For the past year, Piebald frontman Travis Shettel has been screaming for crowds almost every night, and when he’s not onstage he’s rarely lacking something to say. But now he’s got to keep his mouth shut for two weeks.
The singer overexerted his voice while on tour, damaging his vocal cords. Last month he was diagnosed with a hematoma – a tumorlike collection of blood – that forced the band to cancel a couple of shows with Hey Mercedes. And though doctors felt that he was on the mend, his voice deteriorated.
“When the tour ended, my voice didn’t feel right or sound right to me,” Shettel rasped. “The whole thing happened because I don’t really know how to sing. I’ve been causing a lot of damage from not knowing how to use the instrument properly.”
Later this month Shettel will undergo microsurgery in which doctors will cut open his vocal cords to remove the polyps. After the surgery he’ll have to remain completely silent for two weeks, after which he’ll begin voice rehabilitation exercises.
For Piebald the timing couldn’t be worse. The band was scheduled to play Europe before touring the U.S. for two weeks with Dashboard Confessional.
“Those things would have been incredible,” Shettel said. “But this is just when it has to happen, and I might as well get it done now and then be able to go on with life and music rather than put it off and have it get worse and worse.”
Piebald formed in Andover, Massachusetts, in 1994 when Shettel was still in high school. The band’s first release came three years later when he, guitarist Aaron Stuart, bassist Andrew Bonner and drummer Luke Garro recorded When Life Hands You Lemons, a musically skewed, energetic emo disc that earned the band a strong local following.
“I’m not ashamed of that stuff or anything, but our sound is always changing,” Shettel said. “If you listen to our really old records, they sound nothing like what we’re doing today.”
On the band’s most recent record, We Are the Only Friends We Have, Piebald smoothed the wrinkles and delivered a turbulent, melodic album straddling the line between emo and pop-punk.
“We had a lot of time to think about these songs and put them together in the smartest way we could,” he said. “We had a month in the studio as opposed to 10 days while we’re working jobs or going to school. It was a straight month where we got to play with the songs and manipulate them, which was great.”
Shettel hopes to be recovered by November so the band can get back on the road without losing much momentum. They’ve recently stirred up quite a froth touring with New Found Glory and Saves the Day, who’ve been strong supporters of Piebald.
“We want to get right back on the road after I recover,” Shettel said. “I want to take as much of a ride as we can because I would love for everyone in the world to enjoy our music. Why not? As long as we feel like we’re in control of our destiny and we’re making our own decisions, then I will do everything to make the masses hear what I’m creating.”