Singer's near-death experience inspires 2018 record 'Our Raw Heart'
Yob bassist Aaron Rieseberg didn't think anything of it when singer and guitarist Mike Scheidt canceled the Oregon band's weekly Sunday practice in January 2017, citing stomach pains.
The next day, however, Rieseberg was stunned when he and drummer Travis Foster received a text message from Scheidt informing the pair that he was about to undergo emergency surgery caused by a rupture of his diverticulitis, a painful, potentially fatal abdominal disease where pockets of the colon become infected; when ruptured, bacteria floods from the colon onto nearby organs. Following a series of life-saving surgeries, a subsequent MRSA infection again almost killed the singer. In the weeks that followed, Scheidt wrote feverishly from his hospital bed, uncertain if he'd live long enough to record anything he was sketching out.
Even after Scheidt recovered his health, there was a window when his ability to return to the band, and thus its continued existence, remained an open question.
“You're not thinking of it in that moment, but we had no clue if we would ever even play again,” said Rieseberg, who joins his bandmates for a sold-out concert at Ace of Cups on Thursday, March 28. “Throughout Mike's healing process I was thinking, ‘Maybe I'm going back to school. Maybe I'm looking at a different career.' … I mean, I'll always play music, but you start wondering what you're going to do to pay the bills.”
Over time, though, the band returned in stages, starting with a few loose practices and then incorporating writing and recording sessions, which led to Yob's 2018 album, Our Raw Heart (Relapse Records).
“When we had our first practice back together, Mike still wasn't singing because he was afraid he was going to herniate or tear something where he had the surgery, so I was like, ‘OK, let's just see how it feels to play,'” Rieseberg said. “We started fleshing out ideas and talking about all this material, and week by week it became clear … we'd be able to continue.”
This struggle is documented in harrowing form on Our Raw Heart, which the trio briefly considered expanding into a double album, one LP containing earth-crushing rock tunes and a second consisting of airier, more atmospheric cuts, before reining it in. Throughout, lyrics reference Scheidt's near-death experience — “From holes in my gut/To love from miracles,” he sings on the majestic title track — while the music swings from the crypt to the cosmos, the album closing with an extended guitar coda that plays like a musical ascension.
“I think this was a very vulnerable, exposed record,” Rieseberg said. “Clearing the Path [to Ascend, from 2014,] was pretty massive and dark, and with this one we were going for a brighter, more airy sound, for a number of reasons. … We were thrilled that we'd still get to play together and tour, and that Mike can stay healthy and do that. And there's definitely still so much more music in us. It gave us a ton of hope of what's to come.”