Interview: Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die
MEB Staffer Zac Lomas recently caught up with vocalist and lyricist Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die before their annual holiday shows in Buffalo, NY. Buckley spoke of the joy of returning, his relationship to the Buffalo music scene and the recent success of their sixth album, Ex-Lives.
After spending most of the year on tour, how does it feel knowing that every December you get to come home and play to your hometown and the fans who identify so much with you guys?
That’s the big payoff, that’s obviously the best part about it – it gives us something to look forward to. I mean every show every night gives us something to look forward to, but at the end of the tour and the end of the year and the end of the whole touring cycle, knowing you’re going to end the year with family and friends is fucking sweet, except for the annoying ones. There are a lot of annoying family and friends, don’t look forward to seeing them, but . . .
What does it mean to play Mohawk Place two final times before it closes down and how has this venue in particular affected your musical upbringing?
It’s an honor. I mean it’s sad, for sure, this place has been a staple for as long as I’ve been going to shows and the fact that we kind of get to be a part of its closing ceremony is something to be thankful for. The shows I’ve seen here have been incredible. It’s like all the cool punk rock dudes came here and I couldn’t wait to get my first fake ID and come with them and it was cool; they let me in with fake IDs.
You’ve offhandedly mentioned before your own interest in opening up a venue in Buffalo. With the sudden lack of a definitively small venue in the city, does that expedite your desire to do that or is that something off in the future?
I think that something does need to re-open. I think there does need to be something between the size of this and the size of Town Ballroom, around a 500-600 capacity room. I’d love to be a part of it, for sure, because I live in Buffalo, I’m part of the music community, but my personal funds definitely can’t support that right now. So if a bunch of guys were to get together and we could do something like that, then yeah, that would be a dream.
Many people see Every Time I Die as a party band, yet you also write lyrics that possess a literary style and a certain acerbic wit. How are you able to reconcile these seemingly conflicting things in the creation of the unique sound that is Every Time I Die?
I don’t think they’re mutually exclusive, I think it’s kind of maybe the people I grew up reading and wanted to emulate when I was really young and a lot of the beat generation writers and things like that. And they were notorious drug users and drunks, but they still had a prose that was memorable. I actually think they complement each other more so than they do to disabuse each other.
With literary allusions to both Dostoevsky and Baraka on Ex-Lives, it’s clear that your background as a literature student has an impact on your approach to writing lyrics, so is there one author in particular who has influenced you the most and why?
Yeah, here’s a guy called (Italo) Calvino that I kind of try to read everything he reads. I like the idea that he kind of creates whole worlds, then the stories exist in the worlds they’ve created and not in this one.
You quote the poet Amiri Baraka in “Revival Mode” and in that song you have a line: “I should have learned a more noble craft / Out of the library and into the lab” which is immediately followed by the quote from Baraka. Can you expand on this bit of irony?
It was kind of saying that’s all I know, the stuff I’ve read in the library and to apply that to real life doesn’t necessarily work all the time. It’s the sort of thing where growing up in order to play a sport, I’d have to read a book and in order to get a skateboard I’d have to read a book, so it was the one before the other all the time and I wouldn’t change a thing. That’s just how I was brought up, so firstly came the literary then came the literal.
Since you wrote the lyrics to the new album while on tour with The Damned Things, were there any obstacles or things that pushed you outside of your comfort zone and challenged you?
Yeah, everything. I wasn’t home, I was on a bus with a bunch of people I had never toured with before and I didn’t know their schedules, their living habits or anything like that. So it was just weird, I mean it was like living in an apartment with a bunch of strangers and trying to be as creative as possible when there’s all this distraction around.
Now when you say distraction, do you think that provided some fresh inspiration?
New material, definitely. I was seeing a lot of different stuff and going through a lot of different experiences and it was just different than sitting at home and looking out my window.
With the release of Ex-Lives you’ve put out six full length albums over a span of 14 years. If you told 1998 Keith that he’d have a top 20 album, what would he say?
I mean, I definitely wouldn’t believe it, but I would assume that the music industry had gone to hell, which is possible.
Compared to when you were younger, how has the Buffalo hardcore scene and the hardcore scene as a whole changed, and what are some up-and-coming Buffalo bands that you’re currently into?
It’s not, and I get asked that a lot; it’s not like I’m constantly watching from the outside and conducting experiments, I’ve kind of been a part of it from the beginning. I think it’s on top of things comparatively. I think Buffalo is kind of a little behind the world – or the rest of the country – as far as a few things, like football, fashion and things like that, but I think musically they’re pretty much on top of it. I think a lot of bands that are just starting off and have really good potential to be the next big thing make sure they play Buffalo. I know for a fact that bands that I love have played here – just from talking to them – and have remembered it. And as far as Buffalo bands, Pentimento for sure, The Traditional definitely. Both of those bands are fucking awesome.
What exactly does the future hold for Every Time I Die and when it inevitably comes to the end, would you rather burn out or fade away?
I would definitely rather burn out, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. We’ve got a long road still, we’ve got to get top 19 on the Billboard charts.
Well, you beat Bruce Springsteen, so.
Yep, we did. So fuck him.
Anything else you want to say?
No, I just hope people are here tonight having a good time.