Festival season in the U.S. is getting ready to crank up. North Carolina rockers He Is Legend will be playing Welcome To Rockville and Carolina Rebellion. Frontman Schuylar Croom gives us the lowdown on those shows, last year’s Few album, music in the Trump era and other subjects.
Chad Bowar: Now that it has been out for nearly a year, how would you evaluate the response to Few?
Schuylar Croom: People really seemed to get behind it. We have really incredible fans.
Were you surprised by how well your crowdfunding campaign did?
Not exactly. We kind of saw how it was going as it was trucking along. That being said, yes it was surprising, nerve-wracking, insane to know that people really cared. But also a super humbling experience.
How has your newest member, drummer Jesse Shelley, integrated into the band?
Jesse is one of us. He’s such a great asset and a good friend. We really love having him on board.
You have a couple of festival shows coming up. Who will be your second live guitarist?
We have enlisted the help of buddy-band To Speak Of Wolves guitarist Andrew Gaultier for upcoming gigs.
Even at this point in your career, how important is it to get in front of crowds like Welcome To Rockville and Carolina Rebellion that may not be familiar with you?
I think that is what we all really dreamed of as young lads. Other than getting a street education traveling, which I think is the reason why we all still hop in the van, rock festivals are really one of those things that you may or may not enjoy, but they really make you feel some type of way.
Is your approach to creating a setlist different for a festival than it would be for a regular tour?
Of course. Every show’s set list varies depending on vibe, room, other bands on the bill, set length and other variables.
Do you have any other touring in the works for 2018?
We have some things in the pipe right now but we are trying to keep some of the stuff under wraps until everything solidifies.
There has been a huge increase in American festivals over the past decade, but one that is ending is Warped Tour. What has been the impact of Warped? Did you guys ever play it?
We actually have never played Warped and I have mixed feelings about the festival in general. Obviously we have friends who have thrived from playing the fest year after year. However, we know a bunch of bands who have started the tour and met their demise due to the stresses of doing what is essentially a “bus tour routing” in van and trailer, perhaps not selling as much merch as they maybe have wanted because they were not in the bounds of current “trends” in the music scene, or perhaps just not being able to tolerate the personalities of the crew and band members around you. This is just an example.
I can’t really say what the impact is first hand but I have heard stories. He Is Legend, in my opinion, is a bit different than the majority of the bands that frequently appeared on the Warped stages. We have made it our duty to stand out and distance ourselves from a certain “scene.” We fit in with a myriad of groups. We are just as comfortable at a stoner rock show as we are an active rock radio fest.
What has been the biggest change in your mindset and approach since coming back from your hiatus a few years back?
Our work ethic has changed drastically. We all feel a responsibility to our fans to continue forward. Now that we (the founding members) are in our mid thirties I think that the “legacy” of music that we have in our arsenal is really something that we take very seriously. Whereas when we were younger we may not have wanted to visit old tunes in a live setting, now we recognize the importance of that to our fans. So we make an effort to appease everyone who grew up alongside of us in this music scene.
The Trump era has obviously had a big effect on activism. Have you noticed any effect on music, especially heavy music?
Of course the times we are in are more than frustrating, especially for the young and open minded. This is obviously in all forms of art in general but especially music. I don’t necessarily believe in voicing my opinion on politics in music. There are certainly better voices for that. Legend lyrics to me have always been meant to evoke the childlike emotions in us all. I grew up enthralled by storytellers like Bob Dylan, Tom Waits and Nick Cave. That kind of musicianship is very important to me and rarely shows its face anymore. A person like Tom Waits would be clever enough to write a song about a fat chicken stuck in a fence and make it an allegory for Trump’s ridiculous antics.
Does music play a role in actually affecting change, or is it just reflecting and commenting on what’s happening in the world at that particular time?
I can’t begin to pretend like I know that age old question’s answer. Obviously we have seen people like Bob Marley and John Lennon bring about change by being a public voice of reason. However if we look at today’s overwhelming problems and the fact that we feel so extremely entitled to our opinions and so vilified by the people with opposite views, well, it gets tricky.
Take the viewpoint of someone like Jesse Hughes or Ted Nugent, when given a voice without interruption, they may talk themselves into a political corner. I may not believe in what they say or how they say it, and I am certainly guilty of showing my emotions on social platforms like Twitter, but I don’t believe in alienating a particular group of your fan base. Obviously we all are happy to talk about our beliefs and opinions openly, that’s our right. But I think there is a grey area in many debates that both sides are quick to puddle jump in order to be snide, passive aggressive or just plan rude to people who don’t see eye to eye with your personal opinion. That to me is the real tough pill to swallow.
What will be the impact on artists as the industry model continues to shift from albums, CDs and MP3s to streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music?
I don’t actually think it matters too much. We have indie bands making tapes for the last five years and then, bam, you can buy the new Daft Punk record on tape, vinyl and get a digital download with both. These trends are just the hard copies. We all stream in one form or the other. I personally use Spotify as I tend bar regularly when I am home and that is my primary source for supplying the soundtrack of my day and the patrons that I serve. I have always been an appreciator and a student of music. I learn a ton about new music from Spotify and I take the bad with the good. I do not expect to ever get paid by the streaming services industry, however. I am paid by the knowledge of up and coming groups across the world that I may or may not have ever heard of without them.
Have you began work on your next album yet?
When we are home we try not to turn off. We have unrecorded songs and we continue to write to stay sharp.
You’ve worked on several movies over the years. Are you still doing that?
Well, the state of North Carolina lost its film incentive some time back so not so much as I can’t track to Louisiana or Georgia where most of my film friends have relocated for work. I do work when given the option and I have opportunities to direct music videos in my off time in the future. So that will satisfy that creative outlet somewhat.
What have you been reading lately?
I am in the middle of I’ll Be Gone In The Dark by the late Michelle McNamara who passed away before this book came out in late February. It’s an exhaustive study of the Golden State Killer and I am enthralled. I am obviously a fan of true crime and this book so far is one of the best of the genre.
Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
I’m just happy to still be here and still being creative. I would like to thank our friends, family and fans. I’m happy to entertain ideas about creating music videos for bands who are interested. You can get up with me on Twitter and Instagram. Come see Legend at Welcome to Rockville and Carolina Rebellion if you are in the area and hopefully we will see you out there in the summer sun.
(interview published April 24, 2018)