Missouri’s own Shaman’s Harvest are a “band of brothers” who have endured some of the highest highs and lowest lows and have come out stronger on the other side. Vocalist Nathan “Drake” Hunt, bassist Matt Fisher and guitarist Josh Hamler cemented that bond in a basement in Jefferson City, Missouri back in the mid 1990’s. Along with Hunt’s younger brother Adam on guitar, the band began making their way, independently releasing the albums Last Call for Goose Creek, Synergy, and March of the Bastards. 2009’s Shine boasted the band’s most successful single so far, Dragonfly, which performed extremely well on the charts and was featured on the soundtrack to the film Legendary. Also during this time period Adam Hunt left the band to spend more time with family, and hometown friend Ryan Tomlinson joined the fray.
September 16, 2014 is the release date for Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns via Mascot Label Group, the long-awaited follow-up album. However, towards the beginning of the recording process, Hunt was diagnosed with a rare aggressive lymph cancer. A diagnosis such as that could be a game ender for a vocalist, but Shaman’s Harvest pushed on and didn’t let anything keep them from recording this album. Hunt committed himself to not missing a day of work and was able to fit in medical treatments with recording, while working with a vocal coach. He is now thankfully cancer free. Hunt recently took the time to speak with Screamer about his medical issues and the upcoming release.
Clearly when one deals with such a monumental issue while making an album, some of the thoughts and feelings they are dealing with will bleed over into the music. Hunt spoke to this fact: “I was taking breaks in between takes and I’d have to go over to the cancer center and do my treatment and shoot back over and try to finish a take. It was pretty daunting but I think I just kind of focused all my energies onto this record- making the record that I felt like we needed to make. In my case it was the key to recovery. I had a rare disease that affected my lymph nodes and nobody really knew how to treat it. But my best treatment was being focused on the record and I think it affected pretty much almost every song that I tracked. A lot of the stuff we were writing right then and there in the studio. So we’d write a song and we’d try to track it that day, or within the next couple of days…. So it’s in the lyrics. It’s in some of the darker stuff, you know? For instance, In The End; it has for me kind of an epic intense ending that’s kind of a triumphant feel also. You know how they talk about the different stages of grief or whatever? It was a little like that. I was pissed off at first and it’s funny because that’s when we were doing songs like Dangerous and stuff like that. And then you know, I kind of had some moral love from my brothers in the band and stuff, my family, and I would change with each song almost- how I felt. And it was kind of helping me through each day.” He added with a laugh, “God damn it, that was a lot of rambling. I’m sorry.”
And it is true. Each song on the album is quite different from the next, but they somehow seem to fuse together in a great way. “I don’t want to write a record where they’re all the same vibe or the same feel,” said Hunt. “I just want to write different things that reflect whatever it is that I listen to, and I listen to everything…. one day my favorite will be In The End and then the next day my favorite will be Ten Million Voices, to In Chains. It varies. It depends on my mood.” He also gave a little insight into a few of the songs on Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns. Blood in The Water: “It’s just a slow, sleazy, swamp song kind of jam. I think that encompasses modern southern rock right there.” Country as Fuck is the current single and Hunt says, “It’s like an American version of Motorhead. Makes you wanna drive fast.” There is also a cover song gem in the mix- Michael Jackson’s Dirty Diana. “It’s just a bad ass song. Michael Jackson was a genius and that song to me is about his most rock and roll song… Every rock star knows Dirty Diana!”
All of the men continue to stay close to their Midwestern roots and in their off-time they enjoy doing the simple things. “We’re all pretty active people,” shared Hunt. “We all do some fishing and cooking. A lot of us are big foodies.That’s why I’m so fat! I like to eat a lot. Most of us, we all come from construction backgrounds, so we like to keep active. Josh [Hamler], he coaches his kid’s soccer and man, them kids are crazy too! It’s like they’re practically professionals. It’s insane watching those kids! Fish [Matt Fisher], our bass player he coaches his kid’s baseball whenever he’s in town, whenever he can. And Ry [Ryan Tomlinson), he just like to eat barbecue, for the most part. Yeah man, we all like to do whatever the hell we feel like.”
And while of course they appreciate all of their fans, there is a special place in their hearts for those close to the homefront. According to Hunt, “Midwest fans, I think they’re a weird mixture of people. It’s like a weird mixture of Southern meets North. It’s hard to describe really. We kind of have this post-grunge, Southern rock kind of thing. It all just kind of fits. I guess we’re that big old melting pot right there in the middle. People get it out here. The Midwest people tend to be less pretentious I think, you know what I mean? I just feel like most of us, as musicians, we’re just kind of ourselves. I don’t think anyone’s trying to put on an act or anything.”
And it was right in Missouri where Hunt’s mom coined the name of the band. But according to him, there was no deep meaning behind it. It was just something that seemed to fit. “My mother came up with the name, and you really just ought to listen to your mom sometimes! She’s kind of a hippie, you know. For us, I was trying to explain how the music makes me feel or whatever and a shaman being a spiritual healer, leader….. Whatever! I don’t really know, it just sounds cool!”
Smokin’ Hearts and Broken Guns contains an extended unplugged version of their hit Dragonfly, but the band has clearly grown since the release of Shine. “I think growth is kind of a relative term. Some stuff is parallel. One thing that we added on this record that we didn’t do a lot of before is there’s quite a bit of slide guitar on this record. We also added some strings, the piano- kind of helps set up some of those more epic moments, you know what I mean?,” explained Hunt. “I think the songs in general, they’re definitely what we’re feeling right now. I think if you don’t grow between records, you might as well hang up your hat.”
Following the album release on September 16th, the band will be “road dogging it for the next year and half, for this record. We’ll probably do a European run, and we’ll come back and do a run here… for the next eighteen months at least, until we can get our butts in the studio and start tracking another record. We don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon.”
Now that fans understand the medical crisis that Hunt and the band were dealing with, it is surely understandable why we had to wait a bit for the new album, but Hunt wants to issue an apology for the delay:”The biggest thing that I’d like people to know is that we had to take that hiatus, and for people that have been waiting for this record, I’m sorry that it took so long. But we’re really, really happy with what we did and we hope that the people that were waiting are happy with it too.”
The bond between band members seems stronger than ever, the music tighter than ever, and Hunt is free of cancer. Clearly Shaman’s Harvest is prepped to take back their rightful spot in the music landscape, all the while holding strong to their Midwestern roots and never forgetting where they came from while taking the rest of the world by storm.