Threading Rock, Electronica & Vulnerability Together: A Conversation with shYbeast

shYbeast's Devin Oliver
After starting out in the band I See Stars, Devin Oliver tests the waters of solo music-making with a sling of exciting new tracks as shYbeast: “no 1 else”, “Will Your Heart Have Room,” and more capture the blossoming of a new artistry in the making!
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The more I’ve been able to explore these two worlds (of rock and dance) as separate entities, the better I feel I understand what needs to happen to create something where they can live in true harmony.

For several years, Detroit native Devin Oliver rocked the mic as the lead singer for electronicore group I See Stars. Then a health scare set in and Oliver was forced to retire from his beloved music scene for an extended period. Once the right time came, the singer repositioned himself as a one-man solo project called shYbeast. After first establishing his new title as a guest vocalist with EDM producer Crankdat last year, shYbeast is set to transition into a headlining act, starting with his latest singles “no 1 else” and “Will Your Heart Have Room.”

no 1 else - shYbeast

no 1 else – shYbeast

Was it hard to love?
Was it ours to hold?
I wasn’t what we’re both thinking
I can’t stay if we’re both leaving
I don’t wanna act all surprised
We’re holding on by each other’s eyes
The hardest part of me leaving you
Is no one else will ever do

In a sense, “no 1 else” is a thematically appropriate choice for a debut single as a solo artist: It’s a song that describes the feeling of being alone in the wake of a sudden loss.

In the author’s own words, “no 1 else” is “a letter to the ones I’ve ever had to say goodbye to; a reminder to anyone out there who has ever lost a loved one, to never hold on to negative energy. Acknowledge that part of your journey and look forward to what’s next. Embrace the good that comes out of any relationship or experience, even if it’s hard to find; even if the good was where or who it led you to.”

“no 1 else” evokes this challenging course of life musically as well as lyrically. “The dichotomy between the emotional verses and the aggressive drops in the song to me symbolize the never-ending rollercoaster we are on,” Oliver explains. The emphatic shifts from rock to electronica contribute to that same rollercoaster feel as well, as does the zig-zagging between lightning, dancing and panoramic views of the Redwood Forest in the song’s memorable music video (see below).

When the music comes out for the world to listen to, I feel extremely exposed because it is just me. It feels very much like you’re revealing your soul to the entire planet.

shYbeast's Devin Oliver

shYbeast’s Devin Oliver



All in all, “no 1 else” validates Oliver as an experienced musician who is well-positioned to keep experimenting with various combinations of the musical styles he knows and cherishes across his dawning solo career. His follow-up single, “Will Your Heart Have Room,” confirms that this early impression is valid: A swooping, intense outpouring of emotional energy, the sultry second single aches with heart-on-sleeve sincerity as Oliver balances strong EDM production with fierce, strikingly soulful vocals.

“I wrote this song during a huge transition in my life last year,” Oliver explains. “I officially moved out of Detroit to Los Angeles at the time, and I never felt so isolated. I was removed from a city that held so many memories and detached myself from the people that made me feel most comfortable in life. My significant other and I also moved in together, which raised a lot of hard questions over time and surfaced a lot of issues we may have avoided before hand. “Will Your Heart Have Room” is a question that I had asked myself a million times last year. I share the melody with a special female vocalist to help tell the story.”

Devin Oliver spoke to Atwood Magazine in which we gather some of his chief thoughts on the emerging shYbeast project.

I feel very naked with shYbeast. I feel exposed in ways you can never really prepare for.

:: stream/purchase “Will Your Heart Have Room” here ::
Watch: “no 1 else” – shYbeast



MEET SHYBEAST

Atwood Magazine: You’re currently operating as a solo artist after having started off as the front-man of the band I See Stars. What’s the transition from being in a band to performing independently been like?

shYbeast: I think that, as an artist, it’s important to express yourself freely as well as to allow yourself to be challenged. I See Stars has played such an important roll in my life for so many reasons. One of them is that I have always felt very challenged in the writing process. You have four minds colliding at full speed and they are all heavily armed with passion. But when it’s time for the music to make its way out, we do it together and there is so much comfort in that.

With shYbeast, it’s very different. At times, I feel very naked with shYbeast. I feel exposed in ways you can never really prepare for. I am challenged by only myself most times, which in some ways is the most challenging thing I’ve ever experienced as an artist. But I also get to express myself freely. If I am excited about an idea or a lyric, I don’t really need to ask anyone for validation, which feels very liberating. But when the music comes out for the world to listen to, I feel extremely exposed because it is just me. It feels very much like you’re revealing your soul to the entire planet.

You’ve recently returned to music after having taken some time off to deal with personal issues. What therapeutic value do you find in resuming your artistic craft?

shYbeast: I took a lot of time to heal. I was dealt a really interesting hand the last year & a half. But the music never stopped. I wrote more lyrics in that time frame than I had ever written before. It’s kinda of a twisted perk as a writer. When the world comes falling down, that tragedy acts almost as the catalyst to your music and lyrics. It almost gives that time frame a greater meaning that makes it almost worth it in the end.



It seems you love to combine dance and rock music. Put together, what makes these two genres more than the sum of their parts?

shYbeast: Some of the greatest transitions in music culture are when two separate genres come together to create something new. I think we’ve reached a bit of a digital road block as well, since rock music is not what it use to be. I believe dance music is in need of a serious face lift. I also believe rock music should wrap its arms around these new colors in the dance community. It’s a goal I’ve had for quite sometime with I See Stars. shYbeast is an extension of that, but catering more to the dance community. It’s hard to accomplish this tastefully. It can so easily be “cheesy” or feel “unnatural.” The more I’ve been able to explore these two worlds as separate entities, the better I feel I understand what needs to happen to create something where they can live in true harmony.

Some of the greatest transitions in music culture are when two separate genres come together to create something new.

Your song, “no 1 else,” is a major step forward for you artistically. It’s a song that places you as the producer and allows you to dive into your chosen lyrical topic. How significant are these heightened creative responsibilities for you?

shYbeast: Production work is a very strong passion of mine. I am vocalist first. But music production is a big piece of my heart. I want to score movies someday. When working on shYbeast music, I always think to myself, “could I hear this in a movie?” I want to paint a picture with my music that overwhelms you. Being able to showcase that on top of sharing these stories of mine lyrically is very rewarding. It’s something I’ve never had before. With the band (I See Stars), I am telling a collective story with my brother (Andrew Oliver aka Dream Beach), who has been heavily involved in our lyrical process since the very beginning.

Where was the music video for “no 1 else” filmed? What was important for you in selecting the location for the shoot?

shYbeast: The video was shot in San Francisco in the Redwood Forest. This location was strategically selected because of its beauty, of course. But this video had a lot of luck that came with it. It rained that entire day we were shooting. Which was incredible, because this track is pretty damn sad.

There’s quite a bit going on in the video for “no 1 else.” How do you feel as though the various scenarios-- the dancing, the forest, the lightning, etc.-- all come together to construct the overall message of the piece?

shYbeast: This single is talking about acceptance and moving on from the loss of an old friend. The rain, like I sad, was perfect because this track (lyrically) is pretty sad and really deserved that to transcend in the video. The dichotomy of the song’s uplifting aggressive drop was matched with our studio set performance portion. Our dancers were classical/jazz that I believe were interpreting the emotional struggle we feel
when moving on. When I lost someone a while back, I was always trying to fill that void. But we are all so intentionally and uniquely woven together that replacing someone isn’t possible and should never be the goal. We need to accept the fact that no one else will ever be able to sit in someone else’s seat in this life and be okay with that.



You’ve gotten the chance to collaborate with several other indie artists on your recent tracks: Crankdat on “Do You Mind” and Kayzo on “Cruel Love.” What has that process been like? Who are you planning or hoping to work with next?

shYbeast: Both “Do You Mind” and “Cruel Love” to me were great opportunities to explore what I envision for this project. I have known both artists for quite sometime now. I am very grateful that they allowed me to share their platform to introduce this new journey “shYbeast.” Those songs are incredible. I do, however, have different plans for this project. I love collaborating and fusing two different minds together and I have many collabs in the works. But for this project and my standalone singles, I feel a very strong pull to alternative/house – similar to Rufus Du Sol. But the last thing I want to do is put walls up. I will say, I will never limit myself to one lane with shYbeast.

What are you going to be focused on next? Any plans for a debut shYbeast album?

shYbeast: There are many goals for 2020. I am very focused on releasing singles until the end of the year. I want to put on my first show. I would say an album is something I want to make sure happens at the right time. Right now, I couldn’t tell you when that will be. Hopefully sooner rather than later!



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Will Your Heart Have Room artwork - shYbeast

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Josh Weiner

I am a Washington, DC native and graduate of Tufts University and Georgetown University. I have been a contributing writer for Atwood Magazine since spring 2015.