Here at PMM we get tons of requests from bands to check out their stuff, and we always do! Once in awhile you get a band that you see a ton of potential in and really root for their success. So when Unto Thee sent us a message on Facebook and we listened to some of their work we knew you would get into their stuff and would want to know more about them. So, we spoke with drummer Kenny Shillingburg who gave us a full run down on the Virginia metal up and comers…
Unto Thee is a metal band from Winchester, Virginia. Formed in 2010 by guitarist Canaan Rhodes and drummer Kenny Shillingburg, the band had plenty of time to perfect their material and was a time bomb waiting to blow. It did when they picked up both vocalist Zack McKee and second guitarist Tyler Seal in early 2012. Bassist Wes Bennett joined in May 2012, but regrettably had to withdraw from the band early November of this year. Throughout the past summer they have been tearing up both Virginia and Maryland with upbeat music and a wild/almost playful stage presence. With their complex rhythms, fast beats, and brutal vocals, the only way they can go is up.
Where does your name come from? Does it have anything to do with e.e. cummings poem or Psalm 25?
It’s kind of a random story about the name actually. We had been listening to a lot of music our senior year of high school back in 2010 and decided we would start a band! Canaan got a little Peavy Rapter guitar for Christmas that year, and the following February I (Kenny) bought a drum set for my birthday. We messed around with a few names and that one just kind of showed up out of nowhere. We honestly haven’t even heard of that poem haha. And it’s no reference to the Bible either. We are a band of Christian members, but not a Christian band, if that makes sense. It’s an attention grabber with a name like that. People never really know what to expect.
How has being from Virginia/Maryland shaped you as a band?
Being from Virginia, or at least northern VA where its mainly a pop-punk scene is pretty difficult. You’ll also run into a lot of hardcore/post hardcore bands. Granted neither one of those styles are our favorites, we still try to show support to all the locals. It made us feel like we had something to prove ya know? To show people you can be heavy with deep screams and heavy riffs while still having some singing and guitar solos or harmonies. One of our biggest goals was to be as different from all the other bands as we could, while staying true to ourselves.
Now that some of your material has been recorded, what would you do differently next time around?
Well, the recordings currently on our Reverbnation and Facebook page we actually did ourselves in the garage. Zack, our vocalist, went to Shenandoah University to study music sound and production so we scored pretty well there with his skills. For the past two months we have been in the studio with a good friend of ours, Aaron Richert, from the band Timelord, who runs a recording studio out of his house recording our EP. This guy is the real deal. To listen to his stuff he has done is just like putting in a professional CD, so we were very fortunate in finding him to help us out. Look for that to be ready and released by early February, it’ll kick you in the face!
Who would you call your greatest influences?
Our greatest influences. That’s an interesting combination there. As for myself and Canaan, our biggest influence was without a doubt Avenged Sevenfold. Those guys definitely are the reason we are doing what we love to do. That was the main one, in addition to Lamb of God, Machine Head, Metallica and Slipknot for us two. Tyler, our rhythm guitarist, is surprisingly in to lighter music, such as Coldplay and a lot of lighter bands like that. He does love our music but those are his big time favorites, as well as Lamb of God. Jason, our bassist and newest addition to the band, really likes classic metal like Mertallica and Megadeath, as well as Five Finger Death Punch. He’s started coming around now to our Lamb of God and As I Lay Dying influences, but he loves his old school metal. Now for Zack, he likes it all. He was in everything from a black metal band to a Creed cover band and now our heavy metal. His biggest vocal influences are from Whitechapel, Job for a Cowboy, again Lamb of God, Alter Bridge, and The Black Dahlia Murder.
What were the first songs many of you learned on your respective instruments?
Canaan and I both started around the same time and like I said were really big into Avenged Sevenfold. We would play Unholy Confessions from dawn til dust haha a lot of their songs were our first self taught ones. Him and I never took lessions or anything like that, so for being self taught and two years, I’d like to think we aren’t doing too terrible! Zack started back playing As I Lay Dying and Creed, Job for a Cowboy and stuff. Then he started discovering that he had brutal, raw talent as a vocalist and started studying that, picking up a lot of his influences styles and running with it. Jason started out on guitar, mainly sticking with tapping on the high strings and just messing around here and there. We came to him and asked him to play bass for us since we had all been friends since back in elementary school, so I guess the first bass song he ever learned was Mr. Nameless that we taught him, which was pretty cool. Tyler had lessions as a kid and started with a lot of Jimi Hendrix, later switching to Lamb of God, then finally to our stuff.
Where would you most like to be musically/professionally in the next 2-3 years?
In the next 2-3 years we’re hoping to be changing lives with our music all over the country. We are all decicated enough and have the drive to be successful. I think with our work ethic and the originality of our music, it’s a highy obtainable goal. We are hoping to be playing Mayhem Festival over the summers and maybe even Download Festival. It’d be great to have a record deal, tour bus, this that and the other, but honestly if we’re just getting by on merch sales, fast food, and crammed in a little tiny van, it’s well worth it to be doing what we love. We will never be content with a 9-5 job, no matter how much money it pulls. If we hate it, we don’t want it. That’s why we love music so much, and we see ourselves doing it for the rest of our lives.
Any dream pieces of equipment you are wishing for in the new year?
We’ve saved up a lot of money over the years and finally bought a lot of top of the line stuff for our sound. that bieng said, our dream equipment for the next year is DEFINITELY something to travel in. We always have to end up driving 2-3 vehicles to each show no matter how far they are, and kills gas and our patience. So that is definitely our biggest equipment goal this 2013 year.
What is your favorite way to interact with fans?
We love our fans. Period. We did a free t shirt giveaway on Facebook when we first got them and people ate that up. We connect through Facebook and Reverbnation, as well as through our personal stuff. We have some wireless stuff so during our set we get out in the crowd and get down with everyone! After our sets we man our merch tables and hang out in the crowd with our fans during other bands sets as well. The crowd loves us!
Where do you draw song inspirations from?
It’s going to sound cliche, but they all come from the heart. A lot of our songs were (and still are) in progress for over a year. If it’s not right we don’t push to finish it. We tweak every little detail and try to pick apart the smallest parts to get them perfect.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about the metal community?
Favorite: How tight you can be with certain bands, to a level that’s more than just playing shows. Hanging out with guys from other bands around our area, like our good friends in the bands “Dixiefilth” and “Thus, Anguish” is awesome. And the level of support from the people that actually DO support the metal community and what we’re trying to do is also a huge factor.
Negative: The attitude of some bands that put themselves above the others in the community for no reason, as well as the lack of support for metal in general. The ones who support are die hard fans, but there aren’t that many. Many people are much to quick to jump to a conclusion and say that metal is satan worshiping and society rebellion. if they slowed down and took in the details, they would see that isn’t the case at all. There is a lot of music from our area that NEEDS to be heard, and I just hope that with our music changing lives, the metal community, as well as us and our local friends, will grow huge and prosper from doing what we love.
Sounds Like: Avenged Sevenfold, August Burns Red, Lamb of God