“Never felt quite like this before, chemistry is changing, emotions rearranging…” Caleb Shomo sings on Beartooth’s latest single, “Might Love Myself”.
The song is an ode to empowerment and discovering self-worth where such ideas had been previously erased. In the place of self-hatred and desperation, we hear a bright and vibrant testament to the alchemic change that happens when we finally give into the acceptance of ourselves as humans – flawed for sure, but beautifully unique.
For Shomo, self-image and the constant struggle with becoming proud and content with his concept of self, is something he had dealt with. Emotional turmoil and mental health struggles, present in the songwriter and musician’s real life, have been channeled into his art since the first Beartooth project, 2013’s Sick EP, arrived and introduced fans to Shomo’s project that had grown outside of his other band, Attack Attack!
Since then, Beartooth has been a vehicle for Shomo’s personal evolution, as it has been for artistic growth. Across the last decade, Beartooth has developed into a unique and dynamic beast; the music visceral and leaning into the furious, while being unafraid to find moments of clarity in Shomo’s reflective lyricism.
Four albums have established Beartooth as beloved by fans around the world but for Shomo, the man at the centre of it all, the dark clouds that had followed him since he was a teenager could never fully dissipate. This changed when Shomo began writing for the fifth Beartooth record, 2023’s The Surface (pre-save/pre-order here).
Eleven songs strong, the album is a fitting addition to the wider Beartooth discography, yet there is a noticeable shift in the spirit of the record. With this album, Shomo enters a new phase of his life as a human and an artist.
Now unafraid to look in the mirror and possibly, possibly, be okay with the reflection, Shomo is ready to spread new messages with his music. Messages laden with optimism, delivered with heart.
“It is a very revolutionary time for me in my life, and to be able to make a record during that has made this one of the most special records I ever make in my career,” Shomo says, candidly.
“I’ve talked about it constantly in interviews, but I’ve always been very afraid of being any sort of influence on anybody. I’ve been very, very insecure; I’ve been so fucked up and thought I should not be any sort of influence, or any sort of figure in anybody’s life. I feel like with this, I’m very proud of what I have to say. I want people to hear it.”
This isn’t to say that The Surface has completely eschewed the grit and unfiltered gnarl that made previous Beartooth records so cathartic. The album is perhaps stronger because of the fusion of heavy, emphatic arrangements and open-eyed lyricism.
Fans of 2021’s Below record will likely be drawn to this refreshed sense of turbulence Beartooth lean into. From the optimism behind “Might Love Myself”, to the inescapable melodies of “Riptide”, the sonic world building on The Surface makes it easily one of the most cohesive Beartooth albums to date.
Shomo agrees, noting that a significant lesson he learned through writing this album, was that his idea of what a fundamental Beartooth song should sound like, was limiting his songwriting scope.
“The album before [Below] was very distilled like, “This is Beartooth’s formula, and this is what we’re doing for twelve songs straight.” I think at the time, that’s what I needed to do,” he says.
“For this one, because what I’m saying is so vastly different, I wanted to approach it all in a different way. I wasn’t as focused on the music at first which, for Beartooth historically, a lot of the time I would write instrumentations first. Lyrics and melodies would then come, then I’d rework the instruments to work. For this record, I was really just focusing on the song: the lyric, the melody. What was I trying to say? I would sit and think about that, and spend so much time on, “What is the moment? How do I take this feeling I have and really distill it down, and put it down in the simplest way?”
Of the album’s latest single, Shomo reflects on how his approach to the music shifted, ultimately allowing space for The Surface to breathe and become a more multi-faceted collection of music.
“I couldn’t explain what I was feeling, because I’d never really felt it before,” Shomo says of “Might Love Myself”. “I knew something was changing, so I was figuring out how to make it work without being so cryptic.”
“Beartooth stuff, a lot of the time, has been pretty cryptic. This record I feel, is quite blunt in a lot of ways. Obviously, there’s a little more depth to it, but for the sake of the production, that’s the biggest thing that has changed. It made for a completely different feel of the album, for sure. It’s really focused on what is being said.”
Though Beartooth remains Shomo’s prime outlet as a songwriter and producer, his bandmates flesh The Surface out in a striking way. The pace kept by drummer Connor Denis and bassist Oshie Bichar complements the strength of Zach Huston and Will Deely as guitarists – as a group, the dynamism and support the members have at the core of their unit, makes the listening experience even more fulfilling.
Finding confidence in his own writing and arrangements has been a constant hurdle Shomo has fought to overcome. Though the ferocity of Beartooth music to date may indicate cohesion and natural confidence in his own abilities, Shomo is open about how it took working with hip hop artist Storii for him to engage with a long-absence faith in himself.
“The motto with this album, for every song and anything, was: no fear. None. None whatsoever,” he says. “If you were going to do something, just do it. Don’t be afraid of it. There really are a lot of twists and turns, and I hope this record is one that takes a lot of listens to digest and to really understand.”
“I wanted to push myself to take risks and do things I hadn’t done before. “My New Reality”, I wrote that with Storii. He’s an incredible lyricist. We sat and we talked about what I was trying to say, and we were talking about confidence. So much of hip hop is confidence, that’s everything. I never, in my life, had anything close to that! It was really cool to have somebody with that lyrical perspective.”
So, if The Surface was built on a manifesto of having no fear; on leaning into the unknown, and forcing oneself to take risks, where does that leave Shomo now?
As we head further into the second half of the year and closer to the album’s October release, Beartooth have been channeling the energy of The Surface into live show experiences that have been built on the same spirit of reinvigoration.
Completing a co-headline Australian tour with Pierce the Veil preceded Beartooth’s return to Europe for a run of summer festivals in August. The Australian shows drew crowds out in the thousands, testament to the love and appreciation for this music – it is cathartic and hits fans at the exact right time, when needed.
To follow Shomo on social media during this Australian tour in particular, it was obvious that the love was more than reciprocated; noting the band’s Brisbane Riverstage show especially, was a career best. Even talking about music and its healing effects, it is clear that Shomo has achieved a sense of peace and pride for himself and his art that he’s never experienced before.
It’s infectious energy to be around.
“I honestly hope that, if any of our records really make it, I hope that this one does,” he says. “I feel completely at ease with what it’s about, and the point of it; as well as with myself and the amount of work I’ve put in to get here.”
“I’m very ready for people to hear this one and ready to spread some love. I do think those earlier records were important. For a lot of people, and for a lot of reasons, I do think that it’s hard for us to feel so alone sometimes. Sometimes it’s a good reminder to know that other people struggle as well. I’m very proud to be able to try and be saying something else that hopefully, will influence people to maybe take some more control over their own lives and their own mental health, and physical wellbeing. Whatever it means, at the end of the day. Just to be happy.”
The idea that The Surface will be the entry point for many new Beartooth fans is extremely exciting for Shomo. With this record as their guiding point and anchor, he hopes the journey back through the discography won’t be as jarring as it may initially feel.
The impact of The Surface on the listener is one that Shomo anticipates, will mirror the impact it has had on him. Even though the words, the ideas and the memories attached are intrinsically linked to his own life, the music of The Surface remains easily accessible and relatable.
Shomo isn’t ashamed to be a fan of his own music and in making this album, he chased that feeling of experiencing the album in different environments that the public would. Whether it’s listening to it in the gym, while out on walks, he’s confident that The Surface is going to be one a listener will want to return to.
“I think if you’re not a fan of your own music, something is very wrong!” Shomo laughs. “I’ll never put out a Beartooth record unless I want to listen to it over and over again myself.”
“In a weird way, it’s really helped me out with a lot of things since it’s been done. The album continues to reveal itself to me. Certain moments and choices I made, feelings I had that I wasn’t sure were right or wrong but just trusted. Now that I’m out of the whirlwind of it and I’m able to sit back, I’ve never been prouder of anything I’ve ever done. I truly believe this will be one of the coolest records I ever get to make in my life.”
Feelings of loss and grief are at the bedrock of a number of songs on The Surface. For Shomo, making the record was a way to navigate the loss of his grandfather, a figure he describes as “one of the best and most amazing men I will ever know”. Tying these themes in with self-acceptance, a renewed outlook on life, family and relationships, has made Shomo a healthier, more grounded version of himself.
A lot of this progress is directly down to The Surface, and with fans able to embrace it in their own time, Shomo is confident that the final product here is the strongest statement of intent he could present.
“For years and years, I truly believed that my life would end by my own hand,” he admits. “I just thought that was a reality that I was probably facing, and when it got bad enough, it would happen.”
“That, almost, is what the last songs on our albums are always about. The last songs are always really tough and really brutal, really hard to listen to. It’s one of the reasons that this is an eleven-song record. I don’t want to be projecting that anymore. I’ve dealt with that in my own time in my own life, and I want the last song on this record to be the most honest, hopeful and truthful thing I can say. Whether it’s a reality, or whether it’s just me trying to manifest – I’m absolutely going to give everything I can to live my life to the fucking fullest, and to just be completely ready to go when I do.”
“Four years ago, I assumed this record would be another incredibly depressing, visceral one that would be me trying to be cathartic to just get it out. I’m really stoked for happiness and a happy ending.”
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