Interview: Shaman's Harvest vocalist digs into 'Red Hands Black Deeds'
Rustyn Rose

Missouri is not known as a breeding ground for rock and roll, and perhaps that is why Jefferson City natives, Shaman’s Harvest create music that resonates with fierce authenticity. Vocalist Nate Hunt, bassist Matt Fisher, and guitarist Josh Hamler, formed the group in 1996. They struck a chord and found a hit with the single “Dragonfly,” in 2009, and broke out with their 2014 album, Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns. Now, as the band enters its third decade, the quintet, that also includes lead guitarist Derrick Shipp and drummer Adam Zemenek, have released what is arguably its most genuine and dark album to date with Red Hands Black Deeds.

Shaman’s Harvest is currently wrapping up a tour with rock heavyweights Nickelback before hitting the road again with Seether this fall. AXS caught up with the band in the off-the-grid town of Jerome, Idaho for a one-off headline show at Diamondz Event Center.  Hamler enters the club’s Green Room first; a styrofoam container redolent with Chinese food in his grip. Friendly conversation follows. Despite the massive success of the band’s previous record, Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns, the guys in Shaman’s Harvest remain as down-to-Earth and humble as they have been for the last two decades. Frontman Nathan Hunt soon arrives, barely awake and unaware he has an interview on his itinerary, but with a gracious smile he takes a seat and wades in. “We’re on the easiest tour that we’ve ever done in our lives, he smiles. “Packed houses every night. We can’t complain, really.”

For many bands, the adjusting back and forth between arena tours in front of thousands to playing for intimate club crowds can be frustrating, but Shaman’s Harvest take it all in stride. “This has been our bread and butter for our entire career,” Hunt offers of the local venue. “This is the easy part. The arenas are what we have to adjust for.”

In a music industry that is now forced to cater to digital singles, fewer bands are recording albums worthy of complete and sequential listening. With Red Hands Black Deeds, Shaman’s Harvest has created a record packed with emotive tension, organic layers, and textured with grit and nuance. From the opening track to the last, the listener never feels the need or desire to skip to the next song. “That’s what you shoot for with every record,” the singer offers. “It was a record that we made in the studio. All the songs were written in a relatively short amount of time. Even though the songs are pretty different from one to the other, the energy is kind of the binding element.”

The band only had ideas for two of the album’s 12 songs when they entered the studio. The tracks were written spontaneously, which gives the creation of the music its authentic and organic feel. “We didn’t really have much of a plan going into the record,” Hunt admits, “but that was the one plan, the one thing we wanted to try and capture was just a genuine feel: Just the art of writing songs, as opposed to the art of perfecting songs.”

After the success of Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns, Hunt acknowledges that it was important for the band to push away from that and go in a slightly different direction, even though that might open the door to fan criticism. “There was definitely a nervous tension I think, especially once the record was done. This is it, you know? Are the fans going to accept this record? I think for the most part they have. I mean there are some people that are disgruntled about it, but I feel like if you are pleasing everybody, you’re not doing it right.”

Red Hands Black Deeds is something of an accidental concept record addressing society’s current issues, whether depression, racism, social disconnect, or immigration. “It was easier to write about some of the darker aspects of life right now. It was just something that we tapped into immediately. I think whenever you can do that, you shouldn’t fight it. Just go with it, right?”

You can watch the full interview with Hunt in the video above as he talks more in depth about the new record, working with producer Keith Armstrong, and his thoughts on the latest season of Game of Thrones. You can also catch their new video below for the track “The Come Up.," and catch them on tour with Seether this fall.