Original photo credit: Christian Searcy
Hot off the heels of a successful launch of their latest EP The Parallax: The Hypersleep Dialogues, Between the Buried and Me recently hit the road on a headlining tour, bringing metal heavyweights The Ocean and Job For A Cowboy in tow. At the last stop of the tour in Asheville, North Carolina, fellow writer Paul “Uncle Muscles” Meisner and I hopped aboard the unassuming RV that our heroes had been spending the better part of a month crammed in. To say we were nervous would be putting it lightly. I mean, we’ve been praising their work for the better part of this site’s two year existence, but vocalist and keyboard player Tommy Rogers was easy going enough to make our twenty minute conversation comfortable and friendly, and not a completely awkward waste of time.
The interview runs a a tad but long, so get comfy!
So this is the last day of the tour, right?
I’d imagine your day was pretty hectic. What does a normal day look like with Tommy?
Oh man, pretty boring [laughs]. On tour?
Umm… wake up and then I normally try to take a shower—and I always try to find coffee in the morning, which is my first order of business. Walk around… and take a shit [laughs], we load in and get everything ready for soundcheck and kill time until the show starts. This tour’s been really chill, honestly. And today too, you know, even though it is the last day, it’s been very relaxed and when we have the luxury of touring and stuff like this, where we can actually sleep and not drive all day ourselves, it’s nice to actually be awake for the show. Cause we can do van tours, and you know, it’s very tiring.
Yeah, I would imagine.
So it’s not a whole lot, you know? We like to walk around cities a lot.
Yeah, we saw Paul walking around town!
We are all kinda like that, you know? I get really… I don’t know… antsy, sitting in the club…
You get restless.
Yeah, I like to get around, find good food; usual stuff.
So you guys are at the point in your career where I’d imagine you don’t need to do a lot of odd jobs when you’re not touring?
We’re luckily enough… not yet. Hopefully that won’t happen, but there’s been times where it’s been down to the wire and like ‘I need to get a job‘ [laughs]. But yeah, we’re very lucky as far as music being our career. It’s what I’ve always wanted since I was a child, and I’m very fortunate to have that be the case, for sure.
And you guys have gotten bigger over the years, where you’re going on your own headlining tours now, and obviously you guys live fairly nice on the road. The [RV] looks much bigger than it does on the outside.
Yeah, it’s pretty compact. It’s a good in-between of a bus and a van, so it works well for us. And we’re all pretty clean; we keep to ourselves when needed, so yeah, it’s cool.
And you guys have got this pretty big dedicated fan base. How does what you guys have got going on now compare to your expectations of where Between the Buried and Me would take you?
We’ve always been the kind of band that never really expected anything, you know? We’ve always just kinda, you know, worked hard and been really focused on writing good records and good songs. In the beginning, we never know what was going to happen or how successful we’d be—or you know, just the fact that we could play around the US at least and then write records… that’s all we could ask for. Now we’re lucky enough to tour around the world and have a lot of people at a show rather than just thirty people at a show, you know? So we’re very happy how things have panned out. At the same time though, we don’t want to take it for granted. We still really need to push forward and try to out-do ourselves musically and give the fans what they want and still get people excited about what we’re doing.
Yeah, and people do get excited. Recently our website Heavy Blog and The Number of The Blog polled our readers about what they would think would be the 100 greatest albums of the last decade. Without giving too much away, Colors ranked pretty high, you know? How does it make you feel that Colors is get a lot of buzz?
It’s awesome! Yeah, people still get really excited and talk about that record a lot. I mean, it was a fun record to make. You know, I think it was kind of a big turning point for us as far as, you know, where we want to go with our sound and trying new things and really going outside of the box with what we’re comfortable with. I dunno, I think it’s really… you know, since then, we’ve created kind of a good formula as far as how we write our records and how we communicate with each other when we write. So, I’m definitely proud of that record and it’s awesome that people still dig it.
I’d imagine it’s a little bittersweet too, since with every new release it’s like, ‘is it better than Colors?’
[laughs] It’s not that. We don’t get that a whole lot anymore.
Well, if you ignore… online [laughs].
[laughs] Yeah, yeah. But The Great Misdirect, when we were getting that ready, I remember it was definitely… Uh.. hey, Dusty [laughs].
[Guitarist Dusty Warring is crouching down behind us and making funny faces at Tommy. He stands up and leaves as we devolve into awkward laughter.]
We definitely got that question constantly. It’s not a question we could answer, you know? It obviously depends on person’s personal opinion, cause there are people who like The Great Misdirect more than Colors, or there’s people who like The Silent Circus more than anything, you know? It really just depends on the people, and all we can do is try to write the best record we can at the time, and I’m very pleased with everything we’ve done. I wouldn’t change anything.
With The Parallax, you guys decided to change it up a bit and work with David Bottrill. What pushed you to move in the direction of a different producer?
We just thought it was time to do something different, you know? This was kind of a different release for us anyway. It was an EP, which we’ve never done before. We’re on a new record label [Metal Blade], and everything felt kind of new and you know, it’s a full out concept record and we’ve never really done that before, so we just felt like it was time to try it. I think when you try new things, it kind of helps you stay on your toes and become a little more creative. It was a good experience. We went up to Canada—in Toronto—and I guess we were only there for twelve days… recorded the record with him; it was a good experience. We were really drawn to him through… you know, he has some phenomenal work under his belt. He’s done some Silverchair—some great Silverchair records—Tool, King Crimson, Muse… you know, some records that we really, really look up to and we thought it would be cool; a good mixture of our metal sound and his rock expertise, I guess. It was a really good experience, for sure.
Is he gonna be working on the follow up?
We’re not sure yet. And we’re obviously kind of figuring that out, but we haven’t even really started writing yet, so once that starts happening, we’ll start figuring out what makes sense, you know? ‘Cause we don’t even know what it sounds like yet, and you know, there’s always people’s schedules you’ll have to work around and all that, so it really depends. There’s a lot of factors involved, but yeah, we’ll see.
You’re kind of like a jack of all trades in that you kind of pretty much play everything, especially on Pulse… are you trained in any of it or was it more along the lines of picking it up along the way?
No, I just… since I was young, I grew up playing guitar and I just… I kind of always tried to figure things out on my own. I’ve never really had any training with anything, you know? I’ve just kind of like being able to pick up an instrument and just kind of figuring out how to make it sound cool, even if like I picked up a violin right now, I would have no clue how to play it, but I think I could find a way to make something cool out of it, you know? And I’ve kinda always looked at music like that. You know, and just playing in bands… I’ve played a lot of drums through playing with my drummers’ drumset a lot through the years. Growing up, I played guitar and drums in some bands—you know, just slowly learning. I learned to be half-assed at it all [laughs]!
That’s kind of the way I am. Like, I’ve recently picked up guitar and keyboards, and I’ll just noodle for hours without making any coherent sense…
Yeah, it’s fun. You know, even with keyboards. When I decided to start using it with Between the Buried and Me, I had never played keyboards, you know? I mean, I know how to play guitar and I’ve always loved doing that, so I just kinda treated the keyboard as a guitar, you know? That’s still kind of how I treat it, just to create sounds that fit the part—cause that’s what it all comes down to; the song is all that matters…
And you guys are fairly adventurous writers, and you’re unafraid to throw bluegrass and polka into any given song. Like “Augment of Rebirth” is similar in that it takes a similar musical detour and… what kind of music is that in “Augment of Rebirth”?
Is that the first song…. no it’s the second song! I… I dunno what kind of music that is! [laughs]
Yeah… my mom was like “That’s French Cajun!” and I was like “I dunno, sounds some sort of polka”…
Yeah, I dunno. Yeah, that part… it was funny how it came about. Actually, Paul… he was just messing around when playing that riff and you know, I was like “What is that?!” He was just like, “I’m just fucking around,” and I’m like, “We have got to use that!” The song calls for it, you know? We just kind of built from there—I put in accordion and everything, all the fun stuff in there… But yeah, that’s always been the fun thing about writing with this band is, you know, we’re not afraid to try something new. But at the same time, you want to try to like, keep it in the context of the song and to feel right within it, so yeah… I would personally be bored if we didn’t try all of these fun things, I guess.
Yeah. Um… I heard the farm animals, but I didn’t hear any slide whistles or farts on that song!
Uh… the fart… is in a different part. It’s very hard to hear…
I can’t remember what part it is… the slide whistle… where’s the slide whistle on the record, Paul?
[Guitarist Paul Waggoner, who recently snuck in past us on the RV, turns around looking bewildered]
Paul: Uh… ugh… on the… where is it?
I don’t think there’s a slide whistle…
Paul: It’s on there.
Paul: I can’t remember where.
Paul: I’m pretty sure… or did we do the fart instead of the slide whistle?
Yeah… I’m pretty sure… OH YEAH, cause when we originally recorded it, we put the slide whistle with the fart and it was… too much.
Paul: Why, did they hear the fart?!
No, we remember the twitter update.
Paul: Oh yeah, yeah…
Yeah… I think we took the slide whistle out. I think it’s in the first song where it’s like the little piano… [emulating the part in the song, followed by an abrupt farting noise.]
That’s where it is, but it’s hard to hear! If you put on headphones, that’s where it is!
Awww, I’ve gotta try to find that!
And what do you know?! We found it.
Speaking of that, have you guys ever came up with an idea so bizarre that you just couldn’t bring yourself to put it in your music?
Oh yeah, all the time. I mean, there’s so many parts that either just do not work or it sucks… or it doesn’t make sense, you know? It always happens. You know, we spend a lot of time getting our songs ready… we’re very… once we write and record them… like, we record them before we go into the studio on our own and we over-analyze everything just to make sure we get everything exactly how we want, so we end up changing a lot, always.
You’ve got a bunch of side projects and guest spots coming up… like, you’re on [Devin Townsend Project’s] Deconstruction…
And you’re on “Planet of the Apes.” How did that come about?
Well Devin toured with us last year and I actually became friends with him, and we did Ozzfest with Strapping [Young Lad] years ago, in 2006. He’s been a huge, huge inspiration for me since I was, you know, in high school. He’s still one of my favorite metal vocalists ever. Yeah, he just emailed me out of the blue one day and it was a huge, huge honor to do it—it was fun. It’s a great record. I’m really excited for that and Ghost to come out, cause they’re both just phenomenal.
Yeah, I heard Deconstruction, and your part on it is just vicious…
That’s awesome, thanks!
And the rest of the album is just like, Danny Elfman…
It’s crazy! And Ghost is just so good too…
I haven’t heard that one yet!
Yeah, it’s really good! I think it comes out the same day. It’s really, really mellow but it’s… so good. Yeah, he’s phenomenal.
And then you’ve also got two songs you’ve recorded with Intensus, right?
Mmhm. Yeah, that was… that was a really fun project, because it was just so… so intense. I know it’s cliche to say, but it really is! I mean, I’ve known that guy for a little while and when he sent me that music, I was just like, “…how the hell am I gonna write vocals to this?!” It’s just crazy… and a lot of his stuff was just improv, so I took that same approach and, you know, I listened to it and I was like, “yeah, I’ll do it, but I don’t wanna write anything to it,” you know? I just took it to the studio and wrote lyrics and vocals on the spot, and it was just… crazy.
Yeah, it sounded like Anaal Nathrakh…
Yeah, I just wanted to make it as gnarly and as brutal as possible.
Yeah, it really worked!
And I believe I read somewhere that you were doing a black metal project?
Um… no, not right now. I would like to one day. That’s something I’ve always kind of had in the back of my mind, cause I’ve been a huge, huge black metal fan for… probably since like when I got out of high school which was like… ten years now… eleven years?! Even though I don’t look like it, but yeah, I am.
Yeah, I’ve always been into black metal. You know, I have some little things here and there written, but nothing… I still don’t have any time, you know? And it’s hard to write metal when you’re in a metal band, you know? Cause I’ll write a riff or something and if it’s awesome, I’ll want to use it in Between the Buried and Me, you know? [laughs]
It’s kinda tough, sometimes.
So for Thomas Giles, your solo album did really well. I haven’t seen a negative review about it…
Yeah, I was very surprised because it is different from what people expect, and you never know. I was very happy with how people have received it, I guess. And people seem to dig it, and it was a fun record to write. So, I’m glad I did it.
Could you see yourself doing another album in that same vein again?
I’m sure I’ll do more records, but I’m not sure…. I have no idea what it will sound like. I’m sure, because I had fun writing the more rock oriented stuff and, you know, it’s a very big part of the music I like a lot. It was really fun to write so I’m sure it’ll be similar, yeah.
And you recently came off a tour earlier this year? How did that turn out?
Actually, did we?
Uh… with Thomas Giles.
Oh, me!? Yeah, I’m sorry! I was like, “we didn’t tour in a while.” [Laughs] Yeah, I did a little one, five dates with Stephen Brodsky from Cave-In and this band Braveyoung from North Carolina, a great band from Greensboro. It was cool, man. It was very different, you know? It was… very, very small shows… and it was just weird playing guitar and singing. I haven’t done that in… ages. So it was cool. I got a band together to play with me, so it was a very good time. So who knows, I might do more some day but as of now, nothing’s planned. But I’m sure it will happen at some point.
So what do you guys have planned after…?
We’re taking most of the summer off. We’re gonna start to write a little bit for the next record. Later in the year, we’re going to be doing a lot of overseas touring and then we’re doing a US tour later in the year, so we’re going to try to hit a few places we didn’t hit on this tour, so hopefully people won’t be be so bummed. You know, people get bummed when we miss their city, but yeah, we’re gonna be playing… it’s a pretty long tour, so we’re gonna hit everywhere we missed this tour. So we’re just gonna be touring and getting the next record ready and go from there.
Alright! One more question, regarding the lyrics to The Parallax. Some people like me aren’t very quick to pick up on what exactly is going on with the music, so…
Hold on, what’s that?!
[We turn to see Bassist Dan Briggs walking in the RV holding Mr. Bungle’s self titled LP on vinyl]
Actually I have like, seven vinyls, and that’s the one I don’t have!
Is there a record store around here that you got that at?!
That’s a really great record! Everybody go buy that record!
Yeah, I’m a vinyl collector and I really need to get that!
Dan: Oh really, well…!
[Dan walks away with pride as we erupt in laughter.]
Uh… so if you could like, elaborate on what the story is so far?
The story so far is… it’s kind of an introduction to these two characters, and one of the characters is where… “Swim to the Moon” on The Great Misdirect left off. These two guys live on separate planets in separate times of existence, I guess. They’re on separate journeys and they’re kind of slowly coming closer to each other without knowing it, and they have some connections, which we’ll find out later. The EP’s pretty much an intro to what’s going on, so it’s kind of vague. So when you read the lyrics, it’s kind of hard to understand what’s going on. But yeah, it will all make a lot more sense… whenever the next record comes out [laughs]! But most of the time these two guys are just spending time by themselves, you know? They’re on these journeys—one guy’s making his way back home… they’re both kind of making their way back home, whatever their “home” is… and there’s lots of odd things happening to prevent them from actually getting back there. I dunno… I hate how vague it is right now, but at the same time it’s kinda cool because people don’t really know what the hell is going on, and we like that [laughs]!
I can’t wait to find out what happens, man!
So, thank you so much for taking the time our of your day to talk to us!
Oh, no worries man. Thank you! You guys have a good time tonight!
Kill it tonight, man!
Between The Buried Me will be writing their next full length album this summer—possibly right now! This fall, BTBAM and Animals as Leaders will take Europe by storm. Check out the tour dates here. Their new EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues is out now via Metal Blade Records!