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INTERVIEW: Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey of BUTCHER BABIES

Though it seems like they’ve been on tour constantly for the past couple years, Butcher Babies recently found time to record their second full-length album, an effort they say takes them back to their thrash roots. As they await a late-summer release, they’ve taken to the road again, rejoining past touring partners In This Moment for a schedule that also includes most of the big rock festivals in the U.S., followed by a trip around the European festival circuit. When the In This Moment tour recently came to Rams Head Live in Baltimore, Maryland, Live Metal’s Greg Maki sat down with frontwomen Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey to discuss their upcoming sophomore album and more.

LIVE METAL: So this tour just started last week.

Heidi Shepherd and Carla Harvey of Butcher Babies

HEIDI SHEPHERD: Yes, we joined on with In This Moment Saturday (April 18), and we were doing a string of co-headlining shows with Upon a Burning Body before that. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve toured with In This Moment before. It’s such a great team, and they’re such great people. So it’s been fun.

It’s about quarter to 8 right now. What are you going to do between now and show time?

HEIDI: I have to curl my hair.

CARLA HARVEY: We’re gonna put our clothes on. Warm up. Drink some tea. We have these lozenges called Vocalzones we pop in. It’s all go go go for the next hour but, at the same, trying to remain a little bit relaxed so that we just get in tune for the show.

What about right after the show? I’m sure you’ve got all this energy.

HEIDI: We go straight to the merch booth. We do a meet-and-greet at the merch booth, and it’s really fun. We get to say hi to new faces, old friends—whoever decides to come over and say hello. We always use our energy in that way. Then after that, we like to relax with a beer or something.

CARLA: Or a shot of Jager or two. Or three or four or five.

Have you had any interesting encounters with fans along the way?

CARLA: You may see a blocked fan sign on the way in here tonight, so that makes for some interesting stories. We won’t go into it because it’s not even worth it. But we always have fun with our fans. Usually, our fans become great friends, and we just love seeing their faces. We came here on our very first tour with Otep years ago now, and so we’re excited to see if there’s any people from that first time here.

HEIDI: Most of the time, we’ve been pretty lucky, able to weed out the creepers. We appreciate any level of fan. It’s incredible that people even pay attention to us, so we feel very grateful for it.

The next album is finished?

HEIDI: Yeah, all done. Full-length album number two in the can. It is done. We are excited to get it out. We’re playing a couple of the new songs tonight. We were hoping for a June release, but we’re gonna be in Europe, so we have to be here in the States to release it. So it’s gonna be late summer.

You’ve described it as being thrashier. Can you talk a little bit about that and why you decided to go that way?

CARLA: We started off as a very aggressive band, with an ode to a little bit of thrash metal, even a little of punk rock, punk metal in it. So we kind of went back to our roots, because we realized that our most popular live songs were the ones that had that little bit of a thrash element. The crowds really get going when you add that element in, and we’re a live band, so we wanted to write an album for our fans.

HEIDI: Yeah, and not only that. “Goliath” was a great album, and it was a great debut for us. It was the album that we needed to come out with. But I think we kind of steered away from who we were before, writing that album. There’s a lot of beautiful melodics, which are great—we have those on the new album, too—but we seemed to kind of drift away from the thrashiness that we had before. So as Carla said, we just stepped right back into our roots, and we’re bringing it back.

How do you go about writing songs? Do you have a set way you do it?

CARLA: Usually, sit in a room together and come up with ideas. We all write. Every single member has their hand in every song, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We all want to have a vested interest in the songs when we play them live, and that’s the only way to do it.

HEIDI: It’s not like, “You’re a guitar player, so you can only write guitar parts. You’re a drummer, you can only drum.” No, everyone will collectively throw in lyrics, throw in riffs, throw in ideas. So we definitely do it as a team. It’s all a five-person union.

How does it work when it comes to the vocals? How do you decide who does what part?

CARLA: It’s really easy, because there’s just certain vocal parts that speak to my vocals, which are the lower, more guttural ones, and there’s certain parts that speak to her vocals, and we like to blend them together and harmonize together.

HEIDI: It’s cool. On this album, we brought in a lot of the harmonizing in our screams, too, with the low and the highs. It was pretty fun. That was a goal of ours that we had for a long time. With this next album, we wanted to use both our screams together and create a cool sound.

CARLA: On our recent EP, we started that, and it was really cool combining our two screams together. So definitely wanted to put more of it on this album.

You worked with Logan Mader as the producer, who also did the covers EP (“Uncovered”). What was it like working with him?

HEIDI: Very fast. He’s just like, “All right, go go go. Go.” I think, for us, we weren’t used to that, but once we got used to it, it was really good. It was a great way to capture kinda how we are live, the chaos that is in our live show. It’s a lot of fun. He’s a really cool guy. A lot of laughs. It was good.

When you’re on tour, do you do things to maintain your voices?

CARLA: We drink lots of water, hot tea. You try to sleep. We switched to Jager from Jack. I love Crown Royal, but alcohols like that really dry out your voice. So we try to use more lubricating liquids, if that makes sense. Seriously, Jager kind of coats your throat rather than dries it out.

HEIDI: I can’t drink whiskey on the road anymore. I love whiskey, but on the road, it hurts my vocal chords. So I save that for when I get home. (laughs)

CARLA: A lot of tea during the day, and we try to sleep. I notice that when I don’t get enough sleep, you can definitely hear it in my voice, and same for Heidi.

HEIDI: Yeah, I sleep all day.

CARLA: So just taking care of yourself, taking your vitamins. Me and Heidi both have big bags of vitamins that we take every day, as well.

You got to go to Australia earlier this year for Soundwave. What was that like?

CARLA: Amazing.

HEIDI: It was so cool.

CARLA: Everybody dreams about going there, first of all just as a tourist. But to go there and play shows and play a huge festival like Soundwave with amazing bands—

HEIDI: It was so much fun. A, a big reunion, because whenever any of these festivals happen, all of the bands get to see each other again, and it’s a big party. For Soundwave, every night was a big party. And then we had days off where we could just go and roam around the city or cities.

CARLA: We got to hold koalas, and we pet kangaroos.

HEIDI: We had no idea we had a fan base there. And it was huge. It was really cool. Our shows were ginormous, so it was fun.

We’re coming up on festival season here and then in Europe. Are you excited for that?

CARLA: We have festivals this weekend. We have Welcome to Rockville (April 26) and Fort Rock (April 25).

HEIDI: And then coming up is Carolina Rebellion (May 3) and Rocklahoma (May 22), Rise Above Fest (May 9). There’s so many. Those are just so much fun.

CARLA: One of our new songs that we are going to play tonight is kind of a song about being at those festivals and the pit and what happens in the pit at those festivals.

I know you have things to do, so I don’t want to take up any more of your time. Is there anything else you want to say?

CARLA: Just thank you to all of our fans who have been supporting us for the last five years. You’re the reason that we’re here, and we’re excited to see you on tour.


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