WORDS BY: ALEXIA KAPRALOS
American progressive-metal band (better known as “prog metal”) Between the Buried and Me is back in action with the upcoming July 10 release of their latest studio album, “Coma Ecliptic,” which will be their first record release since 2012. This will be album number seven for the band in the 15 years they’ve been together.
The Heavy Press team member, Alexia Kapralos, had the opportunity to speak to the band’s drummer, Blake Richardson, over the phone on June 25, 2015. He talks about Coma Ecliptic’s formation, story, and even divulges his own secret to coming up with new drum beats.
This is what he had to say:
Coma Ecliptic is the band’s seventh full-length studio album. How does this release capture Between the Buried and Me’s musical evolution from the last album?
It definitely has got a lot more mellow parts and it definitely dives a little bit deeper into the prog world. We’ve always been considered just a metal band, especially in the early days of Between the Buried and Me. We’re slowly but surely kind of touching a little bit more into the prog sort of influences that we’ve always had and I feel that’s the natural evolution of the band; I feel like we’re slowly but surely and ultimately going to become a straight up prog band. So you never know, it could go the other way; that’s just how we do. When we set out to write a record, we never fully decide on how it’s really going to be. We’re not saying “Oh this is going to be a mellow prog record,” or “Oh, this is going to be a classic rock sounding record.” It always is what it’s going to be. Nothing’s ever contrived. We always just write what we feel is right at the moment.
In that case, would you say that you guys don’t really aim for a certain sound, since it just comes out that way?
Yeah. It’s very organic. We never really aim for a certain thing.We draw from the influences that we have at the moment and that’s what comes out.
So the band’s new album has been described as a “modern rock opera.” Could you elaborate on that? It’s a very interesting way to describe the sound.
It’s a very interesting way! I think Dan [bassist] put out a tweet or something. Our bass player wrote a good portion of the record, but he put out a tweet saying “Oh it’s going to be a rock opera.” Him and Paul and Tommy had already written a bunch of stuff that I hadn’t really heard yet. Then when we finally got the demos done, I was like “I kinda see that.” We took a lot of notes from Queen, I feel like, because we’ve all been Queen fans our whole lives. I grew up listening to that stuff and so did a lot of the other guys. You can definitely hear notes of that from time to time in the record and a lot of those like 60s/70s era rock bands we’ve always been into. It just sort of ended up being this epic rock opera record.
That makes a lot of sense when you put it that way.
It’s a pretty cool term. I bet you’ve never heard “rock opera” before.
This album is a concept album that tells a story. Could you explain this story for our readers?
Of course. It is a story of a guy who puts himself into a coma because he is not really content with his life and by putting himself into a coma, he can access different lives that he had and one that suits him and makes him happy. He basically ends up doing that for a long time and then comes out of the coma only to realize that he’s been in a coma his whole life, then he dies. It’s a long story. But if you want to go crazy in depth, you have to listen to the whole record and that’ll take almost an hour.
What made you guys choose to do a concept album?
We’ve always been fans of concept records. Like, a lot of our favourite bands and some of our favourite records that they’ve done have been concept records. First when we released “Colors” in 2007, that was more or less a musically conceptual record. Lyrically, it had somewhat of a story, but not to the point of Coma Ecliptic. It was more just musically conceptual in which we had, you know, musical themes that popped up, reprise themes that we would bring back. But for this one, we set it up in a way that the music follows a story board and the music follows the mood, follows the mood of the story. It’s cool how we set it up that way. We knew how the story was going to go and wrote the music to that. It was a lot of fun.
That seems like a rare gem to find in music these days.
I mean, it’s hard and a lot of planning goes into it for sure.
Were there any particular band members that came up with the concept or was it a joint effort?
It was more of a joint effort. I know Tommy was heavily involved and he writes all of the lyrics, so I’m sure that he was the main one. I know originally he came up with the concept and some of the guys would sometimes dip our hands into the story if we felt something should be added or something like that we thought would be cool. But for the most part, it’s Tommy.
Was there anything in particular that inspired that story?
[Tommy] sent us an email when he was trying to think of concepts to do and I think at the time he saw some special on T.V. that was about comas. It’s pretty fascinating. The more you get into it, it’s a pretty crazy concept. I just got done watching The Sopranos and there’s that segment towards the end of the fifth season where Tony’s in a coma, and I thought that whole depiction of him being in a coma was like so cool! Especially for that time, I look when that came out, and was like “Man, that’s kind of ground breaking,” for what they were doing on T.V. It’s real weird. Especially for that show it was really weird. It was just a cool concept.
Definitely. Onto the recording process now. The band began recording this album at the beginning of the year from January to February. What was the biggest challenge in making and recording Coma Ecliptic?
I’d say a big challenge was, for the first time, we wrote a record in which everyone was kind of working remotely. Tommy lives in California and Paul lives in Charlotte, which is not that far, and then the rest of us live in or around Winston-Salem. Probably the only challenge was having to sometimes Skype with Tommy over the Internet and show him riffs and stuff, and he would send us ideas that he had. We would kind of make these demos just via email. When we got together, we would put [our ideas together] and see if they work. It was interesting because I’d never really written a record like that before. It was cool, but challenging work.
I could only imagine! But hey, it came through and that’s what counts.
It did! We ended up with something.
Why did Between the Buried and Me choose to specifically release “Memory Palace” as the first single off the album?
I think it was a couple of reasons. The majority of our fan-base is pretty much into metal or heavy music to some degree, and the fans that we have now know what we sound like. They’re going to stick with us no matter what, I feel like, unless we start sounding like Taylor Swift or something. We all really liked that song and we didn’t want it to be “Oh we don’t want that one to just end up being a personal favourite – let’s see what the fans will think of it.” There’s a lot of those songs in Between the Buried and Me’s discography that we feel like are band favourites, but they’re not necessarily fan favourites. So it was almost kind of a test to see if people dig this song as much as we do, and people ended up digging it so it worked out.
That’s awesome. Personally, what’s your favourite song off the album and why?
I would say track seven, “The Ectopic Stroll.” I feel musically that one is just my favourite; it’s pretty wacky and very fast-paced. It’s a cool song that’s fun to play on drums. I wrote a lot of cool rhythmic stuff for that song. I just like the way that one came out.
As the drummer of the band, what’s your secret to coming up with new and fresh percussion beats?
Oh god, that’s the million dollar question! A big thing is definitely trying to draw from as many different influences as possible and that requires finding new material to listen to. So I’m always on the hunt for cool drummers, or someone that knows who to check out. I’m always trying to find new inspirational material, because if you draw from the same influences you had five years ago or 10 years ago, you’re just going to end up doing the same stuff and you’re never really going to grow as a musician, as a player. So I’m just always trying to find the next cool drummer, or next cool band.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Coma Ecliptic comes out July 10th in the states and in Canada, and tell the kids to go pick it up if they dig some prog metal!