Grandiose, dynamic, heavy, melodic, technically challenging: these are all words that fall equally short when trying to describe Between the Buried and Me's sonic offerings. Since beginning their journey in 2000 in North Carolina, over the past 15 years they’ve released seven full-length albums, an EP, a live album, a covers album, and a blu-ray/DVD. Their current line-up has been consistent since 2005, and they have taken full advantage of a stable and productive group of musicians as they steadily build their fanbase and continue to produce intricate and complex, yet highly listenable albums.
Their seventh offering, Coma Eclyptica, was released in July to wide critical acclaim. Spanning just over an hour, the album stands as a significant step in the evolution for the group as a whole, as well as the individual musicians: vocalist / keyboardist Tommy Rogers, guitarists Paul Waggoner and Dustie Waring, bassist Dan Briggs, and drummer Blake Richardson. A refined and ambitious concept album, it’s easy to imagine it being turned into a rock opera as the story follows the wanderings of an unidentified man, stuck in a coma, as he journeys through his past lives. Each song is its own episode in a modern day The Twilight Zone-esque fashion. The unidentified man enters each world and is offered a choice: stay, or move on to the next in search of something better. The man does find his ideal life, but then is offered the ultimate choice of life or death. He chooses life and wakes up to his own actual reality. It's at that moment he realises that he’s been in a coma - everything that happened had been dreams and false memories. After awakening, we find the man outside finally experiencing reality, and he sees what he has been missing: the world is beautiful, the air is fresh, and the people appear to be happy, and then he falls over dead. The take away from this is to make the best of your life. People are constantly searching for something better without taking the time to appreciate the things they have.
It’s complicated stuff, with a simple message behind it and as the music flickers between the enchantment of a soaring prog chorus reminiscent of Pink Floyd and multi-layered metal breakdowns enough to satisfy the heaviest of modern metal fans, the listener is aware that they’re taking a special journey through BTBAM’s inspiring storytelling. We caught up with frontman Tommy Rogers just before the album was released to find out a little bit more…
New album Coma Eclyptica is inches away from being released – is it a painful process having to sit on an album for such a long time before releasing it?
Yeah it is. I sometimes honestly forget about it at weird times but now a lot of people have heard it so we’ve had some good feedback already which is important. I think the hardest part is when you’re done with recording and nobody’s heard it for a long time and you just know you like it but you’re like ‘I hope someone else likes this’ so that’s the most painful process. So yeah, it’s definitely a long wait but it’s all for good reasons and we stay pretty busy getting everything ready for the release and I personally enjoy all that stuff so it’s not too bad.
You’ve previewed a couple of tracks already, what’s the response been like?
It’s been great. We knew the record was a little different for us and you always have that fear that fans are gonna shoot it down but y’know with Memory Palace, the first song that we released, the response was great from the get go, people were really excited about what we were doing and I think we chose the right songs to preview. They each show different moments of the record and showed that there’s a big variety and I think it hits all the emotions that BTBAM have always hit and more. I think people seem to be ready for the record. It’s only a couple of weeks now, that’s crazy.
The album tells the story of a man travelling through past lives whilst in a coma, how did you devise the concept?
Honestly to myself, I was like if I wanted to write a mini-series, what would it be? That’s how I approached the record. This story is probably the third or fourth story I came up with and basically my process is to take a few storylines and approach the guys with and go through it with them and this one seemed to stand out a little more than the others. It seemed to really fit the mood of the music, because we’d already started writing a little bit at this point. So other than that I feel like the music had a very dark quality to it and I wanted to create a story that was uneasy and this guy went to some very odd places in past lives and experienced very, at times frightening things, but also odd things as well. It all felt right and I think once you have a story that feels right then you know that that’s the one that’s gonna work.
What comes first, the concept or the music?
The music always starts first and that’s always how it’s been but I guess we had probably written two, three or maybe four songs before the story was done, as far as the concept. And then I kind of go through song by song as far as lyrics and I start just sketching out plans for the record, as far as lyrics go. It really depends on the song and on the record as to how I approach it but that’s the basic idea.
At the live shows will you play the album in its entirety or do the songs stand alone?
We’re gonna do a little bit of both. We’re gonna play a few new songs and then songs from some of our other records. Y’know we have so many songs now and so many records that it’s always tough figuring out sets but we’re not doing the whole record thing this year. We might at some point in the future. We definitely talk about it but these first few tours we’re definitely gonna do a mix of everything.
Your back catalogue is really extensive. Any plans to do another mad covers album?
No I don’t think so. We get asked that a lot. I don’t ever want to say no about anything but I highly doubt it.
According to Wikipedia your name comes from a Counting Crows lyric, which seems like a strange influence given your sound. Is that true and how did that come about?
It is true. I wouldn’t say they were a huge influence on us. I would say that during that time, Paul and I definitely listened to them more, they have some great songs and great records. But honestly Paul and I were sitting round in our apartment one night looking through CD lyrics because we’d kinda hit a wall as far as band names go and he was looking through a Counting Crows lyric and he was like ‘this is kind of a cool phrase’ and we put it in the vault and sat on it for a while and eventually that became the name. So yeah, there’s not much of a story apart from that.
What are you looking forward to about coming over to the UK?
I feel like every time we go over there it’s building for us. We waited so long to go over there in our career and we’ve felt like we’ve been behind a little bit so I enjoy each time going over and seeing growth and hopefully that’ll happen. And I like travelling and walking around and food and all the normal stuff so yeah, should be fun.
Catch them live 16 September @ Talking Heads