Nothing excites a music critic more than a band blowing minds by defying expectations. Such is the case with Miami trio Shroud Eater. At first glance, the band name and macabre aesthetic make it easy to slot them on the black end of the heavy metal spectrum. But further inspection reveals surprises. First, Shroud Eater is fronted by two women, guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz and bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine who, rather than claim some bogus origin story, are both proud of their creative day jobs (graphic designer and commercial photographer).
Drummer Davin Sosa didn’t join Shroud Eater until 2014, but his work as a recording engineer has transformed the band’s last few releases, including two-song 2016 slab Face the Master, into epic journeys down the sludge/psych rabbit hole. And therein lies the beauty of Shroud Eater: “dark and heavy” and “low and slow” are the mottos by which they live, meaning their music covers far more stylistic ground than most metal bands. “There’s definitely a specific brew of curious influences that help in songwriting,” Saiz tells Folio Weekly Magazine. “But ultimately the songs we create are on their own wavelength.”
Folio Weekly Magazine: How did Shroud Eater come together?
Jean Saiz: Janette and I have been creating music together for a decade. However, Shroud Eater was really where she and I homed in on a specific vision with a musical and aesthetic goal. Davin had previously played in Moirae, a South Floridian progressive metal band.
Davin joined the band fairly recently. Any particular reason?
We made the decision to move on due to being at a creative and interpersonal impasse with our previous lineup. The last couple of years working with Davin, we have absolutely become tighter and stronger as a band. There’s a great interplay and understanding of the nuances and dynamics we’d been crafting for quite some time, as well as adding ideas for vocal harmonies that really helped push certain singing parts beyond just a gritty yell. The transition has been quite encouraging to continue refining and expanding our sound and songwriting.
Metal critics and fans put so much effort into categorizing bands according to very specific sub-genres. How would you describe Shroud Eater’s sound?
That’s a tough one. To the casual observer, I always say Shroud Eater is a dark, heavy rock band. The problem with that description is, it may call to mind some goofy radio-rock bands that I’d never care to be associated with. We don’t rely heavily on the tropes of traditional sludge and doom riffing and song structure, so it’s hard to say we strictly [belong] to any particular kind of subgenre, though we do stay quite a bit in the “low and slow” mentality. By taking bits from here and there, the best I can come up with is, we are a sludgey doom band with some unexpected turns.
Does that sound come from any clear or specific influences the band is happy to cite?
Personally, High on Fire is a huge influence on my riffing. That’s been an obvious point of calibration from the inception of the band. As a collective, I would say we take cues from musical sources like Acid King, Boris, Floor, and Alice in Chains. Beyond that, I listen to a lot of understated, quiet music, and the weirdo aspects of my personal songwriting come from those contrasting places. There’s a particular melancholy that I enjoy from sad folk songs that, when filtered through an amplified and frenetic energy, gets reinterpreted in my brain and hands and becomes a Shroud Eater song.
How has Shroud Eater’s writing and recording process evolved and improved over the years?
Ever since Davin joined the band, he’s been at the helm of our recordings, which has really helped to improve our output. As an engineer, he really pushes us and puts in a lot of work to get results that sound damn near perfect. The process for our latest release, Face the Master, was definitely more meticulous than any previous recording experiences. But as grueling as it may have been, the end justifies those crazy means.
Visual imagery and art play important roles for the band, right?
The visual aesthetic is important because prior to music, my background in creative expression was in the artistic realm. My day job in graphic design/art direction has also instilled in me the importance of “branding” — if you see a certain image or style of words, your brain connects these images to the thing it represents in an instant and harmonious fashion. A lot of the artwork or symbolism I use is intimately tied to esoteric emblems, horror movies and comic books. It’s incredibly important that the visual representation of a band is analogous with the style or intent of the music — it’s a symbiotic relationship of a physical image empowering ephemeral sounds. I feel like it works on our reptile brains in a very ancient way. There’s something really powerful about that.
Festivals or club shows?
We haven’t dipped our toes too deeply into festivals. There’s definitely a larger audience and more of a tribal undercurrent there, though, and that’s really empowering as a performer. However, playing intimate shows with a handful of bands at a smaller venue also has its advantages. I suppose after this upcoming run of festival playing, I’ll have a more refined opinion on the whole experience.
Shroud Eater kicks off its August tour in Jacksonville. Any good memories from playing here in the past?
Most of my memories are blurry from having such a rad time. It’s been a few years since we were there last, so I’m looking forward to seeing old faces and good friends. I’m sure we’ll leave hung over and smelling of bacon.
How about at home in Miami?
The metal community seems to be thriving there. South Florida definitely has a vibrant scene for metal, punk, and all the weird shit in between. Shroud Eater is more of a lone wolf on the outskirts, but we’re fortunate that we’ve been more readily embraced by friends and fans that operate in these circles and are passionate about music they love.