Every One’s A Winner, Baby
After nearly twenty years together, Every Time I Die are still one of the most vital bands in hardcore.
Words: Heather McDaid.
Every Time I Die have got nothing to prove. Sort of. They’re one of the most consistent bands around. Staggeringly consistent. They’re an enigma, really. But they know that as they continue, people start to expect an end on the horizon. It’s not a mark on the band, more the natural lifespan of people thriving in music before throwing the towel. ‘Low Teens’ was just a next step for ETID in one sense, but there was also a gut-felt determination to show that they’re going nowhere.
“I hate to say that we had something to prove because you don’t want to go in with only looking to appease other people,” explains Keith Buckley on tackling the latest instalment, “but you know, we’re aware that it’s our eighth record. I think we just wanted to prove that we are as relevant as we’ve ever been, if not more so now – that we can still do it, even in our later years.”
Warped Tour this summer saw them bring their new songs to life in the anarchic way only they could, a particularly interesting testing ground. “We’ve actually been switching them out, ‘The Coin Has A Say’ hasn’t been in the set list for a little bit – this is all total shinfo but it requires a guitar change and a different tuning that we just don’t have time to do in our short Warped Tour set. It was going down really well but we just made ‘Glitches’ a permanent staple in the setlist and it’s been going great. They’re loving it.
“I totally understand that people won’t stand and watch sometimes,” he continues, on the new song phenomenon. “You’ve got to be honest with yourself – it’s a hundred degrees outside, these kids have been here all day, you know, and you’re playing new stuff. It’s a different kind of barometer you use on Warped Tour to gauge this kind of stuff, if people are into it. If you draw a crowd and people stick around for the whole set, that’s a really good indication that you’re doing something right. It might not be the craziest set you’ve ever played but with the factors involved it’s a huge blessing that people are even standing there watching you.”
People most definitely were standing and watching. And the snatches of ‘Low Teens’ that have been caught by the world at large so far have been revving up the excitement for another brick-solid addition to their world. “Oh god, I can’t wait!” says Keith, on others being able to hear the whole album. “We recorded it so many months ago and now we’re just sitting on it. By the time it comes out it’s going to be old new stuff – it’ll be an interesting moment of time. People will be excited for a new record, but it won’t be new to us, but it will give another life to it that we haven’t seen yet. It’s a really hard secret to keep but we’re trying our best.”
Despite being so many albums in, producer Will Putney took them back to basics where they were learning to work with songs in ways they never had before. “Even though we came in with the songs written, he kind of went right back to the beginning and undid and reformatted a lot of the stuff. No producer had ever done this with us before. Normally they come in and see what we’ve written and then they take that and add some finishing touches to it. But Will really stripped it down to the bone and then rebuilt is with us, which was a great experience.
“Also once we got into the studio I actually had my own little part, like lab, to like write and try recording it, demo and see how it sounded, which I’ve never had before. Once I was able to start tracking the vocals I was at a level of confidence I wasn’t at with any of the other records before.”
The content of the songs themselves were far more personal to Keith than the rest of the creation process, with his wife facing a life-threatening pregnancy complication. He left the band’s North American tour to be with her, updating fans with a photo with his wife and newborn daughter, both doing fine, soon after saying: “This is what it looks like when love prevails. My heart is new again.”
“I mean, there was so much going on in my personal life at the time with my wife and my daughter being born and pretty unexpected circumstances that surrounded it,” he begins, “I didn’t really know what I was going to write about for a few weeks leading up to the record and then that happened. I could have written ten albums about it and everything I was going through with that. I feel that’s an overarching theme of the record – it’s kind of uncertainty, there was a lot of anger and confusion when I was writing it that can apply that to any song on the record.”
While you’d think hitting the eighth album would be enough to satisfy the creative itch for the moment, 2015 saw Keith release his debut novel ‘Scale’, on the memoirs of Ray Goldman, a fictional musician ‘who will outdrink you, out-party you and, unfortunately for him, probably outlive you’. “It was very different,” he notes. “I didn’t have anybody else to rely on to tell me to stop writing. Writing a book was definitely honing in on what was important to the story, just trying to chew a lot of fat. The first draft of the book was probably three times as long, so learning how to check yourself and edit, and take out the stuff that’s not important. I was just in service of the book when writing it, but when writing music it’s kind of my own.
“Having written the book changed how I wrote the lyrics for ‘Low Teens’, definitely,” he adds. “I was able to avoid so much opulence as far as like stripping down the words and getting to the heart of what’s important. I think it was like a eureka moment when I was writing lyrics – like oh my god, I can’t believe I used to write lyrics with such flowery language. It’s just so unnecessary. I think this record’s lyrics are little more to the point and a little more personal – actually a lot more to the point and a lot more personal.
“I loved the process and I miss writing a book, when it was done it was kind of heartbreaking, like saying goodbye to something and putting it out into the world, like sending your kid off to school.”
Well, now ‘Low Teens’ is about to join his and the band’s other work on the school run, so what next? “Just constant touring. I feel like this album’s going to do really good things for us. I know people keep thinking that we’re getting too old to tour and will want to dial it back or tone it down but we’re more ready to go than ever – so expect us.”