Scratch the surface of the band Shunned and you’ll find more that you expected. They’re angry, they’re heavy and they’re looking out for kids in need. They’re here, then gone, then back. They’re an original metal band with an infectious sound and experience-driven lyrics who twist within their genre, branching into new styles of metal. Most of all, contrary to their name, Shunned are a hard band to turn your back on.Formed in 2001 by John Herrera and Scott Earley, the Shunned project was long in the works. Earley, who had been drumming for the band Downbreed, was ejected from the group. He called Herrera the same day to discuss starting their long talked about project. “We had been trying to do it since ’98, and every time we caught each other it was like, ‘Well, I’m in between projects, but you’re working.’ But in 2001 we actually named the band and went forward.” Herrera said. So, along with Brandon Thrasher and Michael Granger, they set their sights on metal heaven.
In 2003, Shunned independently released and hand-distributed their debut album, Victims of Circumstances. The album was filled with a certain gloom and anger lurking behind the growling, screaming and melodic vocals weaved throughout. Tuned-down guitars helped to get that low, heavy, crunchy sound that makes them so recognizably original. “When we started off we were a cross between Sevendust, Dope and Switched. We kind of had the edgy, almost alternative sound,” said Herrera. But bands, much like anything in life, change with the passage of time, and soon Shunned stumbled into a sticky situation that put a halt to the group as they knew it.
In 2006, shortly after bass player Michael Granger left, Herrera also stepped away from the band and Earley brought in a replacement. Confusion and misunderstanding ensued, leaving the group disjointed. Years passed before Granger was replaced by James Gates, and Herrera reclaimed his position in the group, cleaning up the mess and the image of Shunned.
Though bass player James Gates was not an original member of the Shunned lineup in 2001, he was an early fan and had some outside perspective on the progression of Shunned. “I remember the first show I saw with these guys after the new album. I walked straight up to John, and I said, ‘I need a CD and a shirt right now,’” Gates said. Now he is a part of the sound of that progression. “I’ve been friends with these guys for many, many years, and I’ve seen the evolution; and to hear the differences in the sound between the stuff that they were doing before and [what they are doing] now, while it’s a natural progression, it’s a world apart.” Gates said.
Herrera agrees that the change in tone for Shunned was natural and inevitable. Time, experience and age will affect your creative output. “As we grew and as we played out more, we got heavier and heavier, and we eventually decided we were just going to do what we do best,” said Herrera.
Shunned have promoted themselves in unexpected and original ways since their beginnings. “We’re sponsoring an MMA fighter, Relentless Heather Bess. Her entrance music is “Twist,” the last song of our album. And then we have a pro wrestler that has been using our song “Face It” for years,” Herrera said.
Aside from attaching themselves to professional wrestlers (a sport Gates says is a natural marriage to the kind of music they play), Shunned market themselves as a package group with what they call The Local Neck Wrecker Union 66. “It’s Scott’s band Koheleth and James’s band Born Under Burden; we all tour as a package,” Herrera said. Forming the Union lit the spark of inspiration that would lead to more out-of-the-box ideas the group could participate in, like holding charity benefit shows.
In 2010, Shunned began holding annual charity benefit shows “not so much like the corny ‘I’m giving back’ thing, according to Herrera, but “more like ‘let’s do something different and let’s not talk about it; let’s just make it happen.’” This year, SCAN will be the object of their largesse as they plan for a full day’s worth of shows in July and gather even more bands to play and raise money. It’s not just about the marketing and the publicity; sometimes it’s about being different and keeping the focus of a group in the right place. “I don’t want this to be a selfish endeavor,” said Herrera.
Shunned will release an EP this summer, the first new material they have produced in years. To go along with the release, they’ll be making a music video for the song “Just Like You.” Half of that video will be shot at C2G on May 25 with what Herrera is hoping is a large crowd of fans.
Herrera, Gates, Thrasher and Earley all aspire to turn Shunned into something more than a regional bar band; they’re pushing for national recognition. Though kick-started by creative marketing techniques, the benefit shows and publicity, the success of Shunned will come when they are heard. Good musicianship, a talent for creativity and the ability to play the heavy-hitting metal of their dreams is a winning combination.
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