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Devin Oliver On His Solo Project shYbeast: “I Feel A Fulfilment That I’ve Never Really Had Before”

Jack Rogers
Jack Rogers 7 August 2020 at 19.00

Check out a beautiful acoustic version of his latest track 'Middle Of Love' too.

We are delighted to be able to share a gorgeous acoustic version of 'Middle Of Love', the latest single from shYbeast, the solo electronic moniker of I See Stars' Devin Oliver. 

Compared to the swirling beats and quivering builds of the original track, this stripped back version featuring just guitar and piano shows off a different side to the song whilst also maintaining the same heart-aching energy. It's a testement to the songwriting prowess of Devin and proof that a great song will be a great song no matter how you present it.

Check it out below:

And for comparison reasons, here's the original:

We chatted to Devin about what shYbeast means to him, how he set about writing 'Middle Of Love' and what the future looks like, both with this project and with I See Stars...

How has it felt working so extensively on this side of your musical persona recently?
"The whole transition has been from only knowing how to write music in a collaborative sense to now creating this entity that is pretty much anything that I want it to be and having no tell me what to do. I always say when I’m talking about I See Stars that the band constantly challenges me. It’s a really good thing for an artist to be challenged. Every time we do a record and every time we do a song, I feel so much growth. However, when I write songs for shYbeast I feel a fulfilment that I’ve never really had before in just being able to explore any avenue that I really am curious to walk down and not have anybody throw a roadblock in my way and say ‘This isn’t right’. If I want to keep walking then I can keep walking. If I want to make a left here, nobody is going to tell me that it’s not the right way to go.

"It’s been really great and honestly in the year 2020 when we are all isolated and quarantined, to be able to have fun like I’m a teenager in a garage band again and it just be with me and myself, that’s something I have never really had before and I’m really grateful to have. It’s really ignited a fire in me. It’s given me a sense of wanting to prove myself as a solo artist. I think that anybody who has a band and wants to venture off, there’s always a part that wants to prove who they are as an individual."

When you rediscover that raw, unbridled passion for something as an artist, it’s hard to believe that you ever stopped feeling that way about the art that you’re making…
"Exactly. It’s been really great working on the new I See Stars record. Being able to take the ignition and fire that has started with shYbeast and re-introduce that feeling of exploration with the band has been incredible. I think all the other guys in the band see that and it’s making for a very interesting album."

Much like in the heavy scene, you have to consider what elements of your music are going to resonate with people the most when it comes to electronica. The two co-exist in the same place…
"I think that in order to stand the chance of being an innovator or a trailblazer in rock music, not that I’m calling myself that but if that’s what you’re striving for, you have to explore other genres. I See Stars is an electronic rock band and we always been doing our thing which has worked for us and against us throughout our whole career. As a musician and an artist and a music lover, it would be silly for anybody to suggest that I’m only inspired by one type of music.

Naturally I want to go and figure out how to write a song in this genre. Whether it’s indie or electronic or hip-hop, I listen to everything. For me it’s always exciting to find a moment in our band where we can capture something that feels inspired by something different. Even though a lot of the shYbeast music right now is like alt-house, I would say there really is no boundary."

Though when you take a track like ‘Middle Of Love’, this stripped back version shows that it doesn’t matter what direction you pull a song, a good song will always be a good song...
"I appreciate that. I love acoustic music. It’s always so cool to reimagine a song and strip it down. Whether that’s with I See Stars where you’re taking away the breakdowns of shYbeast and you’re taking away the kick drum, you take those elements away and still have this really beautiful journey. I just love doing that and I think it’s something that I’m going to continue doing for the rest of my career."

So what does ‘Middle of Love’ represent for you?
"I don’t typically write happy songs. Especially with shYbeast I like to call it tears on the dance floor. The juxtaposition makes you not realise just how sad it is because of how upbeat it is. So ‘Middle Of Love’ took place in a time of my life where I had just moved in with this person who I had been dating for a very long time. There are just natural struggles that come with that. You’re watching somebody change and you don’t feel like you’re having a moment to put the pieces together from the last week. Everything is happening and you’re trying to adjust. It’s a love struggle.

"But it’s also a really interesting time for the song to come out. With everything that we are all dealing with at the moment being in the middle of this pandemic and everybody is forced to adjust and adapt and look out for one another. We’re living in this time where everybody is struggling to see eye-to-eye, whether that’s wearing a mask or the colour of our skin. It’s interesting how I wrote it in such a specific mind-set yet I hear it now and I hear a whole other story.

"But yeah, it was definitely a dark time in my life and that’s usually when I write songs. I had never lived with anyone before, apart from my band back in Detroit. When I moved to LA, her and I immediately got a place together and it was a rollercoaster for a little while. I was forced to face a lot of things about myself I didn’t recognize. You’re never really seeing all perspectives of yourself & it can be quite disruptive."

When a song is that personal and that close to your heart, it’s something that you’re going to want to try and get the absolute best of…
"Yeah, this song is so important to me. I remember writing these lyrics and I kind of had a melody in mind. A producer friend of mine came over and I was in the booth and he was just playing these chords and I was singing these lyrics and then he started playing around and put this vocoder on my voice. I was singing the chorus repetitively because it was so much fun being in that moment. It was really powerful. I stepped out of the booth and was all teary-eyed and I said ‘Dude, there’s always a moment in my life where I know when a song is going to be so special to me and this song is that’. I knew that it was going to live on as a song that I’m very proud of. I’m glad that even six months on from the moment I started writing it that I can still look at it and go ‘This song is going to be special to me until the day I die’."

Ultimately, what effect has this project had on the rest of your life? How has having this new avenue affected the different parts of who you are?
"It’s done so much. There have been a lot of amazing moments but there have also been a lot of scary moments. There is a humbling experience that comes with walking alone after being Devin from I See Stars for so long. You’re almost rebuilding and branding a project at the same time that you’re showing what you’re able to do on your own. There’s some pressure that comes with that. For me, I think it has allowed me to take victory without looking at the whole picture. I’m not always looking at the numbers and all those things. Don’t get me wrong I See Stars have worked our asses off to get where we are now with the fans we have, but over time you get used to seeing good numbers. With this, we’re building all over again. It’s the equivalent of going and handing flyers out again like when you’re a local band. It feels that way.

I’m really grateful that we already have a pretty passionate fan base, but there were moments at the beginning where I was having panic attacks and realisations that this wasn’t going to be a walk in the park. That’s a humbling feeling that I’ve really carried. I wanted to look at every body of music that I do as proving myself. I don’t think that I’m out searching for validation, but what I really do care about is writing something that connects. I always want to challenge things even when I’m writing alone."

Devin has also launched a merch competition where you can get your hands on some merch and signed posters. Check that out right HERE

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