BY NICOLAS GRIZZLE | FROM THE FALL 2018 ISSUE OF DRUM!
Yob’s music is as delicate as it is crushing, incredibly powerful and intensely vulnerable all at once. This is metal that’s both cathartic and uplifting. The music is rich and full, with minimalist drumming somehow thickening the arrangement. Take that complexity and add in a near-fatal illness, and you have Our Raw Heart.
“Mike [Scheidt, songwriter/guitarist] had a sort of a near-death experience, with his diverticulitis and his emergency surgeries,” says drummer Travis Foster. “This album feels a little more special in the way that we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to get to the point of doing it.” He continues, “We have a greater appreciation for what we are doing now, and kind of shook up in a way that we know to not take anything for granted because you never know when it could end.”
If there’s a silver lining to every tragedy, it’s evident in Yob’s emotionally deep new album, which was released in June after a preview on NPR. The average song length on the seven-song LP is over 10 minutes, with two epics clocking in at over 14 minutes each. “People call it doom metal, but I don’t know that I necessarily agree with that,” says Foster. “When I think of the word ‘doom’ I think of it in more of a negative sense, and I see Yob as more positive in content.”
His minimalist drumming is an integral part of the three-piece band, and it’s as calculated as any of the dense chords and sustained distortion that propel the sonic landscape. “We have the occasional up-tempo ripper that calls for busier drums, but I’d say in general the focus is more on feel and atmosphere,” says Foster. “Once we find a cadence or groove that feels right, we tend to subtract notes until the structure is minimally held together and propelled
by rhythm, but the pulse is still there. Big cymbals — and of course a tidal wave of guitar and bass sustain — help to fill the void in between transients.”
Those big cymbals and a Sonor Danny Carey signature 14” x 8.5” brass snare (given to Foster on his birthday by Carey, whom he met when Yob played with Tool for a handful of dates in 2012 and 2014), allow him to expand the dynamics of his drum parts. “I don’t play super hard, I don’t try to hit as hard as possible,” he says. “I try to keep some dynamics, but I also have to compete with the stage volume of pretty loud guitar and bass.”
There’s an art to playing slow, and one of Foster’s influences is a master of minimalist drumming: Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. Even with songs that sometimes clock in at 20 minutes, Foster doesn’t feel the urge to break out of the groove to satisfy his ego with a blazing solo. “It actually goes by surprisingly fast,” he says. “I don’t think I’ve ever felt bored. I just get so focused and out of focus at the same time, I feel like I’m in a different zone.”