Even stoners throw curveballs – tracking the evolution of Texan metal enthusiasts the Sword 

Suffer no fools

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Photo by Sandy Carson

It's hard to believe that the Sword dropped their debut album just 10 years ago — because these Texas natives sound like they've been blowing amps and melting minds since the days of Sabbath and Zeppelin. Four albums full of reliably heavy stoner metal and sci-fi-influenced psych-rock endeared them to an increasingly mainstream audience – they had a popular song on the 2006 version of Guitar Hero, they opened a string of arena dates for Metallica, and their 2012 album Apocryphon debuted at No. 17 on the Billboard 200.

But on 2015's High Country, band members John D. Cronise, Kyle Shutt, Bryan Richie and Jimmy Vela III took a hard left turn, delivering a batch of 15 power-pop, R&B, folk and even electro-pop songs. Some longtime Sword fans reacted harshly to the stylistic shift. So we dialed up guitarist Kyle Shutt to talk about his love of Orlando, his dislike of super aggro metal and the analogy of good songs to cake-filled icing. Orlando Weekly: Will your upcoming shows remain concentrated on High Country?

Kyle Shutt: We try to play two songs off all of our old records, but the bulk of the set is still High Country. The record is just a different flavor, but it was also pretty divisive, though; we tried to find a new way forward, writing songs instead of just writing riffs. Live, however, people will see that the old Sword they love isn't gone. We're not some radically different band.

You guys have always been scorned for keeping things too easy, for playing it too safe.

Which is why we weren't interested in making the same album over and over again. We did what we've always done, which is to make the album we want to hear. We've never been a band to follow trends.

Right now, everyone seems real hot on what we were doing 10 years ago. So maybe we're going to do some totally different shit. Maybe 10 years from now everyone doing stoner metal is going to do electro-pop instead.

So you aren't impressed with the current glut of psychedelic hard rock bands?

Well, you can't argue with numbers. I just want people to have a good time listening to music. It's easy to sit back and say, "Oh, we were doing that 10 years ago!" But really, they're not doing it as good now as we doing it then. Just kidding! That sounds pompous.

Most stoner metal fans would agree.

We love Sleep and the Melvins, but when we came around, nobody was doing what we did. We were the only band with a normal singer. And our drummer would go out there with four drums and be better than all the dudes with huge kits, double kicks and all these triggers and shit. It inadvertently reminded us that all you need to rock is some amps and a kick-ass attitude. And good songs. If you have that, you can go a lot further than with the perfect album and the radio producer and all that bullshit. That's the icing on the cake, but if you don't have a cake, you're just going to be stuck with a mouthful of icing. And that's not that pleasant after the first few bites.

All right, shoot – you guys love Orlando because _____.

Orlando's fabulous. The crowds in a lot of major markets in the U.S. can sometimes get a little entitled. But in Florida, people always seem keyed up – they like to party and scream along with all the songs. Plus, I love the Social because you can see everybody's face in the whole place.


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