In The Studio: Every Time I Die

August 18, 2011 by Annie Zaleski

In The Studio: Every Time I Die

Every Time I Die’s sixth studio album, which they recorded with producer Joe Barresi (Queens Of  The Stone Age, Coheed And Cambria) in Pasadena, California, is completed and currently being mixed. AP caught up with vocalist Keith Buckley at home in Buffalo—“Well, more like in my car looking for my cigarettes,” he says—to get more details on the still-untitled LP, which is due in early 2012.

You guys really recorded this album under the radar.
It was a blur, to be honest.  We’re used to recording where every instrument is done one at a time and vocals go last, so I’m usually sitting for three weeks not doing anything. But from front to back, everyone was involved all the time. Some days it was actually hard to find time to tweet about anything. [Laughs.]

That’s how you know you’re busy.
Yeah, if you can’t make time for Twitter, chances are you definitely have your head down. 

How long were you guys out there in California?
Four weeks, I think almost exactly.

What is the album sounding like?
Everyone [in a band] is always saying the newest thing is their best work. No one is going to be like, “You know what, to be honest, [our new stuff] sounds like shit.” [But] this is the first record we’ve done with a new drummer [Ryan Leger]. You know, we’ve had our old drummer [Mike "Ratboy" Novak] from day one. When you make a new foundation for the band, it’s going to alter the way the things get built. It sounds like a different band; it sounds like it’s got a lot more energy to it, a lot more aggression. [Ryan’s] just a better drummer. You can tell there’s new vitality, which we haven’t had in a long time. 

How did you guys write this album?  I know you’re so busy doing the Damned Things, so when did the music get written?
Jordan [Buckley, guitarist] came to Buffalo for a month—he was living on a couch, just kind of hanging out in Buffalo. Him and Andy [Williams, guitarist] and Ryan the drummer, who’s from Canada, would all just get together three or four days a week—we rented a practice space downtown—and just jam. Then I’d get the finished-as-it-could-be product.  And then I’d listen to it and work on it.  It was a much different experience for me, because I was actually on tour with the Damned Things when the lyrics were being written. My comfort zone is sitting in my house, in my room, in front of a computer—especially in the winter. We always write in the winter, so I’m used to not ever being distracted, and [I’m] focusing solely on writing. I was very afraid—okay, we were writing a record in the summer and I’m not even home and I’m in Europe and not only am I in Europe, but I’m with a bunch of dudes that I’m kind of fresh with. [The Damned Things] haven’t toured so much that it’s like it’s a routine yet, so I didn’t know how it was going to be.

It feels like [lyrically] the way it was approached definitely came from a different spot, which is often something I was always too afraid to [do]—you know, if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. I was never like, “Oh, I should try writing differently this time, maybe upset that balance a little—find somewhere new to write, find new things to write about.” I knew it worked. This time it was definitely forget everything I had done before and come from a different place.

If you changed up everything, how did this change your writing?
It’s just more spontaneous. I didn’t feel like I was reaching for anything.  My productivity level was out of control. There were times where I was doing two songs in a day—and not just to get them done, but genuinely, like, they’re on the record and they’re great songs.  They’re not B-sides. There was stuff I was really proud of. A lot of that has to do with changing your perspective on everything—literally looking at different things while you’re writing.

It sounds so corny: I started meditating a lot in the past year, and that was a big thing for me. It was like, “Okay, I can drink a lot, but there’s obviously some source of unhappiness here, and I got to get to the bottom of it.” I started meditating a lot, and it changed the way I looked at things and helped me make peace with a lot of stuff, so I feel like I’m drawing from a deeper well.

That’s very cool.  It seems like a lot of people get to a certain age and need to examine what’s going on. 
Exactly—and like I said, I could just keep doing it because I knew that it worked. I was okay—I wasn’t, like, beating up anybody when I was drunk, I wasn’t driving when I was drunk; I was a harmless, functioning alcoholic.  That’s the point where I was—it was getting kind of boring, I want to be [functioning] differently, so meditation is the best way to do it. 

How else has the band dynamic changed? You’re bringing in these musical changes, and Ryan’s new. How did that affect recording this time?
It was crazy, because we didn’t realize before that [Ryan] is the most technical and professional member in the band.  As a studio drummer in Canada—you know, he’s recorded for essentially what would be like the American Idols in our country, I don’t know what that’s called. So he knows studio lingo…he’s, like, actually speaking the producer’s language.  It was definitely cool.  We all worked together—and like I said, from front to back, everyone was in the same room working and offering suggestions, which was definitely better than before. 

Tell me what it’s like working with Joe Barresi.
Very much just sort of—well, laid-back is the best thing to say, but laid-back does not mean disinterested at all. He was very, very involved, but he just kind of let us take the reigns. If we wanted to try something, [he said] absolutely. It was never like, “Ah, I don’t think that’s going to work.”  And the thing is—he’s such a gear hoarder, he can make up sounds for any instrument out of anything at all. And he has that catalogued in his brain. It’s not like, “Hey, let’s plug this weird thing into this other really weird thing and then run it through an amp and see how it sounds.” He knows exactly what amp he has to go get and what levels it has to be at to get that sound he just invented.  To see him do that, it was like an alchemy lab in there with a lot of different sounds. He was willing to try anything and everything.  Which was great. 

He’s so good at just getting massive sounds, if you look at the bands he’s worked with.
Yeah, he is. The fact that we were kind of, like I said, left to our own devices—and then we’re so happy with the way everything came out—I think it was just that we had reached an immediate level of comfort. We were confident in ourselves, and we weren’t worried about [whether] he would want to change everything if we were doubting it. I feel like he believed in us, which was great.

What else do you want people to know?
Reading the lyrics this time and listening to the music, people can tell this is a band that, after the sixth album, is just starting to hit its stride. I don’t think we’re so concerned with our permanent record anymore that we’re upset about what’s happening, what we’ve done, what we should be doing in order to get more kids to like us, to sell more records. You can definitely tell by listening to this one we’re in it for us this time.

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