On a balmy Texas winter evening, in that hazy space between Christmas and New Year’s, I sat with members of one of Austin’s emerging metal bands, Death of A Dream, to talk shop. After a formidable debut year in 2015, the band has parts of the Austin scene buzzing. This five piece is hellbent for groove, drawing influence from genre masters Pantera and Lamb of God, amongst others. In a subgenre that can easily become cliche, I was anxious to find out how the DOAD lads keep things fresh and authentic. Over beers and shots in honor of Lemmy on the patio at The Hideout Pub I talked with Byron Gilmore, Matt Storey, Shaun Twyman, and Trey Ybarbo about their music, their “master plan”, and plans for 2017.
VH: Tell me a bit about Death of a Dream. How you guys started and how you all met up?
TY: I had met Byron a few times. We had played some shows together when I was in Shrapnel, and then we ran into each other up here [at the Hideout] out of the blue one day and just started yapping. He texted me one day and asked what I was doing musically. I wasn’t doing anything at that time, because Shrapnel had just ended and he suggested we jam. Byron’s an incredible drummer so I was like, hell yeah, but I want to play guitar. I don’t want to play bass anymore. Which, I think he was looking for a bass player, but… sorry…
BG: Yeah, I was. We had to end up with this guy over here on bass instead [pointing to Matt Storey]
TY: Byron and I start jamming. At the same time, Byron and Shawn Young had been talking about maybe doing something as well. Byron and Shawn [Young] had been in another band together called Rend. I brought a couple of riffs in, and Byron noticed that Shawn and I have a really in sync sound. He suggested bringing him in. I thought that was a great idea. Byron and I start jamming a bit, and I’m like, who the fuck are you man, our sound was just so in tune. We knew it was going to work.
VH: Did you find your musical soulmate?
TY: Kind of, you know. It was just really cool to see someone who plays some of the same weird ass chords that I do and has that same musical mentality…
ST: The left ball and the right ball…
BG: Then Shaun’s [Twyman] the dick in the middle.
ST: Pretty much! I just spit out random shit.
TY: I took the demos that Shawn [Young], Byron and I had recorded and showed them to Shaun [Twyman]. He thought they pretty cool. Then I showed him Wroth. He was like, that’s so fucking heavy! We were still looking for a frontman and he asked if he could audition. I was like, hell you can just do it, but sure! So, we had one audition. He didn’t even sing, he just showed up and everyone was like, you’re the singer now.
ST: We listened to the songs and they were so good. They played some other stuff they were working on and it was badass and I knew it would be a lot of fun. I remember when they were writing I took forever to come up with lyrics. I didn’t know what I was going to put on anything. They gave me the time to get all that together and when I showed it to them, they thought it all worked.
VH: Nice! So this was in 2014-15?
BG: No, this was in like 2013-14.
TY: Yeah, we played out first show in August of 2015, but the band had been writing for nearly two years before that. It’s been a long process to get to that first show. So, it’s been that long ago, the four of us [Ybarbo, Gilmore, Twyman, Young] are writing music, and trying to find a bass player.
ST: We had a few people come in, some good friends, and one of them asked us why Storey wasn’t involved. At the time, Storey was in Closedhandpromise and traveling a lot… we didn’t even think he would want to do it, to be honest. We all ended up at Little Woodrow’s one night and Storey asked how the band was doing…
TY: Yeah, we told him we had some great riffs and songs, but were just waiting for the right bass player to come in. Storey looks at us like what the hell, guys?
MS: Right! What am I, chopped liver?! At that point, Closedhandpromise wasn’t playing shows.
TY: So, I asked if he wanted to play, and he said fuck yes. So we had him come in, pretty much the next week, and it’s been that lineup ever since.
MS: It was a no brainer for me. I knew everyone, except Shawn [Young] really well and we’ve gone back a long time. Now, fifteen or so years later, we’ve finally done what we always drunkenly said he wanted to do: start a band together.
Side Note: Since we all met on 12/28, the first anniversary of Lemmy’s passing (may he rock in eternal peace), I figured a round of shots was in order. Bands love shots. Interview pauses for shots and following grimaces.
VH: So, you guys all have a lot of experience in other bands and projects. Tell me a bit about Death of a Dream’s sound. What makes you unique?
ST: You know what? I’ll say it, I don’t give a fuck. We all listen to a lot of the same shit and a lot of different shit. This band is based on writing what WE want to hear. We focus on groove. And I don’t mean this to sound like I’m talking shit, but so much of the groove in metal nowadays, especially with the younger crowd, is all about math and how low can you tune…
BG: Or, look how fast I can play…
ST: Exactly. Nah, how about we just do what the greats did. Pantera, Slayer, or all the great thrash bands of the past. No matter how fast they played, they always came back to that groove.
MS: I think there’s nothing necessarily unique with what we are doing. There is something familiar there for people, and I think when we play that people recognize that either we have been doing this for a long time, or we’re having fun doing it. The love we all have for each other shines through when we play. People come up to us after shows and just comment on how much fun we seem like we’re having, while still playing really tightly. I don’t think unique is the best term for us, but I think that what we do, we do well.
TY: Yeah, we don’t even really have metal faces on stage. We’re usually just up there smiling.
BG: Yeah, we’re really just the nice, polite guys. Like, show us a pit, but you better be nice about it!
ST: Even if I try to be all tough and make a metal face when I’m screaming, I’ll turn around to see Storey humping me, and I bust up. We’re humorous about it, and we’ve all wanted to play with each other for so long that we’re just embracing the moments up there.
TY: We’ve said this is a fun project from the beginning, so we always keep it fun. We get drunk, then we laugh a lot, and it’s awesome for us. Our sound, all of it, is just who we are. We don’t write for a specific genre. We just write music. It happens to be heavy, but if we write something that isn’t brutal and we all like it, we’re going to play it. There are no rules.
MS: There’s no ego, either. This is the most fun, drama free, ego free band I think we’ve all been a part of.
TY: Definitely. I think that since we are all older now, and we have commitments and jobs, and all that stuff, the fact that we still have the chance to come together with each other and create and play music… we don’t take that for granted.
VH: I can definitely feel the love you guys have for one another! Your debut EP, Birth of a Nightmare, is a solid freshman effort. You run through a pretty powerful sonic juggernaut in those five songs. Tell me a bit about the writing process?
MS: Most of the demos these guys had been recording from the get go made their way onto the EP. Shaun [Twyman] and I came in and loved the songs, so we went with those. Now, we’re starting to write music that has all of our input…
TY: Yeah, the next outing will definitely be more of what this band is now.
ST: Birth of a Nightmare is our early shit. As we’ve played live and jammed together, we have definitely learned what we like and where we can go from here. The newest song on there is An Act so Unforgiving – that’s the one song we all had input on. So, we know we can write together, we know we can play out together, and we know we can all put in the work to record. Everyone does their homework. I mean, this guy [Byron] did drums for those songs in one day! Trey recorded all his guitars in two hours.
VH: I saw that! You guys made a short “Making of” video for the EP. I thought that was incredibly smart of you. It turned out great!
ST: That was all Byron. He did it all! Everyone here contributes, and that is incredibly refreshing. Everyone pulls their own weight.
TY: Even Shaun [Twyman], who doesn’t play guitar, suggested we rearrange the big middle section in An Act So Unforgiving. It just wasn’t working as is. He just sort of hummed out of the riff…
ST: Yeah, I stole that from a Metallica documentary. Kirk was talking about switching around a riff. When I suggested it to Trey, it just worked. It felt good to offer that up! I’ve been asking this guy [Trey] for guitar lessons for forever!
VH: Who did you guys record with?
ST: Anthony Santo at Westfall Recording. We originally were going to go with Jason Frankhouser, my old guitar player from Course of Ruin, who works for Bob Dylan now. But with Bob Dylan’s tour schedule, we couldn’t make it happen. When that fell through, Anthony had hit us up on Facebook. He had seen our live footage and liked us. At the time, he was new in town and was trying to record some stuff and get established. The EP is doing exactly what we wanted it to do. We are humbled at how well it is has been received, especially for a local band. We released that EP at the show where we opened for Sevendust. The feedback was incredible from that show. That entire show was incredible…
TY: Shaun [Twyman] cried when he found out we were opening for Sevendust.
ST: Sevendust is straight up my favorite band. Come and Take it Productions is amazing. Anthony is the hardest working dude. The way he treats bands, either local or national, he just kills it. Anthony started as a drummer in a band, decided to start his own production company booking the shows he wants to hear. Now, he’s booking Anthrax, and still booking local bands on the bills. Who else does that? He hits us up last June and asks if we can hold a date in October, but he wouldn’t tell us what it is. July passes, August goes, and finally in September, he tells us the show is on the big stage at Empire Control Room, but won’t tell us with who. Later that month, he starts listing the bands we’re playing with, but it’s no one that could fill that space. Then he casually drops that, oh yeah, you’re also playing with Sevendust. I immediately just started crying…
MS: We were all at practice, and Shaun was home sick. He called Trey to tell him, and we’re all sitting around looking at Trey talking to Shaun on the phone. Trey was listening, and then you hear him ask Shaun, “are you fucking crying?”
TY: He was! Sniffling and telling me “it’s Sevendust dude, it’s Sevendust” between tears. My eyes got big, all I could say was holy shit, and the rest of the guys are just waiting to hear what is going on.
MS: Sevendust was the turning point for us. We killed that show, we killed it on merch, and we proved to ourselves that we could play on a big stage and hold our own. That was the show where we had people become real fans, people who hadn’t heard of us, who genuinely liked what we were doing, who came up and talked to us and who still follow us. To do that in a twenty minute set…
TY: Yeah, we had four songs. We laid it all out.
ST: To have the crowd’s real attention for that full twenty minutes was incredible.
VH: By now, we all know the Austin music scene has changed. How has this new scene affect your strategy as a band?
MS: Live music is down across a lot of genres right now, in a lot of places. Metal is it’s own thing, and people who love metal are diehards. Scenes are cyclical. Austin had a great scene back when we all met, 15 years or so ago, and then it seemed to kind of go away. Now, it feels like a scene again, with people from other subgenres of metal coming out to support each other. Now, that could have been going on already, but it just seems like the people are starting to step up in Austin for our scene a bit more. We don’t take every show like we would have years ago, where we flyer everyone and basically ask them, “hey, will you throw this flyer away for me?” We love the social media targeting, you can see where you are being effective. We have an awesome network of friends and supporters. Our first show was at Dirty Dog and it was packed. We owe that to our network. Even Anthony with Come and Take it was surprised by how well of a turnout we had for our first live show.
VH: I think you guys were smart about the way you went about starting this band. You seem to have had a laser focus from the jump about where you wanted to go with this, from the music to the types of shows, to the marketing.
TY: We actually rushed into our first show, which was at Dimefest. We probably would have waited a bit longer, but we knew that would be a great fest to play, we knew there would be a good crowd.
ST: We talked about the foundation for Death of A Dream. Part of that was writing good music, and part of it was coming out strong. We really had to push to get ready for that first show. We did it, we proved we could write, promote and play a solid live show.
MS: We’ve all been in the scene for a while. What we do have going for us is that there are a lot of old Shrapnel, Course of Ruin, Rend, and Closedhand fans. They support this effort because they liked the other stuff we have done. And with every show, we gain new fans. We love our friends, but as a band, you have to attract new people. We’ve been fortunate to have that happen at each of our shows.
VH: Any plans for a tour, or at least shows outside of Austin?
TY: Maybe not a tour just yet, but definitely shows outside of Austin. The immediate areas would be Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, etc.
ST: We’ve been invited to go out with Critical Assembly, but we have to make sure a tour makes sense before we do it. The plan in 2017 is to branch out.
MS: Touring isn’t the end goal for us. If we’ve planned and promoted really, really well and the dates make sense, then yes, we’re in. But, we want to be sure that when we show up in a town, they know we are coming and they have heard our music.
TY: Success isn’t measured the same in our genre anymore. We don’t consider touring to be success. We aren’t pushing to be on a label, I mean, if it happens, that’s awesome, but our end game and idea of success is much more focused on the music and playing to people who want to hear us.
VH: The music is clearly at the core of this band, but art and aesthetic are part of our experience with music. Who do you partner with for art, logos, merch? Any upcoming collaborations?
TY: Tomas Fierro desgined our logo. He actually carved it out of Styrofoam, which is crazy. Then, I did all the album art for this first EP. It was mostly because of budget, but I threw out an idea and the guys all supported it.
VH: Any plans for collaborations for merch or videos?
MS: Trey did a great job with the EP. We’d let him run with it again if he had an idea that we all think fits. We’d love to find someone up and coming in the scene, a musician who’s also an artist, who likes what we’re doing. We’re all about supporting local art and our community.
ST: We’d love to collaborate musically as well. On our next full length, we’d love to have friends or other artists guest track with us.
VH: With one EP and a dozen or so shows under your belts, what can we expect from Death of a Dream in 2017 in terms of sound, new music, and shows?
MS: I think we can all agree that we have been writing a bunch. We’ve debuted new songs live and they are going over well. Our goal in 2017 is to really round out our sound as a band. Also focusing writing what will ultimately become the full length album.
ST: We still want to promote Birth of a Nightmare. That’s still really fresh.
MS: We’re going to be playing out more. We’re excited to play in other cities, where we have friends but haven’t been able to show them what we do yet. We trust they are going to bring people with them, and we can establish networks wherever we go.
VH: You guys have some pretty impressive shows coming up, including one with Devildriver. Want to plug those?
ST: Our next show is Metal Goes Hip Hop on January 13th at Grizzly Hall. The bands on the bill are going to have some fun with some old school hip hop covers, some collaborations, it’s just going to be an awesome night with friends. We’ll be outside of our element, and that’s fun.
MS: We’re stoked for the Devildriver show on February 26th at Grizzly Hall as well. That’s going to be killer. Beyond that, we’re just excited for the unknown. Anthony with Come and Take it has really shown up for us and I know that he’s going to have some big acts coming through. The thought that we could possibly support for those is really cool.
VH: Last question. I love hearing how each of us fell in love with music. What was the one moment – a song, a video, an album that sold you on music and made you pick up an instrument?
BG: Metallica, Master of Puppets. I was 15, I think. I got that record and a stereo for Christmas. I put it on, that first song played, and that was it. I was done.
ST: Pantera, Far Beyond Driven. I had been a metal fan for a while, but I wanted to be a professional football player. I had bought Cowboys From Hell and it was pretty cool. A high school buddy turned me onto Far Beyond. My dad was a minister and a cop, so I had to save my own money and more or less sneak this record. Hearing I’m Broken for the first time and then seeing the video… they just went shell for the entire time. That was the coolest shit I’d ever seen.
TY: Mine’s so embarrassing! I had wanted to play guitar for a while. My family went on vacation in Corpus, and I’d met these girls. We’re sitting at a picnic table and some drunk guy comes up and asks if his buddy can bring his guitar over and play. He sits down and is playing a bunch of 90’s MTV Alternative shit. The girls were so into it! Later that year, I was at my grandma’s house and I saw Green Day’s Basket Case video on MTV. Watching that guy beat the shit out of a guitar in an insane asylum looked like so much fun! The chicks dug it and it looked fun. That was it. I went home, picked up the guitar, and started learning. Dude… Green Day.
MS: When I first picked up a bass, I was learning P Funk and heavy funk stuff. I started learning when I was 21 and in the army. My roommate taught me some Toadies. A buddy of mine in Dallas asked if I’d heard of Pantera. I hadn’t, and he played me Vulgar Display of Power and we watched the videos that went along with it, and I was hooked. I love all kinds of music, but there is something about metal that just bonds people. There’s something when you play metal in a crowd that doesn’t happen with other genres. People become part of the music. I’d play in a reggae band tomorrow, but metal gets in your bones.
VH: It’s always great to see you guys! Thank you for hanging out and taking the time to speak with me!
Death of a Dream is:
Shaun Twyman – Vocals
Byron Gilmore – Drums
Shawn Young – Guitar
Trey Ybarbo – Guitar
Matt Storey – Bass