Q&A: Matt Harvey and Will Carroll on Resurrecting Scarecrow

Many old bands reunited in 2020 when people were struggling to keep their sanity amid endless lockdowns. When vaccines made a semi-normal life possible most of these bands went away again. That’s not the case with Scarecrow, a Bay Area thrash band featuring Matt Harvey (Exhumed), Will Carroll and Damien Sisson (Death Angel), and Bud Burke (ex-Exhumed). The band will soon release their new EP Raise The Death’s Head via Relapse and is poised to do more in 2022. Harvey and Carroll talked to Decibel about how it happened. 

Who picked up the phone and said, let’s start the band again? It’s been dormant since 2008.

WILL CARROLL: Matt reached out during the pandemic and lockdown. We’ve had these songs for over a decade. Matt thought it was a good time to dust them off and show the world. I had nothing else going on at the time. Death Angel was on downtime. It was an excellent opportunity to get behind the kit after all the shit I went through. It was good to practice some songs and have a goal instead of waiting for things to happen. It jump-started my interest in drumming. I hadn’t played for about two months, and that’s the longest I’ve ever gone without drumming. I hadn’t been to my studio in a while. When Matt sent the songs, I was thrilled. I went to my studio and got back on the horse. Everything came back pretty quickly, and I got the songs together. 

MATT HARVEY: Scarecrow was the band that got away. I believed in the songs. It bugged me that it was unresolved. Any time I’d see Will at festivals or elsewhere, we always talked about it. I heard about Will getting sick, and it made me realize life is short and that if you don’t get around to something, it will pass you by. I was so relieved he was alive, and this was the kick in the ass to get this going again. 

What kind of work did these three songs need? 

CARROLL: We released a split back in 2007 with Landmine Marathon that didn’t turn out well. It was a bad representation of the band. It always bothered me that this was the only thing available from the band. I think the new versions turned out well.

HARVEY: It was just freshening them up. The main changes were to the song “Victory?” It was about George W. Bush standing on an aircraft carrier. I needed to rewrite the lyrics.

Did you record these songs in the same space?

CARROLL: I went down to San Luis Obispo and recorded with Matt. Damien and Bud recorded their parts on location.

What I loved about the EP is that it hits that 1985 thrash vibe. I’m assuming that was intentional.

HARVEY: Yes. When the band was active initially, there were a lot of these new thrash bands kicking around. I liked some of them, but I felt like I didn’t hear something, and it was that 1985 Metallica/Exodus vibe. That’s what I want to do with the band. It’s nostalgic and supposed to capture that vibe. It’s not like we recorded with vintage microphones or anything. It’s the vibe. 

CARROLL: My approach was to sound as good as I could wherever that led us. But I do love the 1985 vibe. That’s what attracted me to Scarecrow initially in 2006. I’m glad it stayed in this vein. We are both big Metallica fans and inspired by their early albums. You could write 30 albums from that inspiration. 

Will, you’ve made a living playing thrash metal. Matt – have you needed to shift a bit from your usual repertoire to make the sound work? How did you tackle that?

HARVEY: It wasn’t that big of a shift. I’ve always listened to this kind of music, and I also listen to the influences of this music. Exhumed is very thrash influenced, and we’ve never hidden that. It felt natural, and this time I’m also more confident with my playing. I still believe in these songs 12 years after I first wrote them. 

Now that these three songs are available, what’s next? Do you have new material kicking around?

CARROLL: I think we’re going to get a full length together by next year.

HARVEY: We’re working on some shows for January. Before the band split, we had a whole record written. We have demos for two songs for a full length. I honestly don’t need to write any new songs to get an album together (laughs). 

When you started playing the old material, did you get in the groove quickly?

CARROLL: No, I forgot how these songs went (laughs). It was like hearing them for the first time. A lot has happened to both of us since 2008. My drumming has improved, and I have some new tricks and more speed on the double bass. So there was a whole new approach.

So many people have decided to “get the band back together” during the pandemic. This seems like an instance where it’s worked out well. 

CARROLL: (laughs). Scarecrow is getting more interest now than in 2008 when we played a shit ton of shows. We worked hard with no reward. Now we haven’t even jammed in the same room together, and people are taking notice. 

HARVEY: I’m excited. As Will said, we did work our asses off the last time. We had a good Bay Area following and never got out of there. I always believed in the songs and thought they were good. So I’m excited to show the songs to the world.