Every Time I Die are currently riding high on the back of the release of their smashing new album ‘Ex Lives‘ via Epitaph Records. With any luck it won’t be too long until they return to their ever growing Aussie fanbase to promote the album, so Deborah Konopnicki recently caught up with Keith Buckley to chat about the album and more. Expand this post to take a read, and if you are yet to pick up a copy on CD or vinyl, get onto it [Here].
Hey Keith! How are you going?
I’m going good! How are you?
Pretty great thanks. What are you up to at the moment?
Well my wife is cooking dinner and I’m watching a hockey game right now.
You must be a pretty happy man at the moment with your brand new record “Ex-Lives” only weeks old.
Yeah, we were sitting on it since July and the fact that it didn’t leak was miraculous!
How come you sat on the album for so long before releasing it?
Well after writing and recording for ten years we’ve gotten used to the whole process and releasing it at the end of the year, by the time that the summer tour rolls around it can already be an old record. We figured that we’d release the record just before the summer tour so that way when people come out to the shows it’s a new record an people can get excited about it and we can debut some songs that we’ve never played before. All that kind of stuff. It’s was totally dictated by the touring cycle that we followed.
The album is a brutal one and totally unrelenting all the way through right from the word go. You must be pretty proud of the collection of songs that you’ve released.
Oh yeah it feels really good! It actually felt easier than it ever has to pick the order of the songs. It’s always been such a huge, huge thing and it’s the major point of contention around record time and we sit and fight about it for days and days and days. This time it just felt like a natural direction. It just all fit together. We probably haven’t done that since “Hot Damn”. It’s the first time that we’ve put out a record that from the first riff is just the heaviest on the album. We had a lot to prove on this one. We had a new drummer and it was really important that we really show that we haven’t lost any strides since the last record that we wrote. I’m sure that people were wondering about how it was going to sound and we wanted to make it blatantly clear that it wasn’t going to fall down and we were going to be as aggressive as ever.
Why do you think it was easier this time around? Would you just put that down to the experience of having ten years behind you?
Yeah, it definitely felt easier. We really wanted it to be unrelenting. I know that a lot of bands try to shoehorn in a song and go “Well, I think that this could be a radio song…” but that wasn’t even a concern of ours. Instead of trying to address and trying to pander to a new audience we just wanted to make a record for the people that have been with us for this long. Those are the people that are the most important to us. We’re not trying to get new fans or be like “Well, I hope our parents like this record!” This is for the dude that’s been following us since he was 16 and is now about 25. I want him to hear this record and remember what it felt to like us in the first place.
One of the creepiest things that I’ve seen in a little while was the video that you released a little while back for “Underwater Bimbos…”. You directed the video so what was going through your mind when you were putting together all of that creepy footage and splicing images of the band in ever so often?
The approach to the record was to be as aggressive as we possibly could right off the bat, to be as unrelenting as we can. It’s the first song on the record and it’s the first video that we put out. We really just wanted to make sure that people’s first impressions of the record made them feel really uncomfortable. It sounds terrible and it’s not that I want to make you feel uncomfortable because I don’t like you, it’s just that this is what music should do. It should be ambitious and be something that really challenges all previous conceptions of what you thought our band really was. When you watch it I want you to associate the imagery with the music so that when you hear it later you were as uncomfortable as you were the first time that you watched it when you heard the music with it. It makes more sense if you can appeal to the different senses at one time. I think that if you can put something visual and tie it in with something auditory that it makes more of an impact.
I think that you’re spot on with that. After first watching the video and listening to the track again I can’t get some of the clips out of my head. Job well done indeed. One of the other things that I really enjoyed initially was reading people’s comments and the reactions to the video. It was all generally quite positive! That must have made you smile.
Yeah, it definitely did. The thing is it seems like people ‘got it’. I didn’t want it to be like “Oh, that makes me sick!” or “I fucking can’t watch this video” and then I’m like “Oh cool! That’s what I wanted!” People are saying “It’s making me uncomfortable, but I think that was he point.” It totally was the point.
You had Josh leave the band which seems like a bizarre move timing wise. Just to confirm, he left after the recording process was completed?
Yeah. The ‘official word’ was that he was gone when the recording was completed. He’s been in the band for so long. He was the longest running bass player that we’d ever had so we could tell there was something going on during the recording and even during the writing process where me and Josh were doing the band things when the record was being written and I could just tell that there was something. I was writing lyrics and hoping that Josh was writing bass lines. It just seemed like his heart wasn’t in it and that it was just unspoken. We got into the studio and it was sort of the same thing. He didn’t want to let us down but we knew that it wasn’t where his heart was at so when he quit we just said “As long as you’re happy, then that’s great man”. We’re all family and we love him. As long as he’s happy then we’re fine. I hate to say it, but we’ve lost bass players before. We’ll go on.
Would have you preferred if he was thinking about leaving that it was done before the recording process started or are you happy to have that one last record with him?
Yeah, it was definitely a great swan song. If this was going to be his last thing that he ever did with us then it’s a great way to go out I think. The whole record marks a transition period for us. It was our first record with a new drummer and our last record with our old bass player so it’s like within those 36 minutes – or however long the record is – it really is a shift of energy. It’s something new that’s being ushered in and it’s cool. We had to prove that we’ve better off. I don’t mean to say that we’re better off without Josh, but we can go through changes like this and come out the other side and be bigger and better to overcome those things. No-one is ever going to join the band to just fill shoes – people are going to fucking rip out of those shoes. We’re not just trying to make a quiet replacement. We want every change to be a really big change.
You guys are pretty good to your Aussie fans, you seem to be down here pretty much every year! Is there a time in 2012 that you’ve got set aside to come and tour the new record?
Yeah we’re definitely going to come back. I don’t know if you happened to make it out to any of the Counter Revolution shows that we played, but it was fucking awesome. We couldn’t’ have asked for anything more. We were stoked about the Revolution thing until that got cancelled and then we were like “Shit. Well what are we re going to do now?” They were like “Well, you can still come over and do some shows” We didn’t want to because we thought it might be competing with the other sort of thing, the Counter Revolution but we thought fuck it, we’ll just do it. It turned out to be so much better then we could have expected. We’ll definitely be back down there in the this year for sure.
On a personal note though you had a chance to check out the Revolution as part of The Dammed Things. I was at the Melbourne leg and thought that your set was one of the highlights of the day. How was that experience?
It was crazy. I didn’t doubt myself, I knew that I would love the challenge and especially that Every Time I Die and The Damned things were supposed to play soundwave. I was mentally and physically preparing for it as if it were a real sporting event. I was like training and everything and getting ready to do it. When it happened that the whole thing kind of dissolved and it was split into two things I was kind of like “Well, this might actually work out for me a little better!” I was doing something every day and it kept me busy but I loved the challenge. It was a great experience. If you’ve biggest problem is that you have to play in two different bands in Australia then you’re life is pretty good.
There was so much chopping and changing with the Counter Revolution line-up that the final bill ended up attracting a pretty young crowd. Being the heaviest band of the day, do you feel like you were able to come away with some new fans from that set?
Yeah! Yeah I definitely think that we came away with some new fans and that’s huge for The Damned Things because we only have one record and that was only maybe like our fourth time touring. It was really important for us to get out there. To be able to do that before we take our break was huge. I think the next time that The Damned Things come to Australia that it’ll be great.
Obviously your focus at the moment is Every Time I Die, but do you have anything planned for The Damned Things?
We’re just going to wait. It took three of four years until The Damned things even played our first show. It was a long time so we know how to be patient with it. We’ll just wait and see what happens.
On a very personal note, earlier this year I saw something pop up on your website that was quite interesting. You seemed to be having an aversion to your reliance on social media so you were going to take a step back. How is your detox going?
Great! It was definitely a sort of thing where the first week I had to force myself to back-away. I was very involved. Every morning for about two hours that’s all I did. Just catch up on what my friends were doing and new news and things coming from all sources so it really took a big chunk out of my day. After the first week of withdrawals it definitely became a lot easier. I think that it really redirected my focus. I’m back on it, but definitely not with the obsession that I had when I started. I’ll check it once or twice a day as opposed to a dozen times. It got me to put my phone down and enjoy the moment a little longer, which I think is really important.
Just finally today, you’re also a staunch supporter of getting kids to put down their camera and phones at gigs and to really enjoy the moment because it can somewhat distort reality. Have you found that slowly seeping into people’s heads at your shows?
Specifically I remember the first time that we ever played “Underwater Bimbos…” was in Australia on that last tour. I remember saying “This is the first time that we’re ever playing the song, so don’t film it! We’re trying this out in front of you guys”. The fact that people filmed it and it made it to the web means that other people decided when we were comfortable with it. We didn’t put it out because we were comfortable with it yet. You can record it and whatnot but until you play it live you don’t know what kind of vibe it’s going to have. You have little things to figure out about the song. You have to focus on certain parts of the song more and stand still because you’ve never played it live before. When you put that into people’s hands that are in the crowd, they’re deciding “Eh, it’s good enough… let’s let everybody else see it”. I’m saying that it’s not good enough yet! We’re playing it in front of you guys so just put your camera down and remember the fact that you were at this show the first time that this song was ever played if it means anything! I think that it’s important that bands take that power back and say “WE’LL tell you when it’s good enough to play for other people!” It’s not up to a stranger with a cell phone.
EVERY TIME I DIE – Ex Lives
In stores Now via Epitaph Records
Buy on CD or Vinyl [Here] with free postage.