BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME: Constantly Evolving

Between The Buried And Me

Over the course of their career, Between The Buried And Me have proved that with every new release there is more space for progress and improvement. Their newest experimentation is titled “Coma Ecliptic,” and it’s the band’s most mature release so far. Prog Sphere‘s collaborator Ahmet Saraçoğlu conducted an interview with bassist Dan Briggs, who gave his insight on “Coma Ecliptic,” his work with Trioscapes, and more.

Hi Dan, how are you?

I’m fine, thank you.

Alright, let’s get started. Obvious first question, how do you compare “Coma Ecliptic” to your previous works? What are the biggest differences and where do you see the album in BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME’s career?

Yeah, it was something that we’ve been building towards for years. And you know, it’s just kind of the natural evolution of the band that brought us to this point. That’s what we tried to do every time. That’s just right, what feels most natural to us. I think it’s our best work. I feel super confident in it and it’s kind of exactly what we set out to do and it was exciting to see it come together.

Coma EclipticDo you see the songs on “Coma Ecliptic” connected to each other conceptually? Did the story behind the album force you to try new musical approaches?

Oh yeah, it’s super connected, it’s all written like to be one large piece. It’s just, i think there is a better flow than “Colors” or “Parallax…” album. We are more interested in experimenting with a lot of dynamics throughout the album and you know, trying to create bigger sense of dramatics for the story. The music and the story definitely work hand in hand.

The musical difference between “Future Sequence” and “Coma Ecliptic” is almost as big as the one between “Alaska” and “Colors“. What’s the reason behind that? Can we say that the musical interpretation of BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME is still developing?

Yeah, it will be forever. That’s the whole thing. We don’t want to get complacent and just write the same stuff over and over again. That’s when bands get boring and that’s what happened with a lot of the bands that we love. It’s unfortunate. So yeah, our whole thing is just constantly evolving and it’s great. That makes it super exciting every couple of years to write a new BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME album. Some of us stay super active outside the group with other musical projects and you learn so much from every record you write, whether if you write in BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME or in whatever else you are doing. We are just obviously going to grow so much and that’s the whole point of it.

But you know sometimes the fans blame the bands for staying the same, and some fans blame them for changing all the time. So the evolution of a band is not an easy thing, right? Even if you try different things, they see it like “Okay, this band’s thing is changing all the time“, so they see it as a pattern.

Well as long as you are writing good music that is forward thinking… That’s our whole thing. This is probably our most adventurous album to date and that doesn’t mean that we’re writing a 12 minute long song where the parts change every eight bars. It’s adventurous in different ways and it doesn’t sound like anything else. That’s the main thing for us. The thing that our band is, it’s not a sound, it’s not a heavy breakdown, it’s not a blast beat, it’s not a clean part, it’s not a solo. It’s that attitude of writing interesting and different arrangements and growing. That’s the whole thing and that idea has been there since day one.

When you began working on your new album, you shared a photo on Twitter with the #rockopera hashtag and also you recently covered a QUEEN song live. Also there are lots of noticable clean vocals and catchy riffs on the album. Do you see the musical genre in “Coma Ecliptic” as rock opera, and if not, what was the motivation behind all that?

That is what we wrote. A rock opera is not really much different than a type of a concept album. It’s the telling of a story through music and that’s what we did. There’s just something that put us in a different mindset and created this larger work. And in our minds it was going to be drastically different from the “Parallax” album. We just put ourselves in that mindset. For me personally, I was listening to a lot of great rock operas: “Quadrophenia” and “The Wall“, “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway“, “Operation Mindcrime“, as well as musicals and all this other stuff. So we just tried to elevate ourselves to something new.

Between The Buried And Me

BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME has highly layered and complex song structures. Do you have a systematic iterative approach to writing music or does it evolve in a more organic, like “write down what you hear in your head” way?

Yeah, it’s just organic. We just try to do whatever feels the most natural and that’s how we’ve always written. There’s never really a plan, but we’re better now about the songs kind of taking shape earlier on, finding what the core of the song is and not taking too many left field turns that take it in a million different directions. We feel like an album can do that, but from song to song, we want to make it more focused.

Although “Coma Ecliptic” is a fairly complex album, it sounds somehow less chaotic and easier to digest compared to “Future Sequence“. Was this a conscious choice? Do you see BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME ‘s music getting more predictable in the future, for the sake of being more mature and accessible?

No. Predictable is not a part of our vocabulary. Our whole thing is just doing different shit. This album is different than the “Parallax” and next album is going to be different than this one. Who knows what we will write, that is two or three years away. So we are celebrating this and what we did right now and love it.

I think Tommy has a bigger role in the last two albums vocal-wise. Is this a natural process or was it decided before you began writing?

He had talked about on our touring cycle for our last album, how he wished he didn’t have to scream so much, that on a given night maybe he just wasn’t feeling angry or he was just trying to get himself in to that mind space. His voice has come a long way since the early albums. That was an interesting catalyst to have on the back of our heads while we are writing music, focusing on the melody. It also helps telling the stories.

You are certainly one of the most popular bass players in the prog metal scene. Can you elaborate a little bit on your bass writing process? How do you balance between “doubling the guitars” and “adding your own bass licks/solos”?

Yeah, I’m just, especially on this album, doing whatever the song calls for. For this album I waited to write my bass stuff until we had the songs all finished, so I was writing on the guitar and piano to get the songs done and then it was after the fact writing the bass to kind of complement everything. You know that’s the most important thing, just doing what the song calls for. In the past, there’s been trying to make all your parts interesting, with me and Blake, we’ve both been guilty of it. Without even really talking about it we both sunk into trying to complement the songs we’ve already written and not trying to do anything that really stood out too much.

What lies in the future of TRIOSCAPES? Does being in a jazz oriented band like TRIOSCAPES have any effects on your playing and writing in BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME?

TRIOSCAPES is the most demanding group I’ve ever played in and probably, I mean who knows what the future holds, but it’s a lot being the only amplified electric instrument and we’re wearing a lot of hats in that band between doing the rhythm, doing the leads, doubling, unison melody lines, looping, it’s a lot. When TRIOSCAPES play live, there’s not a thought going through my head that’s not immediately in the moment of what I’m doing. It’s fun and it’s stressful and I signed up for that. Ultimately it’s fun, I love playing with that group. It’s a different, totally different thing.

I saw you live in 2005 in Vancouver, opening for THE DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN and HELLA was also in the bill. It was the “Alaska” tour.

Wow, that’s cool.

Yeah, I’m an old time fan. [laughs] How do you see your live performance changing through the years, are there stuff that you were doing back then, thinking it’s cool but now you avoid maybe?

Absolutely. The music was so different back then, it was a different world and I was 20. Now I’m 30, so we grew a lot. We play only one song off that album now, Selkies, and even still, it feels like it’s a bit of a stretch to fit it into the setlist sometimes. When we wrote that album, five of us never written music together, we all just met in the rehearsal room and tried to make it happen. We did as good of an album as we could have. People liked it for sure but for me, things really clicked when we did “Colors” and that was the turning point. I thing right now is our third chapter. “Colors” kind of started the second chapter and now we are going a step further.

Thanks Dan, that was all. Good luck with the tours.

Thanks man, take care.

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