s safety in that. We’re really excited. It is kind of scary to welcome people on our bus, but we do know that our fans are so respectful. Even prior to the pandemic, our fans were super respectful about entering our home on the road. And we’ll keep it super clean. So we’re very excited about being able to see people face to face again. That’s the most exciting.

You’re jumping right into this tour at a festival—not easing back into it at all.

CARLA HARVEY OF BUTCHER BABIES

CARLA: Yeah, why not start with a bang? I know that a lot of our diehard fans are traveling to this festival, so I think it’ll be a very friendly atmosphere. This is a very, I want to say, homey festival. It’s a big festival, but it feels very, like I said, like a big group of friends. So I think it’ll be very welcoming and it’ll be a good reintroduction.

HEIDI: Plus, the lineup is super fun. We’re so excited that we have a ton of friends on that day. So we’re very excited to see friends that we haven’t seen in so long and also catch some live music. I can imagine the first time we step on stage is going to be pretty emotional.

On the tour, you’re taking out Infected Rain, Stitched Up Heart and you have Kaleido on a few shows. That’s a really fun package. You haven’t really been on a tour like that here, with all “female-fronted” bands, before.

HEIDI: We did it in Europe in 2018, and it was so much fun. We had never really done it before. I don’t know why. It just never really happened. We weren’t against it or anything. But when we did it in 2018, there were five bands, all led by women, and it was such an incredible tour. All of us girls would stay up and talk about everything under the sun. We had girls from Ukraine, Malta, Canada. It was just fun. It was women around the world. So we wanted to do something like that here. But also, we’ve been friends with Stitched Up Heart even before Stitched Up Heart came together. I used to go see Mixi play in her solo band. We’ve been friends with them for such a long time, and we played with them all over Los Angeles prior to both of us starting to tour nationally. And then Infected Rain, Lena, the singer, is my neighbor. Her band lives in Moldova, and this is going to be their first time playing in the States, so we’re so excited to bring them out and show them how our party animals party.

It seems like since your band started, there are now a lot more women in heavy music and metal. Do you think that’s true, and has the climate gotten better for women in heavy music?

CARLA: I just think that when you have an example of someone else doing it, you’re like, “Oh, damn, I can go out there and do that, as well.” And then someone else joins on and someone else joins on. We’ve been lucky enough to hear from some of these younger bands that they were influenced by us, and what an honor to have someone look at you and know that they can do something based on what you’ve been doing. So, yeah, the world has opened up a lot, and I like to think that we’re a bit of a part of that, which is awesome—and more to come!

HEIDI: It’s pretty cool, because we’ve been a band for 12 years now, and over the last 12 years, it’s been incredible to see the amount of women coming up in the lead role in metal. And like you said, when we started, there were not very many. I can think of a handful that were out touring and being successful around the time that we were coming up. It was inspiring to watch them succeed. I’ll never forget when we had just started and we were at the Golden God Awards in Los Angeles, and Maria Brink from In This Moment came up to us and she’s like, “I’m so glad you girls are here. We need more perfume up in this metal world.” And that always stuck with me, because when you think about a bunch of women in this thing together, you think maybe it would be catty or whatever, but it’s not at all. We’re all friends, we all support each other. When one of us succeeds, we all succeed, because it was so taboo for so long to have females even in a band in metal. There was Coal Chamber and a couple of females bouncing around in metal, but this was a different thing. So now, when girls are coming up in it, it’s really important for us to support each other, to show the world that girls can coexist in metal, and we can make it fun. It doesn’t need to be a big competition the whole time. It’s more so like there’s room for all of us, and that’s kind of how we see it.

This is the “Butcher Babies vs. Goliath” tour, so you’ll be playing the first album start to finish. Why did you decide to do that now? It’s not one of the big anniversaries. It’s been eight years this year since it came out. So why now?

CARLA: It’s been 10 years since we wrote those songs, so it is a decade of this album. But also, that was our start, and so many of our fans love that album so much, and we can perform it so much better now that we’ve been touring for so many years. I personally think it’s really cool. We had all this time off, so it’s kind of a rebirth, starting from the beginning. I think it’s a really cool, fun thing. A lot of the songs we never played live, so it’ll be a really fun experience for our old-school fans.

HEIDI: We also did it just as something special during the pandemic as a livestream, and the response was insane. People really wanted to see it. So we figured why not tour on it? Also, we didn’t get to celebrate our 10-year anniversary as a band, because we were writing and recording in 2019, and 2020 was supposed to be the 10-year anniversary of our very first show. We started in 2009, but our first show was in 2010. We were going to use 2020 as our 10-year anniversary. We released the 10-year anniversary wine. We did all that kind of stuff for 2020. We encompassed everything that was cool about when we first started up to now, and that’s kind of what you’ll hear on the tour. You’ll hear where we started, and you’re gonna hear progressions of songs from “Take It Like a Man,” songs from our EPs and then even the newest songs that we’ve released and a new song that’s coming out on Aug. 27, which we’re playing on this tour, too. You’ll be able to hear the last 10 years of Butcher Babies. That’s kind of what it is. It’s our 10-year anniversary. We’re celebrating ourselves with a full decade under our belts of playing live music together.

As you were playing those songs for the livestream and preparing for the tour, does that take you back to when you were writing them and things that were going on in your lives?

HEIDI: Oh yeah. Whenever we play songs in general on any tour ever ever, you’re always reminded about the things that were going on in your life. That’s kind of what “Goliath” is for me. I have kind of a love/hate relationship with that album—more so hate. I was in a really bad place in my life during the writing and recording of “Goliath,” and it really does bring me back to those weird emotions. But also, it’s our therapy. Especially 10 years later, looking back and thinking wow, we’ve conquered so much, even though we were up against so much adversity at that time. It’s always therapy. Anytime you get onstage, there’s always a song you wrote in a weird moment or you remember certain things about another time performing it. So it’s always weird.

CARLA: I think that album has some of the most intense lyrics we’ve ever written, and I forgot about a lot of it. But going back and relearning the lyrics—because it’s been a while—I’m like, “Damn, these lyrics are really dark and really meaningful.”

HEIDI: You can hear kind of the progression in our career throughout our albums. As she said, the first album was pretty dark. Second one, a little bit lighter but still pretty dark. Third one, a little bit more mature but also touching on growth. And now the newest songs that we’ve been releasing, it’s kind of like everything that we’ve experienced to now. So you really get to see us as people grow up in front of your faces as these albums have progressed.

Do the songs, specifically from the first album, do they continue to evolve over the years, either what they mean to you or just how you perform them?

CARLA: I think the performance has changed a lot over the years, because we’ve both grown vocally so much since recording that first album. And I think with any song, it does have different meanings for different times in your life, or a certain lyric can make you think of someone new in your life. Especially for the fans, we love to leave the songs up to your interpretation, because that’s what music is for people. You want to feel like a song represents a part of your life.

HEIDI: There’s a song that we’re playing called “In Denial” from the first album, and every time that we’ve ever played this song live, I remember back to the very first tour that we ever did and watching these girls in the front row screaming these lyrics back at us and crying, and then getting in the pit and moshing. It’s incredible to see how maybe a dark time in my life helped someone else get through something, as well. So when we do get to perform these, we can see their growth, too. So this is going to be really cool to see the same kind of people that we saw at the beginning of our career coming to these shows and being in the front row and singing the lyrics back at us, knowing that they have lived with these songs for the last 10 years, as well—well, eight for them (laughs).

As you mentioned, you’ve released four new songs over the past year or so. They seem to focus a little more on the melodic side of the band. Is that more of the direction you’re moving in with the new material?

CARLA: No, we like to do everything. We have so many interests. We have so many different musical styles. There’s five people in this band with different opinions. So we like to just throw everything against the wall and do what we feel like doing in the moment. So if that means a melodic song one day and the heaviest, thrashiest song you’ve ever heard the next, that’s Butcher Babies.

HEIDI: Yeah, we’ve always had that dynamic, though. People are pretty focused on a couple of these songs being super melodic, but they also have super heavy parts, too. It’s very Butcher Babies, what we’re doing right now. The difference is we’re releasing song by song. If we released the whole album, they’d hear the heavy stuff and the softer stuff, too. But we’re doing it single by single, because that’s what we want to do in this climate. People can only focus on one song at a time, and so it’s kind of cool. We love throwing people off a little bit. This next song that we’re releasing on Aug. 27 is super fucking heavy, super fun, super quirky, and that’s who we are. We did “Last Dance,” which was a very melodic, very emotional song, and then the next one you’re getting is a bang-your-head-against-the-wall song. So that’s just what we do. (laughs)

Has everything that’s been going on for the past year—the pandemic, racial strife, political turmoil—has that influenced what you’ve been writing about at all?

CARLA: We haven’t really written anything about any of those subjects. We address them in our personal lives and have our personal conversations about those things, of course, but we haven’t addressed them in songs yet.

HEIDI: The songs that we’re releasing right now were written in 2019 and mostly recorded in 2019. We did write a lot during the pandemic via Zoom, because we all are in different states. We’re together right now because our band is rehearsing right now. But she lives in Chicago, I live in Las Vegas, and so we would do stuff via Zoom. We wrote a lot about the emotions that we felt with having our entire livelihood and everything that we’ve dreamt of stripped away from us. And it wasn’t just us. It was the whole industry. So we did write a little bit about that but not so forward that you could say, “That was written in 2020.” It’s more of a general thing. As Carla said, we like to leave things up to interpretation. Very rarely, when we write, you’ll hear very straightforward this is what we’re talking about. We use a lot of metaphors.

So you’re about to release the fifth new single. Is there a timeline for when the next album will be out, or are you still working on all that?

HEIDI: We’re just doing single by single right now. I feel incredibly lucky to be able to be doing this. One thing that I was really bummed about our last album—because usually when you release a full album at a time, you get like four singles and then the rest of the album, which you’ve spent so much time perfecting. You go in the studio and you cry and die over these lyrics or the music. You work as a group, and you really work hard to make things perfect in your eyes, and the songs sometimes just don’t get the attention they deserve. So this has been really refreshing for us to be able to release each song and let it breathe, let it get the attention it deserves, because we worked so hard on it. On our last album, some of the best songs we’ve ever written didn’t get the light of day that they deserved. So this is fun.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

HEIDI: We’re just very excited to hop back on tour. We’re so excited to basically go on tour with some of our best friends. This is going to be fun. It’s going to be an experiment. Everyone’s just kind of living day to day, so come party with us. If anything, it’ll let you escape the last year and a half for at least one night.

LINKS:
www.butcherbabies.com
www.facebook.com/butcherbabies
www.twitter.com/butcherbabies
www.instagram.com/butcherbabies
www.youtube.com/butcherbabies
www.facebook.com/heidithebutcher
www.twitter.com/heidithebutcher
www.instagram.com/heidithebutcher
www.facebook.com/carlaharveymusic
www.twitter.com/carlaharvey
www.instagram.com/carlaharvey

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