Interview: Keith Buckley of Every Time I Die

It’s been five long years but the new gods of Buffalo are set to return with their most complete and powerful album yet. RadicalEvery Time I Die’s ninth full-length – features 16 of the band’s most personal, vulnerable, and heaviest songs yet with a couple of new wrinkles and twists thrown in for good measure. Vocalist Keith Buckley has been to hell and back and has lived to tell it, as the veteran frontman took time out of his busy schedule to cut it up with me about sitting on the record during a pandemic, his newfound writing style, and Malignant.

It’s been a long time since we spoke. 

Yeah, when was the last time I saw you?

The last time you saw me was actually at the Roxy in Los Angeles in 2013. 

Oh my god, yes. All right. Wow. That’s been a fucking long time. Yeah.

I remember doing the advice column with you on AbsolutePunk, which was probably the best thing we ever done on that website. 

Oh my god, I remember that! Yeah. How you been? What do you do now? 

Oh, you know, just have a normal day job. My wife and I would just bought a house and she’s actually pregnant. So big life moves.

Oh my god, congratulations!

Thank you. Yeah, very excited. Thank you. 

How far along is she? 

Um, we’re at the end of the second trimester. So we’re about under a hundred days till he’s born. He’s going to be a Christmas baby.

Amazing – do you have a name yet?

Yeah. Um, Ivan.

Ivan, very strong name, that’s a very strong name.

That’s what I was hoping for. How have you been? 

Um, really good. Really good. Yeah. We – my girlfriend and I – we live full-time in an RV, so we’re going to be touring in this and we got some land outside of Buffalo so we just kinda hang out and, you know, do the whole fucking camping thing all the time. It’s amazing. 

No, that’s rad. I saw the photo on your Instagram while ago when you showed your kind of like RV set up, it’s pretty sick rolling up to the gig in that for sure. 

It’s so like, we just can’t believe more musicians don’t do it. Like you’re always on tour so why not just bring your house with you? Just pull up behind the truck. It’s easy. 

So it’s really exciting that the record is finally coming out and we will get into that, but really the most pressing question I have for you is have you seen Malignant yet 

Dude I just watched that two days ago! One of the best movies that we’ve ever seen.

Batshit insane. I loved it.

Oh my God, I fucking loved it. I was going nuts. 


It was like a Def Comedy Jam in here. We were just like screaming and kicking our feet and just like jumping around. It was insane. It was like John Wick if John Wick was like a woman and the devil. 

It was wild. I love the director of course. And so I gave it a chance, like the first act is good if not a little slow, but then it just cuts the breaks and it’s over. 

And you know what I love about it? I feel like it was intentionally very campy. Like they used a lot of like 80s camp in it, but they use it really subtly and super well, I was just amazed by the whole thing. 

I loved it. It’s just wild. That’s been in front of my mind the last couple of days since I watched it. And I know you’re a big horror guy, so I had to ask you.

Yeah, man. It is a perfect horror movie.

Cult classic, for sure.

So I will really get into the record. It’s no surprise that I love Every Time I Die – it’s very known that I’m a big fan. And I haven’t been able to like stop listening to Radical. And sometimes when you get a new record, you’ll listen to it a lot at first. But eventually there’s like that kind of lull where you don’t spin it as much because you want to give it a break or something new comes around. But shit, I’m still running through Radical like two to three times a day. And I got to say it’s the best lyrics you’ve ever written. Like, I’m still picking out new things each time I listened to it. I love that there’s just such a sense of straightforwardness and clarity in your writing this time around while still keeping like the same kind of turn of phrase and wit that you’re kind of known for.

Well, I very much appreciate that. Thank you so much. I definitely took a new approach to it. You know, when we finished Low Teens and for a very long time after Low Teens up to even the end of the touring cycle, I was like, man, I don’t know if I’m going to ever really write anything better than I did with Low Teens. I was coming from such a different head space and I don’t know if I could tap back into that or what’s going to happen. So I was like, ‘you know what, fuck it.’ I’m not even going to try to be Low Teens. I’m going to go the other way completely. I’m not gonna focus so much on the lyrics. I’m going to write what comes naturally and I’m not going to second guess myself, I’m not going to try to change any words to hide some sort of meaning.  I’m just going to be a lot more straightforward. I just want it to be fun because Low Teens wasn’t very fun record, it was a very serious record. And I just wanted to bring more fun back into this one. And honestly, it’s the first time I’ve ever used this approach and it worked like that. And that’s Radical. So now it’s like, ‘oh shit, okay. Finally, I found how to write a song for Every Time I Die.’ (laughs) Radical is like the first record in a new phase for me as far as my writing goes.

No, that’s, that’s awesome. Like, there’s just like some, some songs in here that just stick with me all the time. My favorite song currently on the record is “The Whip.” I fucking love that song. And I dig the lyrics to it. 

That’s great. Thanks, man. “The Whip” – that’s the one about, um, that’s the one about the dom-sub sexual relationship Yeah. About me and my girlfriend. (Laughs) Not specifically, but when I started writing the record, I was reading a lot of stuff about masochism and sadism and things like that. But I got into the more emotional aspects of it so much, just like the sexual domineering stuff I also got into the the interplay of possession and submission, things like that. Which is a dynamic that really doesn’t even end in the bedroom. I mean, it goes all the way to, you know, the government, the dom-sub relationship sort of thing. So, but that was just a very, very straightforward song about dominance and submission. Like that’s all there was to it. 

Yeah. I like how heavy it gets. 

I love it so much too. I got to tell you something – that song almost didn’t make the record.

Oh wow

 That was going to be like a b-side until we realized that we would just do 16 full songs and do like a double disc sort of thing. So that was one of the last songs that I actually finished because we didn’t think it was going to make the record. 

I love that this is a double record too, because I think the last couple of records have had b-sides, and then eventually ETID would release like a deluxe version of it on like Apple Music or something. So I’m glad you’re just giving it all to us right away. 

Oh yeah. I mean, it’s been like no more fucking around, like everyone is fucking exhausted from the pandemic. We were dying to play shows and get back on the road. So yeah, we’re just like “You can have it and just take it and enjoy it.”

It probably feels good to finally gear up to release this because it was finished basically right before the pandemic began and I can only imagine how frustrating it had to be on your social media – whether your’s or the bands – where people are incessantly complaining about the band waiting to release the record.

Oh my god Uh, it was at first, but honestly – and it’s an approach I’ve always used – I just ignore it and it really goes away. Like I just ignore it. I don’t acknowledge it whatsoever. And eventually it stopped. But what was frustrating for me personally more, more than the people being like, “when are we getting this?’ This is just going to sound weird. But when I wrote the record and the lyrics in 2019, it was a different presidential administration and a lot of things were different. And I was just so hopeful that everything I was writing about would be outdated by the time the record came out like that there would be Medicare For All by now, that minimum wage would be increased. I was hoping for all these things. Um, and the fact that they didn’t happen bums me out, but it also just makes the record more immediate and topical, you know, cause it’s still…these problems are pervasive. They’re not going away just because one president got slopped out of the fucking office. That doesn’t mean anything. So, um, they still are very relevant. So in that sense, I didn’t mind sitting on the record because it wasn’t like, ‘oh my God, if you don’t get this out there then nobody’s going to know what I’m talking about.’ It’s like, ‘oh no people are still racist. Oh no Americans are still shitheads.’

Yeah. It’s been going on for hundreds of years. Don’t think it’s just going to have stop overnight, unfortunately. 

Yeah cops aren’t going to be fucking kumbaya and shit.

Do you think that Every Time I Die being an established band for over two decades now and having that kind of cache allowed you guys to sit on the record too, versus like, if this is like your second or third record, it probably would’ve been more pressured to release it. 

Yeah, totally. We are very lucky in that sense and that sitting on it just sort of got a buzz generated. I mean, there’s just a lot of fucking music out there, you know, like there’s so much music out there that people are consuming, and I feel terrible for people that put out records before the pandemic, because if you can’t tour on it and people can’t see you playing it, then you’re just another album that got released. It’s going to fall by the wayside because there’s just so much shit coming out. So we were all very thankful that we could sit on it and wait out the pandemic. But you know, now there’s a second pandemic because why would we learn anything from our mistakes? 

Right. Yeah. It’s probably the most frustrating part of all this. 

It’s just infuriating. The stupidity is fucking infuriating. 

Radical also features some incredible guest vocalists, which isn’t a surprise for an ETID record, as a lot of your records have featured a lot of great voices. And it’s one of the things I appreciate about the band – that you don’t just pigeonhole your guests vocalists because you play heavy music and instead you have grabbed from all genres. And that continues on this record too with Josh Scogen and Andy Hull, who I feel has been on like every record that I’ve loved in the last like 12 months, including his own. 

I just found out he did The Swiss Army Man soundtrack, did you know that?

That I did. 

I had no fucking idea. 

I think “Thing With Feathers” is probably a top five coolest ETID song – the band always has that kind of like curveball song on it and this one is exactly that. 

Yeah. The anomaly.

It’s definitely got like that desert kind of Queens of the Stone Age vibe. I love the lyrics to it, but really I just got to give you kudos because Andy Hull is regarded as probably one of the best vocalists ever. I really think you sound just as good as him on this. It really shines on this song. 

I really appreciate it because Andy is – as far as I’m concerned – like the Art Garfunkel of my generation. And I say that as the highest compliment as I love Simon & Garfunkel. I feel like Andy and I just, I don’t know, man…there’s a connection between he and I that is so much deeper than friends. It’s like, we have like the same perspective on everything, you know what I mean? It’s just like he and I vibe so thoroughly, um, that when we were talking about… even when we just started writing the record, I’m like, ‘Andy, I don’t know how this record is going to go, but you have to be on this. I need you to be a part of this.’ Um, so then “Thing With Features” was written. And I know Andy’s a spiritual guy, maybe even religious. I’m not, I don’t, I don’t know about his denomination or things like that, but I know he’s a spiritual guy and the song was about my sister who passed away. And it was important for me to have him on it because I knew that he would understand the lyrics, you know, if I told him what it was about that he would feel it. So yeah, he fucking felt it. And everyone who heard it in the studio felt that, and there were literal tears coming out of people’s faces. So it was just an amazing experience. 

I love where it’s positioned in the record. It’s kind of like the center point of this double record. I would only assume that was probably intentional. 

Yeah, it was intentional. But the only problem is is that now it puts the two guest vocalist songs back to back on the record. It’s not just not something we usually want to do. However, the fact that both of these guys are from Atlanta and the styles are so different, it works as a perfect juxtaposition of everything that Every Time I Die have done, it’s like the opposite sides of the spectrum next to each other. So I think it’s actually worked out well. 

It all flows very well, especially for a 16 track record. You mentioned that you went through some major life changes, both good and bad, over the past year or so. You wrote this record before all that happened, but the lyrics read as if you’d written it during or after those changes. So do you just feel like all this stuff you’d written was probably bubbling up during that time and it just came to the surface when the pandemic started?

Oh my God. Yeah. I mean, this shit was bubbling for years. And then the pandemic really snapped everything in a place where I’m like, oh boy. I don’t have the option to leave on tour. You know? Um, I have to stay here at home and really fucking look at my life and ask ‘am I happy?’ And the answer was a resounding no. And I couldn’t ignore that anymore. I was 40 years old. You know, the band was about to put out a new record. I just wasn’t happy. I just wasn’t happy. So, um, then you know, a different God came in the form of a very old friend of mine who I’ve known since we were like 15 going to shows and we’ve always been really good friends and we started dating and everything is just beautiful. 

It’s beautiful. My relationship with my daughter is incredible. My girlfriend and her get along incredibly, I’m sober, you know, I’m writing, I’m doing well. I’m kind of feeling a little more vulnerable than I used to be, like with my Patreon and Twitch channel. I’m just…I’m sick of being quiet. I’m sick of being quiet and like aloof, you know, like there’s a lot of shit that needs to be changed. And there’s a lot of stuff that needs to be said. And as someone who went through a cataclysmic shift in his life, I can attest to the fact that change is hard, but it is fucking worth it. I would do it over. I mean, it’s been a year of uncertainty and confusion and I’ve been broke, you know,  like lost everything in the divorce, but, I would do it all over again in a fucking heartbeat, because this happiness is totally worth it, you know? 

And I want people to know that. So I think that’s kind of what I’m trying to get at with the record, but to circle back with what you were saying… I was kind of daring myself. I was kind of challenging myself, like, okay, you feel this way, but what the fuck are you going to do about it? You know? So I felt like putting it all down in the way that I did was a statement in a sense of like, ‘no, I’m not happy this way.’ I’m taking control of my life back and getting sober. I’m getting in a relationship, where I feel seen, and I’m going to work on relationship with my daughter and I’ll work on my relationship with my parents and with everybody. And I don’t know, man, it’s just, it’s been working out so well, it just hasn’t fucking stopped. I hope that people see that and maybe get a little inspired to do the same. 

I was going to say that there’s definitely like an anger to it, but like a justified anger. It’s not an anger from like bitterness. But there is also an optimism and a brightness throughout this record too. It’s just two sides of the coin. It’s just very cool to hear. 

Thank you. I just feel like people are two siding’s everything too much. Like there is truth to everything. I mean, it’s not all split in half. Like there is a third option, which is the truth. And a lot of people don’t know what that is because they don’t know who they are. Nobody knows who they are themselves. So nobody knows what the truth is so nobody’s going to be happy looking for it in the government or in a cult online, you kno? It’s like, man, I understand the world is shit. But like for real, just start by fucking figuring out who you are as an individual like as honest as possible, as naked as possible, and then go out and you’ll find the change starts happening around you. You know? So it’s a very powerful thing. 

Yeah. if change is going to happen from it’s going to be the working class revolution and you can’t put your hope in either side of the government. And I think this record really personifies that. The band challenged themselves and it comes across perfectly throughout this record. And it’s really cool to be a band for as long as Every Time I Die has been and to have such a great discography that any fan can choose any of your records and be like, ‘oh this is my favorite.’ And you’d be like, ‘yeah, I see that’ but Radical just has the potential to be – and I think it will – the universal number one Every Time I Die record amongst your fan base. 

Thank you. I, I do think so. And I mean, that’s not to say that nostalgia isn’t important. I do understand why people love Hot Damn and the earlier records, but like, I don’t know. I just feel like this is just such a perfect representation of us in all ways sonically, lyrically. instrumentally, just everything is just there on all display on this record for us. And I’m extremely proud of it. And it’s kind of scary. I mean when you put so much into it and then sit on it for a year and then put it out without… you’re not even able to edit or revise it…(laughs) But I feel very proud of it. And I do think it’s a powerful record and this is not anything that has to do with an ego or narcissism. I just… I notice that certain things have power and I feel like this record has a power to it that a record hasn’t had before with Every Time I Die.

Yeah, I 100% feel that. And one of the many things I’ve always appreciated about your band is you guys could so easily hang on to that nostalgia and how the fans love those older records. And just like really like, quote unquote, cash in on it. And y’all really never done that. There’s no like anniversary tour, like X amount years of Hot Damn and just playing the whole record. And I feel like when bands do that, it’s not always genuine because they’re not that person anymore, like you singing “Ebolarama” or “Romeo a Go-Go” now would be almost a total “what the fuck?moment.

It’s silly. Yeah. It seems silly. I just don’t love…I can’t understand why people just love repeating the past like that. It really blows my mind. Like I’m all for acknowledging it and being like, ‘yeah, that was cool.’ I’m glad we did that. But like trying to relive it is just such an unnatural thing for me personally. Um, I just I assume it’s unnatural for a lot of people, but just giving the same show, doing anything the same way twice…I can’t even think about it. Even when I was a high school teacher. I changed my syllabus for every period. And the other teachers were just like, ‘you don’t have to do that one syllabus.’ I’m like, ‘no, I’m not doing the same fucking class five times a day every day.’ I’m changing it up. That approach has always carried Every Time I Die We’re trying to constantly challenge ourselves and other people. 

Yeah. I love that. I remember I saw you guys played a The Deluxe here in Indianapolis during the Low Teens era and I was at that show and it was so sick that you guys closed with “Map Change”. Like, I love that. I know fans always want bands to close with the old stuff but I’m of the mindset that the bands want to play their new songs. It’s so weird that for decades music fans don’t always grasp that. 

Yeah it’s strange. And it’s really strange to me too, that people who listen to new music don’t realize when a band puts out a single or they play a song live that’s new that there’s a reason for that, right? It’s not like, oh, we’re going to throw stuff at a wall and see what sticks. It’s like, no, no, no, this is what we feel. You know, having been in this band for 20 years, this is what we feel that people will want from us first or second or third or fourth. And you really got to take them on a journey.

So, you know, it’s important to kind of keep people on their toes and hide little things that you can find on second and third and fourth listening. We just, you understand the importance of putting ourselves into this music. So I just feel like maybe now is a time in pop culture where honesty and truth and hope is actually like welcomed, you know? Because everyone is so dire and cynical about everything, but maybe just being like naively hopeful is a better approach. I don’t know. It’s a fucking coin flip anyways. 

Absolutely. I wanted to touch on the video for “Post-Boredom.” It’s very cool and I like the little narrative that runs through it. Especially with Jordan (Buckley) working the vape shop and the way he just did that was honestly… that’s just Jordan, that’s not him acting. 

Yeah. I don’t know if he even practiced. I don’t know if he knew we were recording. I don’t know if he knew there was actually a video being made.

Right exactly. And then of course there’s the guy from AEW – The Butcher shows up in your video, which is pretty cool, that’s a good cameo, what a great get for your band.

Yeah – we got that guy. (laughs)

There’s just like a cool vibe and I like your performance in it a lot. It’s kind of like, you’re having like that like spiritual realization dancing like that in the parking lot like with body movements and everything.

I’m very glad that you say that because that was a very big challenge for me, I’ll say that. It was hours of them just filming me, just running in that parking lot, like dancing and moving and jumping and just doing anything I could just by feeling the music and doing that in front of like a camera crew in a parking lot where there were cars driving by. That’s never been something I’ve ever done before. I realized that I wasn’t fulfilled after 40 years during a pandemic, then maybe the shit i’ve been doing doesn’t fucking work. So I was like, yeah, I will dance and make an asshole out of myself. I don’t care because I’m fucking sick of just being the shy one that’s like, yeah, ‘I don’t want to try anything that might make it look stupid’ like fuck it I’m not living like that anymore. 

I love that perspective. It’s just a good way to look at things. What would you say are your favorite songs on the record?

I love “White Void.” I think that song came out the best for me personally. Um, “Thing With Feathers” of course. And I could seriously just listen to that one part of the Josh Scogin song. I’ll just block that part off and just fucking loop it cuz it’s just the heaviest thing Every Time I Die have ever done and I’m not even singing on it. It’s great. And I do love “The Whip,” I’m so glad you said that.

I love the Josh Scogin vocals cuz it has that signature Josh Scogin snarl before and after.

Oh god right? So good. I have a joke with Josh – we were talking about that if we ever go on tour and he does that part live that we are just gonna pause for his scream, like where he comes in and then we’re gonna pause for like an intermission. Like it’s going to be like an hour long pause and then Josh starts doing it. 

God, I hope that happens. There’s also some really cool like musical moments on this record too. And I like the bridge on “People Verses,” it’s such a soaring kind of like positive feeling – I’ve never heard something like that in an Every Time I Die song before. It just kind of like encompasses all your senses. It’s just soaring and the way you sing over that is just perfect, 

That’s a good word for it. Soaring. It is a very soaring song. That’s perfect. 

And I just love that 20 years into it. the band is still taking risks. It’s just not breakdown after breakdown. You’re always throwing in and trying new things. 

Andy Williams is not the same Andy Williams that he was the last record, like Andy Williams has undergone some very public changes in his life. So he’s obviously challenging himself constantly. And writing a record like this is just no different, you know, and the good thing about ETID is it’s made up of some actual artists that look at their lives in a creative way. So Andy Williams is definitely one of those people and that creativity is going to come through on a record, just like it’s gonna come through on his wrestling. For all of these guys, everyone has their own outlet. But at the end of the day, the source that it comes back to is Every Time I Die, which it feeds us with that creative power, you know, and as much as we give back to it, it gives to us. So we’re just in a good spot as far as like what we understand ourselves to be. 

Yeah. That’s, that’s amazing to hear. Last thing I just want to say is I love your last lyric of the record on “We Go Together” – “I find it a little strange that I haven’t died.” Man, that is just so fucking human.  I think that every day I wake up too, you know. And I’m sure everyone does. I just love how Radical starts to how it ends.

Thank you, dude. Thank you. It’s a full journey, so I’m glad you snuffed the whole thing out. 

photo by Michael Watson – Radical releases globally October 22nd, 2021.