Interview: Every Time I Die’s Keith Buckley Talks Ninth Full-Length LP, ‘Radical’

Appropriately enough, everything about Every Time I Die’s new album, out now on Epitaph, is radical. The vibrant cover art, the insane new songs, and the absolutely visceral performances captured all live up to the album title, Radical. Even the chaotic world that ETID’s ninth full length record is arriving in is a radical place, amidst radical times.

“We recorded in February of 2020,” Buckley recalls. “As soon as we got out of the studio in March, the pandemic shut everything down, and we went straight into lockdown.”  

With their newly minted career masterpiece in tow—that somehow tops their previous ‘holy shit’ record, 2016’s Low Teens–the band was forced to put Radical on the shelf for another year as the world grappled with COVID.  

“It seemed terrible at first, but the only thing that would have been worse was if we put out the record before the pandemic because not touring on a record would have been certain death,” Buckley says. “That’s what we do; we have to tour. or else we can’t survive. That’s our job.”

From the opening screams of “Dark Distance,” to the metaphor-free bluntness of “Planet Shit,” the schizo guitar barrage of “AWOL,” and the unexpected tenderness of “Thing With Feathers” and “People Verses,” Radical is the perfect embodiment of the collective anger and exhaustion that came to a head in America during the Trump era and has only been exacerbated by the global pandemic. 

“I wrote that song [“Dark Distance”] obviously way before I knew there’d be a pandemic. It became very relevant, I’ll say that,” Buckley says of the opening track, where he channels unparalleled levels of rage, screaming: “Spare only the ones I love. Slay the rest.”  

“It’s something I felt before the pandemic hit; it didn’t take the pandemic for me to realize that,” he says before pausing. “Man, I just feel like if people in the hardcore scene were in charge of shit, everything would work out so much better. At least it would be a positive start toward a new, amazing journey into progress and social justice.  

“I was going to animal rights protests when I was 15. I was reading books on social democracy when I was 16. It’s not something that the hardcore scene hasn’t dealt with before. I feel like the people in the hardcore scene are so kind and considerate; they’re the kind of people I’d love to see actually in charge of shit.”

Sadly, we’re stuck on “Planet Shit,” as ETID’s raging new single reiterates. Over the past year, the band have released five different jams off Radical every few months to hold themselves and their rabid fan base over until the coast was clear to tour again.  

Every Time I Die

“There becomes like an unspoken pact,” Buckley explains. “Look guys, we need to tour; we can’t give you the whole record now, but we promise we’re still here, still thinking about touring, still proud of these songs. It’s not like, ‘Here’s a little teaser;’ it’s more of a respectful offering. ‘Thanks for sticking it out with us; here’s some songs that we can play until we get back out on tour.” 

But how do you pick a single offering when your entire album is filled with bangers? “White Void” feels like twangy Deftones in the best way possible; “Distress Rehearsal” is an ungodly riff-fest that might actually break satellite radio transmitters.  

“We straight-up can’t decide,” Buckley says, proudly. “We can’t even agree which ones we like least. All the songs are so important to each of us for different reasons.”  

Kudos to the wise souls at their label and the magic dartboard they used to pick such rad singles from an album of rad singles. “ 

Epitaph take the wheel and drive,” Buckley jokes. “I was kind of surprised that they picked ‘Post-Boredom,’ to be honest with you, but I’m glad they did.”

Post-Boredom” might be the weirdest, yet catchiest, song the band has ever crafted. A tune beaming with punk rock energy that boasts an otherworldly bridge section, ends on a pummeling crescendo, and features an absolute earworm of a chorus where the refrain, “my annihilation,” buries itself in the listener’s psyche. Buckley had written that phrase down in his trusty lyrics notebook he constantly maintains and wanted to use it in a song for ages.  

“Honestly it’s just fun to say,” he says. “One of the things that I learned most from being in The Damned Things with Joe [Trohman] and Andy [Hurley] from Fall Out Boy—they literally have number-one hit singles—is that sometimes you just got to realize that people like words that are fun say. You don’t always have to be so fucking nailed to the cross of meaning in a song. That phrase sounded very addictive to me, and I’m just glad I was able to use it.”  

So, is this record a raging beast or a quirky good time? It’s kind of both, actually. Low Teens, ETID’s previous magnum opus, was easily the darkest album of the band’s career. Buckley famously said “the bottom is not the lowest we get” on its closing track “Map Change.”  

Now, in post-Trump, COVID America, society has deteriorated to the same lows Buckley sang about back then. On “Desperate Pleasures,” however, Buckley now says: “Look on the bright side. There’s nowhere but up from a canyon in hell.”

“I don’t know how to say this without sounding so desperately out of touch,” Buckley shares. “I just think that this all has happened for reasons beyond our understanding. The pandemic and what it’s done to our culture, what it did to us as individuals, it’s forced us to take a look at ourselves and realize we are on a fucking journey.  

“Whether we want to believe or not, in intelligent design, or God, or whatever, we are on a fucking trip right now. I really felt like I was at rock bottom. The only hope I could find was, like, ‘Alright, let’s start moving up, then.’ This is where the story goes because I’ve seen movies, ya know? This is the part in Frozen where Elsa gets reunited with Anna.”  

“It was a radical change for me,” Buckley shares. “Low Teens was so fucking serious, and severe, and sad, and hard for me to play, because I get fully absorbed in the memory of writing it and what was going on in my life. It made shows themselves a different experience for me. There was a lot of gloom, and I didn’t want to live like that anymore.  

“I wrote about that stuff, and they’re our songs, so obviously we’ll play them, but I don’t need to go back there emotionally. Everything worked out; life is fucking beautiful. I need to look forward now, and that was a radical shift for me in perspective. Because I have never, ever, not looked back, and I swear to God, I’m just not looking back now and it’s made life so much better for me.”

Radical stuff indeed.

Watch the video for “Thing With Feathers” here:

For more from Every Time I Die, find them on Facebook, Instagram, and their official website.

Photo courtesy of Every Time I Die and Alyson Coletta

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