I had an opportunity to catch up with Cruelty of the Heavens bandmates Neal Bledsoe, Jared Filsinger, and Samuel Davidson recently. After two years of playing together they are FINALLY about to play their first local Memphis, TN show on August 18th at Meddlesome Brewery and better than that… it’s FREE!!! Check out what they’ve been doing the past couple years and be sure to keep in touch with us for a LIVE RECORDING coming soon with all kinds of extra fun weirdo goodies.
What songs get the most spins on your home/car playlists?
Sam: “Soundgarden – Overfloater, For a while I put this song on every morning while making coffee. It kinda puts you in a trance. Nirvana – Sifting – Favorite Song off Bleach. Super catchy chorus that kinda comes out of nowhere. Pink Floyd – Dogs – Gilmour is completely insane!”
What keeps them in rotation for you?
Jared: “Nostalgia and motivation. I listen to some songs over and over again because the memories associated with them. Others I listen to for motivation to become a better musician and writer.”
Are you reading anything currently?
Neal: “I’m actually re-reading Panzram: A journal of murder. I’m personally obsessed with human nature. This book is the darkest version of human nature. One of my favorite past times is people watching.”
Jared: “Sun and Steel by Yukio Mishima. This guy had a fascinating life and even more interesting death. Its out of print though unfortunately and I can only find an online version, so if anyone out there knows of a physical copy do me a solid and let me know.”
Sam: “The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. It’s about being present which is something I need to do more of. Get out of my head and enjoy the moment.”
What TV shows do you binge?
Neal: “Honestly, I don’t watch alot of TV. I hear about alot of interesting shows from my wife binge watches shows. So, I live through her with TV shows.”
Jared: “Seinfeld. I have seen them all several times, but it is the greatest TV show of all time. I also watched all of the Breaking Bad episodes in the course of a few weeks recently.”
Sam: “Breaking Bad and Seinfeld. I’ve seen both series numerous times.”
Grow up And See was released under Encapsulated Records about two years ago in late November. What kind of growing up have you guys seen in each other over these last two years?
Neal: “I feel we’ve all come along way as people and as musicians. I think our mindset is more of a peaceful one versus when we were in Chaos Order. Looking back now, those we’re dark, stressful & strange times. I’m personally glad it’s over. It’s allowed us 3 to move forward as much better people and musicians. It’s always a work in progress and we’re getting better each day.”
Jared: “Some of us have gotten into serious relationships and some of us have had painful breakups. Both of which are great for songwriting. The 3 of us have stayed close and helped each other through it all.”
Sam: “Well I think we appreciate each other more now than ever and we are writing better and better songs.”
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How did you come up with the title Entoptic Phenomenon?
Neal: “Well, my friends and I would do this thing where you would stand with your back against the wall. while holding your breath, your friend pushes on your chest, in turn you eventually pass out. I remember waking up and having these stars all in my eyes. Almost to the point I couldn’t see. like a temporary blindness. It wasn’t until much later I learned that the stars in your eyes in an illusion called Entoptic Phenomenon.”
Another version of 1995 was released under Chaos Order’s last split EP with Better Days. I noticed that it was released FIRST as a Cruelty of the Heavens song, but something about it still feels primordially like Chaos Order. It makes me think that while you guys were working on it as Chaos you tried something different and then ran with it into Cruelty. Can you elaborate on the transition from Chaos Order to Cruelty of the Heavens in terms of both versions of this song?
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Neal: “1995 opened alot of doors for us 3. It was the first time that Jared & I wrote together. It was the last Chaos Order song and the first Cruelty song. It’s really the song that gave Cruelty Of The Heavens life. Jared & I were full of curiosity to what else we could write together. It happened right on time. for me, the Chaos Order door was closing because I was honestly sick of it. I think we all were but no one was speaking up at the time. Personally, I felt like I overstayed my welcome with Chaos Order. To me, bands like that have a short life span and we definitely surpassed it. We’ve got 6 releases to prove it. During our time with Steve Albini, My creative level was very, very low. I wish I was in a better head space then so I could’ve enjoyed the experience more. I remember riding in the van back from Chicago and just being done with the band. I wanted to do something different. I was tired of the tough guy bullshit. Now looking back, 1995 was Jared & I both wanting to do something different. I feel like 1995 was an attempt to take Chaos Order somewhere that it just was meant to go, you know? I think it was an attempt to save the band from dissolving. As the Chaos Order door was closing, the Cruelty door opened up for us 3 to continue writing music together. It came right on time.”
Jared: “It did start as Chaos Order song originally. We were gearing up to record with Steve Albini and were not really happy with one of the songs that we originally planned to record so Neal and I sat down and wrote 1995 together after rehearsal one night. The COTH version is slightly different from the CO version. The COTH version is the way I think we both originally envisioned the song sounding.”
Sam: “It was the first song we all three wrote together and when C.O. was over, it felt right to use it in Cruelty.”
Who are your top 3 favorite local acts right now and why?
Neal: “With Bravado, Shed & Risky Whispers. Those bands are doing something super refreshing to me. I’m really into bands that have interesting song writing/creative guitar parts. Plus, All of those bands have excellent people inside of them. Nowadays, that goes along way with me.”
Jared: “The Waits, who are currently on hiatus. The singer/songwriter is a really talented guy but unfortunately hasn’t found the right backing band. Also, I heard some of The Pop Ritual recently and I liked what I heard.”
Grow Up and See seems to be rooted in the paranormal. Is that theme limited to this album alone or has the paranormal always been an influence on your creativity?
Neal: “I didn’t really mean for it to be a theme or anything. It just happened. The lyrics were written in the perspective of someone from the ages 13-18 years old. Of course, I love the idea of ghost, spirits or what have you. Just the idea of me being haunted by something is an incredibly cool thought. To me, it means these things find me as interesting as I find them, you know? If I were a ghost, I would have to find you EXTREMELY interesting. I mean, come on, I’m a Ghost. I can find much better things to do than follow most people around.”
Jared: “It’s always been something we have been interested in since we were kids; Horror Movies and the occult. Its fun and makes us feel at home.”
Sam: “I’m a huge horror fan; so that does kinda go along with the paranormal thing?”
Have you ever seen a ghost?
Neal: “I’ve seen things that I would consider ghosts BUT I’m not sure. I have seen alot of shadow people.”
Jared: “Just Patrick Swayze… Sexy ass ghost.”
Sam: “Just Ghostdad. It’s pretty horrific in and of itself.”
Depression, anxiety, and mental illness in general is starting to gain a spotlight in the mainstream and seem to be another prevent theme in Grow up and See. Could you offer some advice to those going through similar pain?
Neal: “Everyone is different, man. How I deal with things like depression/anxiety is completely different from the person next to me. During the darkest moments of depression/anxiety it can seem like a lifetime. There’s no way that it could possibly end. BUT it will. I call depression/anxiety “the right now blues” it goes and goes. the person has to wanna be better. If you don’t wanna be better then you won’t. Keep yourself occupied. Get up and do something. Don’t sit and fester in it. NEVER be embarrassed to ask for help from your friends and or your family.”
Jared: “Meditation, Exercise, Reading, Writing: Those 4 have been huge helps for me personally, and I have seen it help alot of others as well.”
Sam: “Yeah it’s tough. You just have to keep moving forward. Anytime I get down about something I just tell myself that tomorrow will be better and it usually is.”
What are your plans for the next 3 months and three years?
Neal: “Record, play shows and tour as much as we can.”
Jared: “3 months – Record the new EP and play several local and out of town shows. 3 years – quit our jobs, tour for 6 months straight, and play in Europe.”
Sam: “Playing shows and writing music.“
How do you motivate yourselves and gut through the procrastination that stops MOST people from trying anything in the first place?
Neal: “When a person gets older alot of the reasoning behind why things are done in the first place change. When you have more and more people depending on you, it’s not just for you anymore. You in turn are working to achieve things for alot of people for alot of different reasons. I don’t want to let anyone down, especially myself. I keep the thought of failure in my head. It truly drives my bus. I wanna be a success for myself, my friends and my family. I’ve got too many people involved to fuck up now.”
Jared: “I get mad at myself when I become too complacent and lazy. Anger is a great motivator.”
Sam: “I’m probably the biggest procrastinator the world has ever seen. You just have to commit to the universe and it will commit back.”
When can we expect a new album and can you hint at what it could sound like?
Jared: “We are recording in the next few weeks. The rate at which we usually work, I believe it will be out by the fall at latest. It will sound like us, with a few very dark parts and a few very melodic.”
Sam: “We are recording soon! I’m keeping my mouth shut.”
You guys have a different approach to the promotion of your music with Cruelty. I see many local acts working material at as many locations around them as possible, but you guys won’t play your first local show until September 15, 2018, and I don’t think that’s a terrible thing. I see many acts burn out after a few local shows because they lose morale when fans don’t show up because they’ve already seen the act play twice that week someplace else. If they had spent more time locked away cultivating a kick ass live show instead of wasting energy on dive bar crowds, their shows could carve out more of a demand. Can you elaborate on why your approach is so different, and what was the reason for waiting so long to play Memphis?
Jared: “We like to go on the road. Even though we are crammed in a van and share hotel rooms and Sam snores like a bastard and we and don’t get any sleep, it’s all worth it. Also, we like the showmanship idea of building up suspense and creating a want to see us. We love Memphis, so we wanted to make our first local show something special.”
Sam: That’s exactly it. “We didn’t wanna burn ourselves out and we didn’t wanna play here until we were ready.”
Cruelty of the Heavens next show is in Memphis AND IT’S FREE coming up on August 18th at Meddlesome Brewing Company.
They just went into the studio and are HOPING to get it released this fall. Fingers crossed we’ll have it before Halloween! Be sure to like their Facebook and IG pages and listen to them on Grit901, YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music, and Google Play. You can scoop some merch up at their online store or if you’re in Memphis you can grab something at their next show. Remember it’s FREEEEEEE!