BY KRIS KIELICH
Special to The News
Only a few bands from Buffalo have made as big an impact in music as Every Time I Die. The band, founded by brothers Keith and Jordan Buckley, took a traditional hardcore foundation and mixed it with a tinge of Southern rock that caused ripples in the underground music scene and put ETID on the map.
The group’s sharp and poetic lyrics and musical complexity differentiated it from other hardcore bands. With each successive record, the band gained momentum and popularity. ETID always has been embraced with open arms by the younger community and the band has a tradition of returning to the city it calls home to perform, including annual sold-out holiday shows.
On Tuesday, ETID performs at the Vans Warped Tour at Darien Lake, its fourth appearance on the traveling festival that features nearly 100 bands on multiple stages. This year’s Warped Tour concert coincides with the release of “From Parts Unknown,” the band’s most ambitious and exploratory record to date. Singer and lyricist Keith Buckley took time via email to discuss the new record, the band’s evolution and inspiration, and how it feels to be coming back to Buffalo.
Question: Warped Tour has always been a part of Every Time I Die’s DNA. Can you see your evolution as a band as you look back at each Warped Tour from four separate points of your career?
Answer: This Warped Tour feels particularly different for us because it’s the first time we’ve ever begun a tour/record cycle with it, whereas normally it marks the end of one. “From Parts Unknown” was being sold at our merch tent weeks ahead of its July 1 release date in stores and there’s a vigor that comes along with presenting something new. It makes these short sets much more special and memorable because we’re still finding our legs. It’s exciting and challenging at the same time. Usually we do Warped as the last big tour on a cycle so the songs are already old news to a lot of people, us included. It’s easy to get bored or to leave it up to muscle memory entirely and just mentally check out when you’re standing up there, but definitely not this time.
Q: Besides the new material, is there anything new you’re looking to bring to the table for fans during this year’s Warped Tour, or is it going to be pretty much business as usual plus the new songs?
A: Every Time I Die is more business as unusual. We will obviously be adding more new songs to our set as well as dipping into some of the old stuff, but no one show is like another. We don’t have pre-written dances or banter or even a set list. Everything changes every single day and we leave it up to the energy of the crowd to dictate where it goes, but obviously we’re a hardcore band. What more do you want other than to have fun and forget about things that worry you while you watch us? You want cool costumes? You want me to play drums and let Legs [drummer Ryan Leger] sing? Pyro? Not sure what options we actually have to bring something “new to the table” on Warped. My dad is making chicken wings backstage. I’ll bring some of those to the table.
Q: “From Parts Unknown” is on everyone’s mind and I know you guys have talked extensively about recording with Converge’s Kurt Ballou, and what a different and unique experience that was. I can tell you now that I think this is one of the clearest and best produced Every Time I Die records you’ve put out. Do you think the quality and overall sound of the record was influenced by Kurt’s vision, or a product of the collaboration between him and the band?
A: Thank you very much, I happen to agree. Our band as a whole has in one way or another been influenced by Kurt’s vision, so it’s almost impossible to tell where it stops and we begin. We grew up listening to his band and to the records he produced and we knew without question that the time was right to put our lives in his hands. He was by no means a tyrant, he didn’t do anything we hated – though there were a few times when a coin was flipped to decide if something got included or not – but we got there with an understanding that we had to trust him. It takes a lot to let your ego down and admit you may not always know what’s best for you, but if you want to work with Kurt, you have to. It’s his record, too. His name is on it. He’s not going to drive his own reputation into the ground making something he didn’t envision. Luckily for us, we all saw the same thing.
Q: Also with your new record, the theme seems to be one of differentiation, but not alienation. This album is your heaviest to date for sure, but there’s also a great deal of instrumental and vocal experimentation. Yet underneath it all, the essence of what makes ETID what it is, is still there. Do you think that this mode of changing yet staying the same encapsulates the spirit of this record?
A: Yeah, absolutely. Undoing preconceived ideas of what we are or what we’re capable of was big for me when writing the lyrics or deciding on vocal cadences. There’s no pink on the album. The “logo” of the old English I is gone. There’s a piano, there are mosh parts with no vocals, there’s hope and there’s honesty. All that stuff is new to me, and yet the whole thing feels like a return to a time when we made music that was fun. I had personally lost that on “Ex-Lives” [the band’s last record.] I forgot how to have fun. I became too serious, but I shed all that this time. I went back to doing what was natural to me, which is taking risks and doing things that feel unnatural. It’s the only way to get better at anything.
Q: I think what has always separated you guys from a lot of other bands in the scene is the complexity of your music and lyrics. How do your songs come together musically?
A: I can’t speak for how the other guys write, but I did witness it a little more closely than ever before because we wrote this album while sharing a bus in Europe, so I saw the guys with their guitars trying new things in the back lounge. I watched Ryan [Leger] program drums so he could play around with different ideas before banging on them annoyingly while everyone else is trying to have some quiet time. It’s a pretty cool thing to observe a record come together from the very beginning and seeing how music is actually created. ... As far as lyrics go, I do know what it’s like to find that word or that phrase or that melody, so I can imagine it’s similar. My lyricism comes from everywhere. Everything I’ve ever seen or done or heard about shows up when it’s time to write a record. It’s my job to sort it out.
Q: If you were to tell a new fan who had never heard Every Time I Die before why they should listen to your new record, what would you say makes this record stand out not only against other artists’ material, but your own past material?
A: I feel like this album is an Every Time I Die show in a little plastic case. Our live shows have always been a priority and it’s what we pride ourselves on. This record will prove to you why. Hopefully it conveys what has always been important about this music scene: how real it can be. It’s not a scene typically defined by huge production and elaborate costumes, and while Warped Tour is the anomaly which we are grateful to experience once in a while, hardcore shows where we started are a bunch of people playing loud music in which other people like them can find an escape for a while.
Q: Is it always a bit special coming home and playing for the local fans?
A: The Buffalo Warped Tour date is hands down the most stressful day of my life. I have a very hard time relaxing. I’m constantly concerned about the welfare of other people – if they are happy and healthy and safe. In Buffalo, when all of our friends and family are there, there’s the highest concentration of people I love and therefore my level of stress is through the roof. Before the show, you’ll catch me drinking an unhealthy amount and praying I learn to loosen up a bit. However, once we hit the stage in Buffalo there is no greater feeling in the entire world. Trust me, I’ve been on stages all over the entire world.