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Florida’s Traitors Keep it Groovy on ‘Night Terrors’

In Music
DARK AND STORMY: Traitors, who hail from the Sarasota, Fla., region are bringing their polished, explosive sound to The X-Bar in Cupertino.

DARK AND STORMY: Traitors, who hail from the Sarasota, Fla., region are bringing their polished, explosive sound to The X-Bar in Cupertino.

When a band names it latest record Night Terrors, it sounds—well—metal. But for Traitors vocalist Tyler Shelton it’s not about that. His girlfriend suffers from the sleep disorder nyctophobia and considers herself lucky when she gets an hour or two of quality sleep at night.

As such, the topic is close to the singer’s heart. And so, at the urging of Traitors’ drummer, Stephen Arango, Shelton decided to make it the EP’s running theme. “I wanted some fantasy elements, but also be about this very real thing,” he says from the back of a van somewhere on a Connecticut highway. “It has that trippy feeling of just too much coffee on two hours of sleep.”

The Sarasota, Fla., quintet plays a particularly punishing brand of metal—walking a bloody, rusted garrote wire between the subgenres of slam and deathcore. However, unlike many slam bands—who downtune their guitars and vocals into a chaotic, chromatic and absurdly guttural sludge—Traitors’ brutal brew really pops. Instead of note-filled solos that come off like stop gaps, guitarists Alan de la Torre and Mikey Ingram conjure creepy, atmospheric textures.

“The idea was to just have something simple, heavy and crushing,” Shelton says. “It’s definitely groovier [than previous album, The Hate Campaign], and lyrically, I’m trying to enunciate as clearly as I can. Before they were more for the studio and I didn’t want to have to pull out studio vocals [for live shows] that just weren’t loud enough or powerful enough, but still belt it without losing my breath.”

Pagan mythology and conspiracy theories are well-worn death-metal topics, but Shelton’s lyrics read more like transcripts of discussions with a shrink. “A lot of times the guys in my band are like, ‘Cool lyrics. Everything OK with you?’” he says with a laugh.

On “Disappoint” and “Malignant,” where Shelton explores internalizing other people’s problems and frets over whether he is being a people-pleaser. “‘Dead Nerves’ ties in with ‘Perfect Enemy’ where I start to basically lash out at people because of my anxieties.”

Night Terrors’ final track, “Burnout,” features guest vocals from Trevor Strnad of Black Dahlia Murder. Everyone in the band is a fan of Strnad’s project, but on the whole they don’t limit themselves to metal.

“Folk, surfer music, jazz. We’ll listen to everything except country,” Shelton says. Be that as it may those influences are there. “I would definitely say (former I Declare War and Pathology singer) Jonathan Huber was the main reason I wanted to be a vocalist,” he says of the noted frontman, whose comically low voice borders on belching. “But honestly I don’t have many inspirations.”

Wherever Tyler get his mojo, the interweb is feeling it. Some Facebook comments are ecstatic: “Insane is what it is and grooves like hell… thumbs up you guys!!” But some bloggers have no sense of humor, like when MetalSucks called Traitors’ cover of Pantera’s “5 Minutes Alone,” released as a single last summer, “the worst thing ever.”
“I love it, dude,” Shelton says. “I embrace it. I don’t like to call the people who troll me ‘haters.’ I see them as people that are just bored and trying to be funny. It’s really easy to make fun of our music but they’re still talking about it.”

The Florida boys are currently trekking through New England in the middle of winter—a decision that is testing their abilities in colder climes, but Shelton says everything is just fine. “There aren’t any good tour packages right now so we thought it was the perfect time to do this.” They will cop to hating the weather though. “It’s cold, but I have an excuse for not working out.” The main concern now is taking care of the vocal chords. “The sets have been kicking my ass. I just drink a ton of water.”

Traitors is a safe outlet for Shelton’s demons, but by exorcising them he hopes to help others. “I’ve got people who tell me that I’ve saved them and that means so much to hear something like that. I want to inspire people. I want to have all these crazy, weird-ass ranges but it’s all got a point to it.”

Traitors plays on Jan 19, 8:30pm for $10 at The X-Bar, Cupertino.

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