Dan Briggs of ORBS: The HBIH Interview

I recently got the opportunity to trade e-mails with Dan Briggs, best know as the bassist for prog-metal maestros Between the Buried and Me, to talk about his new band, the very different but equally-as-fantastic ORBS.

A supergroup of sorts, ORBS also features members of Fear Before, Cradle of Filth and Torch Runner. Their upcoming album Asleep Next To Science has been maturing for around three years, and I rightly gave it a resounding thumbs up in my review here.

Hi Dan! Thanks for taking the time to sit down and talk to us. So: why the name ‘ORBS’?

The name ORBS comes from the original demo of the song “Sayer of the Law”, the demo name for it was “orb party” because we always viewed the floaty piano cadenza section before the first verse, as a star kind of exploding with energy and floating through space. I told Ashley it always reminded me of the dying star scenes in “The Fountain”, but I don’t think she’s seen it yet!

That’s a great film! I love Clint Mansell’s score. So what is your favourite orb??

I’ll say the sun..it’s probably the one instance of magic if it ever in fact did exist in the universe. We float around it and it warms us just enough so that we can grow food and be giving everything we need to sustain ourselves. Amazing!

In the review I spoke a little bit about the album being ‘unexpected’, given your collective musical pedigrees. It’s certainly not metal, so what kind of person is this album for? Sell it to us!

It’s really for anyone that enjoys being taking on a journey while listening to music. My favorite music is the kind that paints pictures musically and lyrically, has a lot of different moods throughout the record. Whether it’s Peter Gabriel, Debussy, Smashing Pumpkins, or Queen; we’re all moved by music that truly takes you somewhere and inspires you. We can only hope our music might have that same effect.

Of the nine tracks we all get to hear come August 17th, which is your favourite (musically? Lyrically? To play?) and why?

Well, we haven’t been able to preform all of them just yet, but so far “Kid Cancer” and “Sayer of the Law” have been super fun for me to play live. We’re working up “People Will Read Again” for this upcoming tour, and I’m really excited to see how that one is to play live; it’s a perfect example of a song that takes you all over the place musically.

You’ve had this album in the works since around the time Colors came out. I know that as a writer at least, if I mull over something for too long I sometimes become disillusioned with it. Were you ever worried that, given time, you might fall out of love with the music you’d already written?

Nah, we wrote it so quickly and it was all through a very exciting burst of creative energy between Ashely and I. We really didn’t know what we were getting into, we were just writing and having a blast. We’re so excited that the world finally gets to hear all of our works! They’re some of my most prized musical compositions.

What has been the live response so far? Have people known who you are, or has it been a ‘blank canvas’, as it were?

We’ve only done one tour so far, in the summer of 2009 on the east coast. It was a lot of fun! I booked it all myself and we made two song cassette tapes with handmade packaging. Just super D.I.Y., and it was awesome. So much fun to just get on stage (or floor) and play together. I love getting to play with so many of my best friends!

How did the band come about in the first place, given that you and Ashley were relative strangers?

She had messaged BTBAM in the summer of 2007 asking if we ever needed help with live keyboards and also gave some new music she had been writing and said she was always looking for people to contribute with. Soon after, we began exchanging Sibelius files (music notation software) and months later finally were in the same room with each other arranging songs in person and becoming great friends in the process!

What challenges did you face in cross-country collaboration? What was the first face-to-face jam like?

A few days before we got together for the first time (November 2007 if memory serves…) I had handed in the final version of “People Will Read Again” to Ash, and so initially we just got to work on mapping out the song and figuring out what kind of keyboard parts were right for all the parts, which really was a lot of fun. It was almost like skipping right ahead to the actual production of the album, doing all the bells and whistles. And then she showed me a handful of ideas she had for “Sayer of the Law”, went to teach a piano lesson, and by the time she got back I had the beginning all worked out and we just went nuts for two days with that song and a bunch of snacks and playing with dogs for a good while.

Was it easy to find time for ORBS in and around your work in Between the Buried and Me?

The band is really just now starting to get to work now that the album is coming out, so we’ll see how it all works out. I have all the confidence in the world that I’ll be able to balance my time well and be able to do anything and everything that I want to do musically. There are about five million things that I still want to do, this is just the beginning!

My parents (and I’m sure I’m not alone here) are none too fond of heavy music of any kind. How do your parents feel about the style of music you normally play, and how do they feel about the new direction you’ve taken with ORBS?

My mom drove me to hardcore show when I was 13 years old and put up with me drawing x’s on my hands when I would go to school. She was a music teacher and got me started on guitar when I was 10 and is just as proud of me for playing Mussorgsky’s “Pictures at an Exhibition” in the Pennsylvania All-State Orchestra on upright bass as she is for me playing “White Walls” or “Megaloblastic Madness”. I’ve been very lucky, but she loves it all.

Lyrically, I think the album is top notch. I love that whole kooky narrative/story-telling aspect. Would you call Asleep Next To Science a concept album? Is there a unifying theme?

It’s not, no. The two part song “The Northwestern Bearitories” is a story about how destructive people are to animals and nature in general…every song really is a pretty elaborate story. Again, harking back to the Peter Gabriel-isms of early Genesis. Adam’s never really gotten super into that stuff, but I tell him all the time how much he reminds me of Gabriel during that era.

The year is 2012. As the Mayans predicted, the end of the world has come; and who knew, it’s zombies! What is ORBS’ survival strategy?

I’m sure by that time we’ll be doing an intergalactic tour and, depending on our schedule, might be playing one of the moons of Jupiter. We’ll wish all our best to Earth, but you brought it upon yourselves no doubt.

Beyond the U.S. dates later this month, do you have any further scope or opportunity to tour? What sort of factors will contribute to both your ability and will to do so (zombie apocalypse not withstanding)?

We’re not really looking past this tour just yet. BTBAM’s writing a new EP when I get home and recording in December. I’m looking to do more ORBS stuff directly after that, so we’ll probably get planning that soon here. One thing at a time though ya know?

And finally; any parting words (of wisdom or otherwise)?

I hope everyone had a great summer, I wasn’t home for any of it. Listen to “Selling England by the Pound” if you can find it and just get swept away with analog keyboard arpeggios, 12-string guitars, and wondrous tales. Just everyone be stoked and come hangout with us this fall, we’re really really excited to be playing all across the country for everyone.

Asleep Next To Science is out on August 17th on Equal Vision Records. Je suis très excite!

– CG

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