Shatter Brain don’t normally come to mind when you think of Sludge/Crossover Metal acts having only been around since 2018, but they should be. Their aggressive, sludgy sound is a force to be reckoned with, which is only elevated by their intense stage presence and will to tour just about anywhere!
I managed to get in contact with Ryan Quarrington, their drummer & one of the founding members, to conduct an exclusive interview right here at The Metal Wanderlust. I hope you guys enjoy the following!
Left-to-right: Ryan Quarrington [drums], Jack Hartley [guitar], Tom Santamaria [vocals], Pat Callaghan [bass] & Matt Disisto [guitar]
How was Shatter Brain brought into existence?
Shatter Brain was formed out of the remnants of a Sludge/Stoner Rock side-project that Matt [Disisto, guitar] and I had started called The Kraken. In the beginning, The Kraken was just an excuse to drink beers and jam, but when our other bands weren’t progressing quite as we had hoped, Matt and I decided we wanted to take The Kraken more seriously. However, we didn’t want to be pigeonholed into playing the Stoner-Rock style that was on our EP, so we decided to change the name and write material that we were more passionate about. And that is where the idea of Shatter Brain began! Based on our experiences in other bands, we knew we wanted to find people that had the same drive to jam, write and release music, and tour, as Matt and I did. Both of us had previously had drunken conversations with Pat [Callaghan, Bass] who had expressed the same vision, so we demoed the songs we had (which were leftover material from The Kraken and ended up being re-recorded for “The Shatter Brain” Demo) and sent them to him to learn. Pat recommended that we approach Jack [Hartley, guitar], and I had known Tom [Santamaria, vocals] from the early Alkira days when he played with a band called Last Stand, and that was that!
Is there a meaning or a story behind the name Shatter Brain?
The band name was actually one of the last things that we decided on before we announced the band! Matt and I had a list of 50 or 60 potential names but none of them seemed quite right. Then one day I was listening to music on the bus on the way home from work, and the song “Shattered End” by my other band Alkira came on my iPod. I remembered that this song was originally titled “Shattered Mind”, and that it was about taking too many psychedelics and feeling like your brain had exploded; that’s when I thought of the name Shatter Brain! Everyone liked it so that was that.
How would you describe the sound of your music?
This is a hard one. I would say ‘eclectic’ is a good word to describe it! The material on the Demo and the “Twelve Inch Split” EP has a lot of Sludge and Stoner influence because those songs were predominately leftovers from The Kraken, but I think over the last couple of years we have streamlined our sound a little bit to be more of a Crossover Thrash band. Those Crowbar and Mastodon influences are definitely still in there, though! I think Tom’s vocal style makes it hard to pin down our ‘genre’, because they are so diverse and don’t fit into your typical ‘Metal’ subgenre boxes.
Who are your biggest influences playing wise in Shatter Brain?
As a collective I’d say we all have pretty eclectic musical taste, and I think we are all the kind of people that get influenced from everything we’re listening to. In terms of heavy music, Tom is primarily into the more modern ‘Core’ stuff, but the rest of us are very much into 80’s and 90’s Thrash metal, Death metal, and Hardcore/Metalcore (Integrity, Merauder, etc). We also love a lot of the new bands that are combining those influences, like Gatecreeper, Outer Heaven, etc. When we were writing “Pitchfork Justice,” I think we were all listening to a lot of Power Trip, Slayer, and Crowbar!
Do you believe that Shatter Brain’s music has evolved since the beginning?
I don’t know if I would say it has ‘evolved’, but it has definitely changed (as I alluded to in your earlier question). I think on the album we’ve started to find our ‘sound’, and I’m excited to see how that develops for the next release.
Do you have any crazy tour stories with Shatter Brain you’d like to share?
Ha-ha none that I want to go into too much detail about, but some cool stories (that don’t involved Pat throwing up on something or us losing Tom) include: playing a set during a monsoon in Taiwan, getting racially abused by an opening band in Japan, Matt crowd-surfing while playing a solo when we opened for Ratos de Porão in Thailand, and having the tour van rear-ended before we even left Adelaide meaning we had to duct tape the boot shut for the whole tour!
What’s Shatter Brain’s process for writing songs?
It has changed from release to release. “Pitchfork Justice” was a truly collaborative effort, with all members contributing towards the songwriting and lyrics. It was the result of many months of relentless jamming, writing, demoing, and pre-production. We would regularly get together to demo riff and vocal ideas, and composed the songs from there. Then we would jam on them and tweak them, then demo them again, etc etc. GuitarPro and ProTools should really get producer credits on the album!
Has Shatter Brain allowed all of you to fully express your respective musical playing styles/abilities?
Well I can’t speak for the other guys, but I certainly don’t feel creatively or musically stifled in this band. We’ve all played in bands that are probably more technically challenging, but one of the main goals of this band was to each play our role in serving the song and not our egos; I think being able to do that demonstrates a greater degree of ‘musicianship’ than putting a drum solo in every song, or playing everything at 300 bpm (or maybe that’s just because I can’t do that!).
I recently went to a recent gig of yours where you opened for Earth Rot and was quite blown away. How frequently would Shatter Brain jam for a gig supporting someone like Earth Rot?
Thanks for the kind words! Up until the COVID-19 situation we were typically jamming at least once a week, and during the writing process for “Pitchfork Justice” we were catching-up every Tuesday and Wednesday, as well as the odd weekend.
Finally, after listening to Pitchfork Justice a few times, I can definitely say you guys gave a raw, aggressive performance whilst still including a healthy dose of melodies. So I ask, Did Pitchfork Justice come out the way you intended?
That’s a good description! Our primary goal for the album (which has been the same for every Shatter Brain release) was to make it sound the way we do live (with some liberties for studio magic of course!). I think Jimmy [Balderston, Ghostnote Recording Studios] helped us achieve that. The drums are lively, roomy, and have a very natural flow, and the guitars are raw and punishing. Jimmy was more about the ‘feel’ of a take than nailing every single note and then chopping and plopping. Jimmy also has a great ear for overdubs and ear-candy, so we had a lot of fun putting down layers of drums and guitars to make the big parts bigger and the heavy parts heavier. All in all, we are stoked with how “Pitchfork Justice” came together and we can’t wait for everyone to hear it!”
I’d like to sincerely thank Ryan for his time in this interview. It definitely seems that Ryan, along with the rest of the guys in Shatter Brain, have a bright future ahead of them and “Pitchfork Justice” only solidifies that destiny.
Pitchfork Justice comes out on May 1st, 2020! Grab your copy right now from the link below!
Also, be sure to check out my review for “Pitchfork Justice” here: