When you enter a band’s tour bus, you never know what to expect. Granted, I never expected to see Between The Buried And Me replicating rock star exploits taken out of The Dirt, but I also never imagined seeing a metal band watching The Sandlot together before hitting the stage. It just goes to show you that despite how their musicianship is out of this world, the guys in Between The Buried And Me are truly down to earth.
It was on their tour bus where I got to chat with guitarist Paul Waggoner before Between The Buried And Me’s set at the New England Metal & Hardcore Festival (at The Palladium in Worcester, MA) this past weekend. During our conversation, Waggoner discussed the theme behind their newly released EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues (and its full length album follow up), the band’s decision behind making Metal Blade’s Records their new label home, as well as the gratification touring brings him.
The band just released the new EP The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues. Can you explain why you decided to release a three song EP instead of a full album?
Well the theory is that we’ve always kind of thought about doing that. Recently anyway, we thought it’d be cool to do an EP. It just seemed like the perfect time because it was our first release on Metal Blade and we really wanted to get the ball rolling with the new chapter of our career, so to speak. We wanted to get something out quick, and rather than try to record a full length quickly and possibly sacrifice quality, it seemed like a good idea just to take on the EP direction so that we had time to actually write a quality record and at the same time keep it short. Being that it’s like the “part one” of a two part concept, we thought it would be a cool way to kick things off with Metal Blade. That was really the thought behind it, and I’m glad we did it.
I remember hearing about the concept in previous interviews. Can you explain it a little further?
Basically, and this is another idea we kicked around that we thought would be cool because we’ve always had a sort of musical concept at times throughout a record, we thought it would be cool to do a lyrical concept. I don’t want to give too much away, but in the first part of the two-part “mini-series” I guess, it’s kind of a sci-fi vibe, we’re introduced to two characters that live in two totally different planes of existence. Separated by billions of light-years and planets, they’re both faced with personal dilemmas to confront and reckon with. On this first one, they become aware of the other’s presence in the universe in a weird way. That’s really what the EP is about; these two guys confronting their problems, and at the same time, through some sort of weird cosmic energy, they’re able to subconsciously become aware of the other person. So one could assume that in part two, they are actually going to meet each other, and that’s where the action picks up.
The basic theme is humanity, a sort of domination and destruction of the planet. The idea that we’re trying to explore is that there is a race like ours on Earth that has probably already happened somewhere in the universe. And the idea is that we’re probably going to destroy this planet someday. The story is these two guys and how they can put their minds together to solve this problem, or not. It’s a lot of time and space travel, wormholes, shit like that. It’s got a sci-fi vibe, but at the same time it’s a real story at the end of the day. It’s fun to write music to that kind of thing. It’s more to inspire us creatively than to entertain people, but it’s pretty fun.
What inspired that theme?
Well you can obviously look at the planet now. It seems like, even with our country, we’re involved in several different wars. It’s just one of those things that as people, you have to be aware that we are not very good. By nature we’re destructive. Our intelligence is just a bad thing in a lot of ways. With every technological advancement, I feel like we’re one step closer to the end. It’s just kind of a cool way to explore the idea that humanity is a destructive force in the world. I would rather it not be, I would rather it be good and use our mental prowess for good. But I think it’s just in the nature of us. We can’t help it. That’s something that I always thought was a theme worth exploring. To tell the story in a unique way would be kind of fun.
You guys revealed that you would be playing the EP in its entirety on this tour. Can we expect anything else new from you guys? Have you recorded the second part yet?
No, we haven’t even written it yet. Well tonight it’s a festival [the New England Metal Festival] so we won’t be playing it all, but on the rest of the tour we’ve been playing the EP in its entirety. But it is an unfinished thing, and we recorded it that way. We wanted it to have a very open ending. We’re excited to start writing again and maybe eventually we’ll play the EP and part two, all of it in its entirety. We’re going to do some touring and then get back to writing the next one, which will be a full length.
So you guys just signed to Metal Blade Records. What made you realize that it was time to part ways with Victory Records, your long time label?
Well our contract was finally up. [laughs]
And you didn’t want to resign?
No. I mean, no one has a really good story as far as record labels go. It was good while it lasted, and a good option at the time. It just ran its course. The direction that the label was moving in and the direction that we as a band were moving were, in my opinion, two different directions. So we just needed to find a better fit. It was time to do something else, and Metal Blade was just the right fit. We entertained a lot of ideas though, even doing our own thing and not having a label. But when it was all said and done, Metal Blade was really on the same page as us. We admired their longevity of business, their commitment to quality releases. They have a reputation for being good to their bands. It just seemed like a good fit for us. I’d be lying if I said we weren’t excited to get off of Victory, but it was more to do something else as opposed to getting away from Victory.
Have you noticed any positive effects from being on Metal Blade already?
We have. For one thing, a big thing for us is the European presence. That’s a market we really have to get a hold on. So we’re already getting some European press. The type of people that we think are going to like our band, I think Metal Blade has a better hold on how to reach them. Victory knows how to sell records for sure, but there’s a certain demographic that Victory does not have the same reach to. So we’re excited. The record has only been out a few days, but we’re stoked about it.
You mentioned how the band entertained the idea about going through the “do it yourself” option. What in the end made you sway away from DIY?
To be honest, it came down to DIY or Metal Blade. It was that cut and dry for us. I think eventually with our management stuff, we need someone to take on that management role, to handle the business end. When it came down to it, that seemed intimidating. That was something we were willing to do if we had no other options, but like I said, it made sense. Everything they had on the table was right on. We have full creative control, and they support us and get the record out there. We did weigh those things out, but at this point it makes sense for us to go with Metal Blade.
You guys are a very diverse band when it comes to your sound. And you’ve toured with diverse groups as well such as Dream Theater and Mastodon. Do you find it difficult to find the right touring package? Or do you find that you have more options in touring because the band is so diverse?
We love a diverse package. I mean the package now is Job For a Cowboy, basically a death metal band, and the Ocean, an experimental, kind of rock, moody European band, and then us, whatever we are. We always like a diverse package, and when we do a headlining tour, we always have a hard time deciding who we want on the tour. We want it to be a balanced thing. We love touring, and we love opening for bands that are totally different from us, and reaching different crowds. The respect that I have as a fan at a show, I don’t want to hear the same band. I want to hear different bands. It benefits everybody. All these kids who come to our shows, or it’s my hope anyway that they’re all open minded, and that they just like music. It doesn’t matter if it’s death metal or black metal, or whatever you want to call it. To me, it shouldn’t matter. You want to give kids a good show and give them some diversity and variety. That’s our thing- we want to bring all these different sounds to the same scene. So yeah, I love the diverse packages. And it is hard to pick them sometimes, but it’s fun.
On the subject of touring, what would you say is the hardest part of touring nowadays?
For us, I think we’re lucky. We’re kind of established where we can tour fairly comfortably. We can make enough money where ends meet naturally. I think for young bands, I don’t envy their position now. It’s so hard now. Gas prices are so high. The odds are just stacked against you. It’s so hard to make ends meet. We were so fortunate. We never really went through a phase where we lost our asses on tour. But it’s so much harder now. For us, we’re in a fortunate position where touring is fun. We know we can go out on tour and not lose money, and have a good time. For bands starting out, it’s so hard. You have to give up your home and job and live in a van, play a show for 10 kids, and not get paid anything. That’s the toughest thing for bands starting out. You almost go into it knowing you’re going to come out with nothing. And just hope you can build a following, but it’s definitely an uphill battle. I really admire the kids going out there now and doing it. It is quite hard to start at the bottom and work your way up.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t you a vegan? How difficult is it to maintain that lifestyle on the road?
It’s actually easy now. When we first started, it was a little rough because it wasn’t as trendy I guess to be vegan then. But now, in any grocery store you can find soy protein products, and vegan deli-slices. Soy milk is readily available. I remember when we first started it was like gold to find a grocery store that carried it. Now it’s not hard at all, we don’t have a difficult time at all. Even the guys who aren’t vegan, there’s places we can find that we’re all able to eat. I feel like it gets easier every year.
So metal vegans don’t have to be scared of the road?
No, not at all! There’s always food, you just need to find it. It’s out there. Download an app, it’ll tell you where everything is. [laughs]
Would you find the touring or the recording process to be more difficult?
They both have pros and cons. Touring should be fun. You’re going out and playing music for people. You get that instant gratification from the crowd, living the dream and traveling the world. That should be the fun part, and most of the time it is. It gets a little taxing when you miss your loved ones sometimes, but for the most part it’s awesome. Recording can be stressful. You’re making a product that’s going to outlive you; it’s a tangible thing and you want it to be perfect. You’re hoping that you wrote some good songs, and you don’t get that instant gratification. People don’t hear it until months later. Recording is very rewarding, but it’s certainly more stressful, at least for me, than touring. But it’s all fun. Being in a band, writing music, playing it, it’s all great. None of it should be rough.
Do you feel that with album sales being the way they currently, do you feel that the gratification of recording has lessened?
My mentality has changed recently. You can get kind of sour about that as a musician. But that’s just the way it is. You can be mad about it, but people will still download your shit anyway. You make the record, and people buy some, people steal some. Either way, hopefully a lot of people hear it, and hopefully they come to the shows and buy a t-shirt. And for a band like us, that’s the bread and butter. Out on the road, that’s how we make a living. To me, as long as people are hearing it and appreciate what we do, and come to the shows and have fun, at the end of the day, that’s gratification for me. In a way it does cheapen it a bit, when you work so hard on a recording and people can just get it so easily. But if you dwell on that, you’ll just get depressed. You just need to say “at least they’re here, and maybe we made some new fans out of that.” It’s just kind of the way it is.
So after your current tour with Job for a Cowboy and The Ocean, do you have any other plans set in stone?
We’re going to Europe and actually do some headlining stuff there for awhile, which is something we’ve never done on a large scale. We’re looking forward to that. We were behind the eight ball as far as Europe goes, so we’re trying to fight that battle. We plan on doing that this Summer and build that up a bit. Then we’ll come back here, do another headliner in the States in some different markets in the Fall. In between all that we’ll be writing and recording sometime soon. We’ll have a record out next year, and that’s pretty much the plan.
Can you reveal any openers on that fall tour?
If I knew them I would. It’s still up for debate. We have a list of bands and we’re trying to sort it all out. There’s no shortage of bands we want to tour with, it’s just a matter of making it all work in a business-sort of way. It’ll be good.