Guitarist Jason Erwin and drummer Aaron Perez of the instrumental metal duo Ten Foot Beast write minimalistic, instinctual songs, creating a bruising brand of metal that conveys messages about life, hardship, and the need to occasionally laugh things off — all without lyrics.
Erwin never intended to create an instrumental band when he began recording as Ten Foot Beast over five years ago, but here he is, with a successful debut EP in 2014 and a full-length self-titled album that dropped this past February to his name.
Across the nine tracks on Ten Foot Beast, Erwin and Perez do what they do best: pummel listeners with waves of guitar riffs, drum rolls and pacing variations that feel like a roller-coaster ride.
Erwin acknowledges that he wants to recruit a vocalist and add lyrics to the songs, but he doesn't want to sound desperate. “I was kind of forced into having this instrumental band; I haven’t found a vocalist that can approach the music the way I think it should be approached. I’ve had a lot of people try out for vocals, because I’ve always wanted to have vocals.
“Really, I think it’s easier for me, to be honest with you," he adds. "You don’t have the limitations of vocals keeping you in this box. The one reason we stayed instrumental this long is because we haven’t found somebody that can step outside that box and approach that music tastefully.”
If it seems like Erwin is a bit picky or even bordering on self-sabotaging when it comes to finding a vocalist, it’s because he can afford to be. Ten Foot Beast is successful, and there's no immediate inclination to just add an unknown variable to the mix.
Part of that resistance to settling also includes feeling that Erwin has grown more comfortable in the role of songwriter between his debut and followup. He’s found a nice groove writing riffs to share with Perez or to store in his “cookie jar” to sort through the next time he’s short on inspiration.
“I think I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter between the two records," he says. "I had another instrumental band before Ten Foot Beast, and it was a three-piece. It was a little more Mars Volta-y, a lot more solo stuff. When that band kind of ended, that’s when I really wanted to strip it down and do a two-piece.
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“I wanted to simplify a lot of things with my writing, and by doing that, that challenged me as a guitar player to have to write a little differently so that I can carry the role of a bass player in a two-piece along with the guitar, too.”
Ten Foot Beast’s progress over the past few years is visible. Aside from having nearly doubled the track count of their debut without seeming to break too much of a sweat, Erwin and Perez show a bit more patience in their layering of sounds and musical environment.
“With the first record, I sort of stripped everything down, and then with the second record, I was trying to add a little more back in," Erwin says. "Maybe not so stripped down; maybe a little more textured. A little more psychedelic.”