Keith Buckley has shared his open-hearted insights into the surprise break-up of Every Time I Die on the opening nights of his An Evening With… tour, hosted by podcaster/DJ/author Matt Stocks.
Addressing a packed room at the Signature Brew brewery in East London on the tour’s launch night on February 7, the vocalist spoke with candour while offering a deep dive into the root causes of the schisms which precipitated the split of the acclaimed Buffalo metalcore band he fronted for 20 years, which was made public on January 17. Buckley shared his belief that the group’s dissolution largely pivoted upon an increasingly toxic sibling rivalry between himself and his younger brother, ETID guitarist Jordan Buckley, dating right back to the pair’s childhood, citing a degree of dysfunction in their upbringing.
“The term ‘artist’ never came up in my family,” the singer told his hushed audience in London. “We never referred to each other as artists, we just kinda existed. And it wasn’t until I got sober that I realised that that artistic spark is fundamental to every venture that you do as a human being, and if that spark isn’t there, then there’s no energy to push you into the next thing.
“So once I got sober and I realised that that spark in me had just been caked with resentment and anger and confusion and a lack of faith in anything, I saw it for what it was. And it was this poor little thing that was inside of me from the beginning, that made me want to be a writer, that made me want to be a musician, that made me want to go on tour, that then made me figure out how to deal with life in the public eye…
“There’s been something that’s been driving me on,” he continued. “I think that it’s an objective fact that Every Time I Die existed for longer than most bands, so there was something in that formula that was alchemic, that was completely singular to us. And I think it was the rivalry… I think it was just those two forces constantly battling which kept pushing the band along. And once I got sober, and I realised that that was a very antiquated way to power shit… [I thought] we don’t need to push the band forward with negativity, we can talk about things now.”
As Buckley sees it, trust and personal relationships within the band unravelled when he sought to create a healthier environment from which the quintet could move forward.
“I went to the band, and I went to the manager at the time, and I said, ’I fucked up a lot’,” he confessed. “A lot of it was because of my drinking, a lot of it was exacerbated by a co-dependent marriage, but I said I’m on to that now, now we can really just address the problems that aren’t coming in from any outside sources, now it’s us. That’s all I ever tried to do.”
Unwilling to demand that everyone in his daily orbit, including his bandmates, change their own behaviour in order to assist in his personal rehabilitation process, out of respect for their own lifestyle choices, Buckley says he took the decision to remove himself from familiar social and professional networks and isolate in order to work upon his own healing and focus.
“I really felt that that was was a good thing good thing for everyone,” he says, “because I knew that there was friction between Jordan and I. There were a lot of things that happened during the pandemic that still haven’t come out between he and I that led to this, there were multiple attempts at communication, therapy and everything. I love therapy… and I went to it, and I encouraged it for the band, but it was cut off, and I didn’t know why.
“I just feel like I was looked at in bad faith,” the singer admits. “And I understand that, because I was an alcoholic and I did a lot of terrible things, and so it’s easy to see someone who’s constantly fucking up their own life and just realise that every decision they make is gonna suck, no matter what… And I know that that bad faith filter had been put on for 20 years…
“All i hoped to do was get a clean start and say, take all those filters away and try to look at me now as someone who is totally changing the way they’re living and thinking and speaking and interacting and communicating, and give it a chance: just pretend that I’m not the guy that you got used to. And they couldn’t do it. And it broke my heart.
“On that [final Every Time I Die] tour…it was undeniable that I was performing better than i ever have,” the singer says. “I was at the top of my fucking game. And I did not see this coming… I was led to believe that everything I was doing was working for the betterment of the band.
“I wanted the band to come out of the pandemic shot out of a fucking cannon, Because I knew that [2021 album] Radical was going to do it for us, it was going to be the one that finally got us to a Mastodon level, or whatever… I’d come out of a marriage with a new approach, and a new confidence to life…and I just wanted the band to have their time to shine.
“It’s heartbreaking, heartbreaking. However, it is not the end of anything: I can’t even say what the state of the band is right now.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Buckley told the London crowd, “but I know that, right now, this is exactly where I fucking want to be, and I’m very thankful to be here.”
Buckley picked up a similar conversational thread during his February 8 show in Birmingham, hosted in The Castle & Falcon.
“Now I’m not in another band and I’m in Buffalo… I guess I'll join a polka band,” he joke. “At least that’s what every other 50-something year old man does here! I’m very open to making more music though and may even learn an instrument or two myself so I’m not so heavily reliant on other people to make creative decisions, have a little more control.
“I just want to work with people who are in love with the music and do it for that reason, you know?” he continued. “There are people I’d love to work with – [Cave In/Mutoid Man vocalist/guitar] Stephen Brodsky, [Fall Out Boy duo] Joe Trohman and Andy Hurley [both members, alongside Buckley, of The Damned Things]… I have options now where I’ve never had them before and so I’m just going to go where feels best.”
Buckley also talked about Every Time I Die’s swansong release, Radical, and shared an acoustic performance of album track Thing With Feathers, with Adrian Preston from Farse on guitar. This was the first time any material from Radical has been performed live in the UK.
“Radical was written before the pandemic hit,” Buckley said, “and I was writing about an impending sense of dread, I felt something coming personally – not the pandemic, but something that was going to affect just my life and I was defenceless to stop it. Instead of trying to do that, I decided to stand my ground and that’s what informed the lyrics of Radical. But then the pandemic hit and suddenly that became a metaphor for what I was going through and that’s a strange experience.
“As Radical has had time to live in the world, some of the things I was writing about have begun to play out. Planet Shit could so easily be about the insurrection even though it was written like six months beforehand; those things I was feeling were inevitabilities as I saw them. It was taking stock and saying ‘if I lose everything, who am I; what do I still have?’ and the answer was my beliefs. Well, I believe in humanity; I believe in love and empathy and kindness, but also anger at those who would take advantage of other people. That was all I knew going into Radical writing sessions and then life began to throw up these metaphors for it.”
An Evening With… Keith Buckley continues tonight, February 9, at The Garage in Glasgow and then visits The Key Club in Leeds (Feb 10), The Empire in Belfast (Feb 11) before concluding at Whelans in Dublin, on Feb 12.