By Andrew Bansal
North Carolina progressive metal band Between The Buried And Me are currently in the midst of a North American headline run, as part of their still ongoing touring cycle for their latest concept album ‘The Parallax II: Future Sequence’. Having existed with success for more than a decade now, they’ve always been known as a band that audaciously blends a wide spectrum of sonic landscapes all within the spectrum of heavy music, and their live shows are an apt representation of it. They played a typically incredible show at the Glass House in Pomona last Wednesday March 12th, and a few hours before the show I sat down with bassist Dan Briggs to discuss this touring run, his favorite shows as a fan, plans for the next BTBAM album, his other band Trioscapes, and more. Enjoy the detailed conversation below.
How are you doing today, Dan?
I’m great, I’m great. Glad to be here! The excruciating weather we’ve been through, I can’t even put into words, so to be out here even for just one day is amazing. It feels great and we are loving it.
So, this tour has been going on for a few weeks. How’s everything been?
It’s been really good. I don’t think we knew quite what to expect because we had just been out in the fall and we’re pretty much hitting places that we weren’t before, like we’re in Pomona on this tour and we did Anaheim and LA on our last tour. And this show is sold out, and that’s awesome. It’s a testament to the mix of bands that we have. We really wanted to take Deafheaven on tour and we really liked the ‘Sunbather’ record that they put out. We hoped that they would be into the idea and they were, with the hope that our fan bases would mash, and they have and it’s been really great!
As you said, you just headlined a US tour last fall. But I’ve seen you guys play all kinds of tour, where you were the first band on a ten-band tour, as main support act and all that. Now that you’re getting to headline tours on a regular basis, it must be a good feeling as you’re getting into a comfort zone in that sense.
Yeah, absolutely. It feels good and for us it’s fun playing longer sets. In the fall, we were doing our whole new record and on this tour it’s a little bit more comprehensive from all the albums which is kind of cool.
Touring has become a necessary part of being a metal band these days …
For any band. You don’t make money off of selling records. It seems like everybody out there is kind of against a band in that sense, whether it’s a label or a third-party taking profits, an iTunes, or whatever. It’s just the lack of people buying albums, so what it really comes down to is playing concerts, having people come out and buy t-shirts and support you in other ways. That directly affects us and it’s great, so thankfully we have the opportunity to be able to tour as often as we do, or as little as we want. We generally do about 3 tours a year, which is pretty solid for us and we’re able to make it work.
So at this point you’ve pretty much embraced this mentality and you’re enjoying touring. It’s not gone into your head where you’re dreading it every time you go out.
No, and it’s nice because we tour less frequently. I’m very active outside of the band with other groups, so that kind of helps keep things fresh too.
As you said, you’re playing a different set this time. That’s another thing necessary when you come back so soon after just a few months.
Oh yeah, definitely. We try our best throughout a whole touring cycle for a record to play literally everything off of our last four or so records, going back to ‘Colors’. So if you look at our set lists, we’ve played everything off that album, everything off ‘The Great Misdirect’, and the newest record of course. And then we sprinkle in one or two old, old songs here and there, for die-hards.
Since you’re playing so many shows, do you also play the same songs differently from night to night just for your own enjoyment?
No, with our stuff it’s so 100 per cent fine-tuned even before we go into the studio, there’s really no surprises. But, the vibe of the songs, the vibe of the stage will change drastically night to night depending on the crowd, the venue, how you’re feeling that day. Last night in Oakland it was leaps and bounds different from the show in Reno that we played the night before. Last night was like a no-barricade sweaty 700-people club, people piling on top of each other, and great crazy energy. In Reno it was a smaller crowd, a big barricade and not a lot of energy. So for that show we were just kind of laying back and playing the songs while last night we were engaging 110 per cent. So, that gives the songs a new life.
This venue too is not exactly conventional in terms of its shape and stage layout.
Yeah, from the stage you get a very wide spectrum (laughs). I like it, it’s cool! I only remember playing here once or twice before, may be just once.
I think you headlined here three years ago with Job For A Cowboy, Cephalic Carnage and The Ocean.
Ah, yeah that’s right. I remember that!
As you said, the touring packages have been getting better for you and I think that’s because there are so many more prog bands these days. That has to be a good thing as it’s getting you better lineups to go out with and it’s kind of like a wave where people are enjoying this type of music, so it’s good for all the bands.
It’s incredible, yeah. It’s really great to see that there are so many different-sounding bands writing forward-thinking music. Deafheaven, even though you might not necessarily classify them as a progressive metal or even a metal band or anything, they’re still mixing genres, they’re fusing things that shouldn’t traditionally go together, and that’s really the attitude that we have, and the attitude Intronaut’s got. It’s really cool!
When you play live, you guys focus on the music. But have you been able to incorporate any additional elements like video production, lasers or anything like that?
Yeah, we’ve got videos on this tour and light stuff. That’s a lot of fun. We have our drummer’s brother program all that. He did the astral body video for us and he’s just very talented in computer imagery and stuff. But yeah, it definitely adds a lot. We started doing it in the fall where we had sequenced lights and videos that just ran through the whole album.
You’ve toured with a lot of bands, but personally which are some of the bands you would like to tour with that you haven’t yet?
Well, I love this band in the UK called Haken, great progressive rock band. I would love to take them on tour. It’s kind of hard to really think of all the stuff that’s out there, because I feel like most of the music I listen to and have been jamming is not bands we would necessarily play with. But Haken is an incredible band that I’ve really been loving.
Just as a fan and spectator you must have seen shows as well. What are some of the best shows you’ve seen?
Last year I got to see Soundgarden for the first time and that was incredible. I’d been waiting since I was 9 or 10 years old to see them, and that was unreal. I saw Goblin and Zombie play together in North Carolina in December. That was supreme. It was so good, just a really different side of the progressive rock spectrum, really synth-driven. I love that stuff. It was really cool to see. You know, it’s tough because there’s not always a lot of amazing stuff that rolls through where we are in North Carolina, let alone when we’re home. So I felt fortunate to see those two shows last year.
Coming back to BTBAM, ‘Parallax II’ was out in mid-2012, so it’s been almost two years. What’s the plan for the next one?
I’ve got so much on my plate right now. I’m in the middle of mixing a record for my band Orbs, and in the first week of April I go into the studio with my other band Trioscapes which is a fusion group. We’re going to recording our next album, and I’m going on tour with that band in May. BTBAM might be doing something in the summer and will probably start writing in the fall. I’ve already started writing and I probably have 3 or 4 things that have started to get a little bit developed that haven’t been shared yet. We’ll do that closer to the end of summer. You need time to decompress out of this whole Parallax world before you really settle into starting something now. I feel like it’s still pretty fresh with us, and the stuff that at least I’ve been writing is different. Doing the concept record format was so great and I’m really curious to try and take that next step further. I’ve been listening to a lot of The Who, the ‘Quadrophenia’ and ‘Tommy’ records. I love the rock opera format. It’s so cool. The stuff that I’ve been writing is kind of more over-the-top super big thematic, and I think we’re really interested to take some leaps and bounds in different directions. We’ve done this thing pretty solidly for a couple of records and we’ve got to see what else is out there.
It was such a massive undertaking with Parallax II, there’s a lot to live up to as well.
There is and there isn’t! For us, we don’t feel like we’ve ever done anything where we’re like, ‘This is the final thing’. People say, ‘How are you going to top Colors?’ and this and that, but we never think about it like that. When we wrote Colors and when we wrote Parallax, we wrote an album we liked and we were proud of. And then it’s the next thing. Or it’s like, when we wrote Colors I knew right away the things I wanted to do differently and wanted to improve on. With the Parallax record I felt like we did a better job doing more with less, really exploring how much we can get out of the different musical themes on the record and that was so much fun. I feel like the next step is to just really, really explore doing more with less. I think that’s just a sign of maturity for a band like ours, a band that’s been mixing so many different genres and stuff, make it all within itself.
No, we’ve done a good bit of touring in between BTBAM tours. A lot of the last six months or so have been dedicated to us working on new material. We finished it right before this tour and we’re going into the studio April 5th for ten days. I’m really psyched on the material. I’ve been listening to it and trying to practice a little bit. It’s unbelievably demanding music (laughs). It’s a lot harder than what we’re doing in BTBAM. Physically and mentally it’s a lot, and being the only amplified instrument in the band also puts a lot of added pressure on me to really be on top of my game and not be completely fucking things up. But yeah, we’re going on tour in May and I’m sure the record will be out late summer/early fall. It’s hard to really say for sure but I know we’re at least going to have it done, written and recorded before May.
The Trioscapes debut album came out in 2012, I think? I really enjoyed that one.
Oh cool, thank you! This new one’s even more different. I think we kind of got more comfortable with each other than when we wrote the first one. At that time we didn’t know what we sounded like or anything. It was more free-form and we were just writing stuff in the practice room. We recorded it not really knowing how a tenor saxphone and a bass are really going to mix. Is there going to be a huge disparity in frequencies or is it going to mash and do its thing, and thankfully it kind of does. The one we wrote and are about to record is kind of cool. It’s all over the place like the last one. I would say there’s less of a super gnarly intense vibe to it but it’s freaky. It’s fun.
But it’s still the same kind of format in terms of the instruments though, I take it.
Yeah, there’s a song that has good interplay with the flute and sax which is really neat. Our drummer utilizes his electronic pads a lot with different sounds, marimba and weird bells. The band’s an experiment in how much we can do with three people and how much sound we can make. The second we feel limited, we’ll try and up the game more, may be add some more people, but right now it’s just fun writing between the three of us.
Visit Trioscapes on the web:
Remaining BTBAM Tour Dates:
03/16 – Grand Prairie, TX – South By So What?! Festival
03/18 – Sauget, IL – Pop’s
03/20 – Ybor City, FL – The Ritz Ybor
03/21 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
03/22 – Athens, GA – 40 Watt
03/23 – Charlotte, NC – Tremont Music Hall