Between The Buried And Me Are Still Playing It Risky 20 Years On

As Between The Buried And Me prepare for an intense 20th anniversary tour, frontman Tommy Giles Roger looks back on the band's unique allure.

Between The Buried And Me Are Still Playing It Risky 20 Years On
Juan Pardo

There are progressive metal fans, metalcore fans -- and then there are Between The Buried and Me people. The GRAMMY-nominated American quintet’s unique take on extreme music, informed heavily by prog, hardcore, and melodic death metal, has attracted a specific breed of fan for whom the buck stops with BTBAM. This diehard following has made them an underground fixture of some notoriety, whom listeners will endlessly talk, argue over, and praise with a fervency that they just don’t give to other artists.

“I think it’s a snowball effect,” says frontman Tommy Giles Roger, Jr., when asked about the band’s appeal. “I have to look at it like a fan of music. There are bands that I listen to where, once you’re into an album, they’re throwing a curveball at you. There’s always that excitement of what they’re going to do next. I think our fans get that, and are excited about that. I think it’s part of this thing where they’re along for the ride. We hit people at a certain time, and there aren’t a lot of bands doing what we do. From day one, when we were immersed in the hardcore scene, we weren’t really a hardcore band. Those were our roots, but we had influenced from all over the place. We weren’t afraid to try those influences and experiment with what we do. A lot of bands didn’t do something like that -- keyboards weren’t normal in our style of music. We’ve always gone along to the beat of our own drum. “

And Between The Buried And Me are continuing their road-less-trampled tendency in rather epic fashion. In celebration of their 20th anniversary, the band are offering North American fans a two-headed treat. First, they'll will be hitting the road on a massive ‘Evening With… tour, in which attendees will see them play two sets with no opener. Second, the tour will feature Between The Buried And Me performing their 2009 album The Great Misdirect in its entirety -- a fan favorite that Tommy says has gone from a stepping stone to a landmark in their long career.

"We didn’t really do anything for the tenth anniversary of that album...mainly because we didn’t know how much people liked it,” admits Tommy. “At the time it kind of flew under the radar. [2007's] Colors was such a big thing for us, and Great Misdirect was our last record with Victory, so promotion was kind of put on the back-burner. We just didn’t get the sense that it was one of the important moments in our catalog. But recently we did a remix and re-released The Great Misdirect, and the response was just unbelievable. After that, we sat back and thought, ‘People really liked this album. It’s an important part of our discography and people’s lives. Let’s make it part of the evening with.' I don’t think people expected it.”

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What inspired you to take The Great Misdirect out on this 'An Evening With…' tour?

We did the 'Evening With...' idea last year in Europe and the UK. We’d been wanting to do that for a while -- it was one of those things where we always had it in the backs of our minds -- but we were hesitant. Like, a) will people care if we do this? Being the only band, there’s a lot of pressure in that. And b), can we physically pull this off? Can we play this much every night, with hardly any days off, and perform the way we normally perform?

But on the European tour it went really great, and we felt great, the sets felt really good, the crowds felt good. Regardless of size, it was such a different vibe in the room. They were there just for us -- it was a different sense of community. We obviously wanted to do this in the States, but people know we’ve done 'An Evening With...', they’re expecting that, so how can we make this a little different?

What was it about the response to your re-release of The Great Misdirect that led you to choose it as an album to play in its entirety?

It just sold like crazy. And hearing the response from people, how excited they were to hear this album in a new light -- once it came out, people expressed how they were hearing new things and the new mix sounded so good. It brought the album back to life. There’s always been talk about, ‘Play this album, do a tour of it,' but it’s hard to gauge stuff like that on the Internet, because 20 people can be very vocal online. Over the years you learn how to judge that. But with the re-release, we thought, ‘Man, it’s bigger than I think.’

Did remixing the album force you to look back on it in a different light?

Well, because we did remix it, we had to listen to new mixes and treat it like a new album. We had to sit in a car and listen to the whole album, which I hadn’t done since it came out! A lot of it you forgot you write, and there’s a lot of pride in it -- hearing it and thinking, ‘Man, this is a great part! I totally didn’t remember writing this. I remember how this part gave us a really hard time, and it turned into something even better because of it.'

It’s always been one of my favorite albums that we have, and I don’t think there’s any particular reason for that...it was the right place in our catalog, and at the time there wasn’t a lot of music like that. We were really starting to understand ourselves as a band and as a group at that moment. It really let our fans know that there’s a lot more to come.

Was there any part that made you think, 'Thank God we remixed this...'?

Well, the thing about mixes is, technology is what it is. We’ve been working with [producer] Jamie King for forever, and he’s gotten better as we’ve gotten better. I don’t look back at mixing issues as a problem, ever. For me, an album has to represent a band as what it is in a moment of time, and I think we’ve always done a really good job of representing that moment very organically. We’ve always been very genuine. And there are always parts where you think, 'I wish I would’ve approached that a little differently,’ but at the same time it’s like, that was me at that moment. That’s not me now. It’s written a certain way because that’s what I’m feeling. I think that’s the healthiest way to look back at past material.

With the 'An Evening With...' performances, have you noticed a change in the crowds coming out to see you?

I think that’s a question for after the U.S run. We’ve never gotten our footing solidly [in Europe]. We’ve gone tour by tour, and it’s been an uphill battle for us. But over the years, our fanbase has drastically changed. As a musician, someone who grew up heavily obsessed with music in general, that’s the biggest payoff -- to look out in the crowd and see a six-year-old kid and seventy-five-year-old man. You’re appealing to more than the 20- to 28-year-old male.

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Did these intense live performances teach you anything new about Between The Buried And Me, or yourself?

It made me realize that if there are ever things in our heads that we’re scared to do, or that we don’t think we can pull off, there’s probably a good chance that we can. To have us take risks 19 to 20 years into being a band, it’s motivating. It helps keep the trajectory going in the right direction. I think after that tour, we all felt really proud of ourselves, individually and as a group, that we got through it -- it was a pretty grueling tour.

I think on a personal level, we all know what we have to do to prepare -- for a tour like that, I had to prepare differently than I normally do. I had to vocally work out before show one, and I normally don’t do that. Because I did take those extra precautions and worked a little harder, it made a difference. As a vocalist, your biggest fear is that three weeks in, you can’t talk or sing anymore. I wanted to really make sure that I took care of myself and prepared every night. So it worked out great.

Between The Buried And Me's North American tour kicks off this May. Catch them live at one of the following dates:


09 – Richmond, VA @ The Canal
10 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat
12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts
13 – New York, NY @ The Gramercy Theatre
14 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
15 – Millvale, PA @ Mr Smalls Theatre
16 – Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
17 – St. Louis, MO @ Red Flag
19 – Chicago, IL @ House of Blues
20 – Minneapolis, MN @ Studio B at Skyway Theatre
22 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
23 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
25 – Vancouver, BC @ Imperial Vancouver
26 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
27 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom
29 – Sacramento, CA @ Ace of Spades
30 – Los Angeles, CA @ Teragram Ballroom
31 – Las Vegas, NV @ Fremont Country Club


01 – Garden Grove, CA @ Garden Amp
02 – Phoenix, AZ @ Crescent Ballroom
04 – San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
05 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
06 – Houston, TX @ Studio at Warehouse Live
08 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum
09 – Ft. Lauderdale, FL @ Culture Room
11 – Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall
12 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade – Hell
13 – Nashville, TN @ The Basement East
15 – Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
16 – Ottawa, ON @ Bronson Centre Theatre
17 – Montreal, QC @ Fairmount Theatre
19 – Charlotte, NC @ The Underground

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