In Part II of our Warped Tour adventures, our Pennsylvania staffer Lexi gets down to the heart of things with Every Time I Die frontman Keith Buckley. ETID (Buckley on vocals, brother Jordan Buckley on guitar, Andrew Williams on guitar, Michael Novak on drums and Josh Newton on bass) have become a quick crowd favorite on the Warped Tour circuit. Some people call them metalcore, some call them a punk infused with southern rock, but don’t take our word for it, check them out for yourself!
Their last album “The Big Dirtry” was released on indie label Ferret in September of 2007 and received a round of applause from music critics around the globe who were looking for that diamond in the rough. Adored for their sense of humor and their ability to keep the fun in their songs the only complaint that was really heard was how short the album was.
Keith gives us the scoop on Warped Tour, his ever growing collection of body art, the lowdown on their label situation, and their desire to make it onto G4’s urban dictionary list!
Interviewed by: Lexi Shapiro | July 2008(For the full interview experience, listen to the audio from this interview by clicking here.)
The tattoo on your chest translates to “embrace your fate.” What do you feel is in the cards for you ultimately? What do you feel your predetermined fate IS?
According to my psychic, not music. *both laugh* I went and saw a psychic right before Warped Tour and they said it definitely wasn’t in music. So, I would hope that it’s somewhere in the education process, whether it be teaching or lecturing somewhere. I would hope that that’s something that I can keep maintaining.
So, whenever you’re done with Every Time I Die, would you like to go back to teaching?
Yes, very much so. I would like to go back to college and finish my Master’s program
So, then, are you more of a believer in fate than free-will?
No, not at all. Not so much, anymore. I think that fate is really… I don’t know, it might really be a misuse of the term, because I feel that it’s more of just accepting what you have and where you’re at and being happy with it, and just knowing that you’re there because you belong there. But, I mean, I think it takes free will to get you to that point, anyways.
A mixture of the two.
With as epic as your lyrics are, even though you’ve referred to them several times as absolutely meaningless *Keith laughs*, it comes as no surprise that so many fans identify with and then opt to get tattoos of various ETID lyrics. Can you think of any fan tattoos that you’ve seen that stand out in your mind as being a personal favorite?
Well, the most common is “The greatest lovers were murderers first,” which is definitely one of my favorites. That was kind of based on Othello, when I was writing that song; that line kind of came from that Shakespeare play. I don’t know… I’m trying to think. I know I have seen a good one. Somebody got one on their chest and I was like “Oh, cool! I haven’t seen that line yet!” I can’t remember.
Ok, well, what about the back-piece for “When in Rome, we shall do as the Romans…”
Yeah, that was funny. I felt really bad when I said that, because that was totally a joke. I was absolutely kidding. But, no, that was pretty sweet. That’s dude’s awesome. We’ve been in touch with that dude. He’s a good guy.
Would you be willing to show us some of your other tattoos and explain the meaning behind them?
What about the new one you just got on your hand…
This new one I got, which is still healing, is a painting by Mark Ryden. He did this instillation of paintings called “Blood,” and this specific one is called “Weeping.” And, it’s just this one painting. It’s this girl with her head kind of on this boy’s shoulder, but they’re crying blood. I don’t know, I’ve just always been a real big fan of his. And, the fact that Oliver Peck, who I’ve admired as a tattoo artist for a very long time, was on tour, willing and able to do it was a big thing for me. So, I was kind of saving my hand spots for that. Uhm, other ones… this is one is because I’m afraid of teeth. So, it’s a tooth that says “scary.” I‘m trying to think what else has meaning… this one is a party snake, ‘cause I like to party and I like snakes *laughs*. Let me see… these are my fiancé’s initials with a martini glass; our first date was at a martini bar. And, this is my grandpa’s war plane, the War Goddess, in World War II. Other than that, they’re just random shit *laughs*.
You guys have publicly defended your friendship with Fall Out Boy…
… You enjoy Bjork and Sigur Ros and used to be a high school English teacher, and Jordan has a penchant for his little dachshund. Tell me some other unexpected things about you guys that would surprise most people.
You know, that’s the thing… I don’t know if there’s anything we haven’t said! You know what I mean? We’re very blatant about everything that we do. And, at this point, I think the fact that it’s public knowledge that we like Fall Out Boy and those dudes in particular, and we do listen to different music, I don’t know if anything I said would come as a surprise to anybody, really. I mean, unless I said that I was, like, a child molester… but I’m not! But, I said that I had no way of surprising people. So, I have no criminal history! Jordan got arrested one time for breaking a gum ball machine. Andy doesn’t have a drivers’ license and he lives with his parents. Our drummer just moved out of his parents’ house into an apartment. That’s about it. That’s all I can think of!
No more deep, dark secrets of yours?
Uh-uh! I don’t have any! I really don’t. I hopefully won’t go to court with my ex-landlord that I just got an e-mail about today. So, we’ll what happens with that; I’ll keep you posted.
Keep us posted. With the revolving door that has been your bass player slot, do you feel like you’ve finally found permanence with Josh Newton?
Yeah, definitely. He fits in extremely well. He’s just very mild-mannered, a great writer, as far as the music goes, and he just gets along with everybody. His music taste is just as varied and he’s come from a bunch of other bands that we’ve respected and listened to growing up. He’s the oldest member in our band right now, too. He beat out Andy. Andy was the oldest, and now Josh is the oldest.
And, no more line-up changes any time soon?
No, not that I foresee…unless he quits. But, he’d have to do that before we kicked him out.
What do you do to your bass players, man?!
I don’t understand! I don’t know, I don’t know. But, it’s funny, because they all go on to do really good things. It’s not like we kick them out and they’re on skid row or anything like that. Chris Byrnes is partners in our management company. Steve Micciche moved out to California and became Guitar Center salesman of the year and got a free car. Keller is now expecting a baby. So, it’s like, everybody’s doing really good.
So, what led to the discovery of your vascular malformation? What indications were there?
Just a lot of nervous ticks that couldn’t be cured with medicine that I had had for a long time. So, I finally went and had blood work done and had an MRI, and they‘re like, “Yep, there it is. That’s probably the cause of it. There’s a lot of pressure on a certain point in your brain that there shouldn’t be.” I think they’ve gotten better, though. I think they’ve finally gotten me on the right stuff. But, it’s something that’s genetic and it’s not ever really going to go away. So, I’ve just got to kind of cope with it.
Has it ever affected you on stage?
No, not really. Honestly, it’s kind of like where people have a speech impediment, but then they sing, and you don’t know that they do. It’s just kind of like it’s a different part of the brain and something just clicks when you’re doing that and it goes away. So, that’s why I very much cherish that part on stage.
I read that it can lead to seizures and some really serious things. Do they think yours is going to get that bad?
They don’t mine’s going to get that bad. But, it’s kind of degenerative; it’s not going to get better. It COULD only get worse, or it could stay the same. So, I’m trying to just stay healthy. And, too much stress is definitely the leading cause as far as it deteriorating to a state that I couldn’t bring it back from.
Well, how do stay stress-free when you’re out on tour?
I get WASTED. *laughs* I get drunk and don’t think about it… play video games.
So, you guys have a more laid-back attitude and approach to all of this. You’ve talked about not taking yourselves too seriously, and courtesy of the Shit Happens DVD, fans were granted access to see the rapport between you guys. Has this attitude or your humor ever gotten you guys into trouble, though?
It doesn’t get us into trouble. It just gets us into really awkward situations, where a lot of people think that because they’ve seen a DVD that they know you personally and take the liberty of saying things to you that strangers shouldn’t say.
Such as, like, commenting on your girlfriend or your fiancé or whatever it is, like, how she looks and things like that and acting like they know them. You know, as far as Lindsay and Kate are concerned, who are featured in the DVD, I’m sure it’s really weird for them to have fans of our music talk to them like they know them and ask pretty personal questions. So, yeah, people take a lot of liberty when they have that insight, which I think is pretty terrifying, because that’s how people end up being stalked.
Or, some people come up to the merch table, and will be like, “Hey, can you say this again?!” like we’re actors. It’s like, well, it wasn’t a script. It’s not really… we’re not like… and then they get mad at us, like, “WHAT THE FUCK” like we have egos or something. It’s not like that. It just wasn’t that big of a deal. We’re not actors. We’re not taking direction from anybody.
So, a few weeks ago you guys left Ferret…
Well, no, that’s actually not true!
Yeah! Well, our contract was up when The Big Dirty was done, so, I mean, I don’t know. We were officially off Ferret since August or September or whenever the record came out. So, it’s not like we left Ferret. I mean, they’ve talked to us, and we’ve amicably decided to split ways, but it was never like we broke a contract or anything, you know? We were done, and we just decided it was time to leave the nest.
Have you had any offers from a major label? And, if you had them, would you take them?
No and no. We’ve never been a band to entertain any offers from major labels, so I don’t know what an offer would have been like. I mean, I know bands [labels?] who have gotten in touch with our management, but it’s never gone as far as “okay, well, we’ll see what happens.” We’ve never set up meetings or anything or had phone calls or dinner. But, no, there’s no way we could go on a major.
So, what are you looking for in a label?
Just one that really understands the history of the band and knows that we’ve done it our way for ten years and we’ve gotten this far, you know, with a lot of help, but at the same time, with a lot of diligence. I mean, we still travel in vans, we still play at smaller clubs, our guarantee isn’t astronomical. We still have the same attitude that we’ve always had, but I think it’s just a little different now. It’s on kind of a bigger scale. I just want a label that understands where we’ve come from and where we hope to take it and doesn’t want to polish our sound too much or do anything like that.
You still want to maintain as much control as possible…
Very much so. Yeah.
Is that a motivating factor for why you wouldn’t want to do a major label?
Yeah, I think because as long as we’ve been doing this, I think we’re a little apprehensive about whether we’re doing it right, so I think that if a lot of pressure were to come in from the margins and say, “Okay, well, I do this for a living, and I’ve done this for twenty years, and I know that this is what works, so we have to kind of do this to your song,” I don’t necessarily know that we’d have the capability to say “fuck you,” you know? Because, obviously there’s a part of us that still could be intimidated by that. I think we’d be a little more lenient. So, I think just to (blank it all?) and say absolutely no pressure from the outside is the safer way to go.
Tell me a little bit about The Finale.
It’s amazing. It started when we were writing the Big Dirty, where I realized that I had all these lyrics and these vocal patterns that I wanted to use, and I’m like, “Well, if I squeeze them in Every Time I Die songs, it might just sound too tacked on, so let me just keep them off to the side…” So, I had all these ideas for stuff, and I was talking to my friend one night when we were out. And I knew he played guitar; he had just never really done it in a real band. I knew he was really good at it. And, he’s like, “I just want to write, but you’re always on tour.” And, I’m like, “Well, so, what? You have the internet. Send me some stuff, I’ll send it back.” And it was like, “Alright, fine.” So, we sat down one day and we put down a song, and that night I had the vocals done for it. It was just so free-flowing and so much fun for me to do, and then to actually be able to get in the studio and do it and to do it live, it’s definitely a huge outlet for me that I like. I think people will like it.
So, you and your girlfriend are high school sweethearts. Tell me the cutesy little story of your first meeting in high school. Was she the cute girl in math class?
No, no, no. Well, I met her in seventh grade. We had a school assembly, and I remember I was sitting down next to my friends, and one of my friends was friends with one of her friends, and I didn’t know any of them. And, she just turned around, and I was like, “Oh my god! Who’s that?!” It was, like, instantly… I gotta know this girl. So, seventh grade we dated a little bit until she got threatened to be beaten up by more popular girls who wanted to date me. *laughs* So, she gracefully bowed out of the picture. And then, in high school, we met back up, and I had to lie to a bunch of teachers about some sort of vision problem or medical condition or something to get my seat changed so I could sit next to her. And then, we had to end it when I moved away to college, because I moved to Virginia, and then came back, and we met up again, and the rest is history.
So, how did you guys come up with the name “Every Time I Die?” Where is that from?
I don’t even know! It came about as we were just practicing one day, and we were throwing out names. I mean, we were so young when this band started out. I was like, sixteen or seventeen. I think our drummer thought it was a line from a Drowningman song, this old band from Vermont. And, it sounded like he said “every time I die,” and he’s like, “That’s kind of a cool phrase. Let’s go with that.” And, I’m like, “Alright dude,” and everyone’s like “DEATH. YEAH, DEATH IS SUPER-COOL.” And, now it’s all over.
You could have been like “xx Every Time I Die xx.”
*laughs* Yeah, yeah! But now, every band is like “Die Something,” and it’s so lame. So, I wish we could change it.
No, you were the first. You were the original.
*laughing* I would like to think we were one of the first!
So, do you have any pre-show rituals or rituals for your down-time as a band?
No, I think just kind of before we play I just like to… this tour, not so much so, even. It’s kind of just like, I just need at least ten minutes by myself, just to kind of go over the set in my head, and that’s about it. Other than that, it’s just, getting up on stage is just about as much fun as being offstage. So, that’s really a pretty natural flow for us.
Explain the origin of “shinfo.” Who was the first person to ever say that?
That was a collective effort, I think. I remember the story of how that came about. We were sitting there, and Andy’s like, “I’m going to go into McDonald’s,” and we’re like, “Alright, man.” And, he’s like, “I’m probably going to get a cheeseburger or two,” and we’re like, “Okaaay, man.” And, he’s like, “Yeah, I’ve only got like, four bucks, so I could either get this or a bunch of cheeseburgers,” and, I think it was Jordan who was like, “Man, that is the SHITTIEST information I have ever heard. Why do you need that?! It’s shitty info.” And, then we’re like, “So, it’s ‘shinfo’.” And, then everybody laughed. So that’s basically what it means: it’s just the worst information.
Because, your little word has caught on and now has mass-usage…
I know! What I’m hoping for is… there’s this channel called G4. It’s kind of like a video game channel. “Shinfo” is in the Urban Dictionary, now!
YEAH! And, on that channel, they have excerpts from the Urban Dictionary that say it on the screen. So, I would LOVE if that made it to G4, just grabbed out of Urban Dictionary.
So, attention, G4 producers…
Yeah, seriously! Layla Kaleigh, or whatever her name is… she needs to find out.
So, after all the years of screaming and smoking and drinking, how is your voice holding up, and do you do anything in particular to take care of it?
No, unfortunately. *laughs* I know that I’m not young anymore, so I definitely have to start paying more attention to it, getting a little more sleep and stuff. Actually, this tour is pretty good for me, because I haven’t been drinking before at all, which I used to… you know, like in a club setting, or I usually have to to kind of loosen up a little bit. But, I‘m not drinking anymore before we play, and I noticed my stamina’s a little bit stronger than it used to be. But, yeah, I just try to get some sleep. But, I never would have expected that ten years into doing this, that I could then start Finale and sing with no problem. You know what I mean? So, it’s kind of surprising.
[Insert my getting yelled at for going way over my allotted time limit. My apologies, Warped Tour staff, but it’s not every day that you get to converse with Keith Buckley.]
So, do you have any last words, then, for They Will Rock You?
Where is it out of? Where are you out of? Are you out of Pittsburgh?
Keith: Okay becauseI know we’re doing a tour in November on the East coast, so people should definitely come out to that. Other than that, just keep following our webpage, because we try to keep everybody posted thoroughly.
Alright, thank you very much!
No problem, thank you!