Many Eyes: “This band has been like a drink of water for my soul”

When Every Time I Die split in February 2022, firebrand frontman Keith Buckley was left heartbroken and ostracised, but Many Eyes reignited his passion for music. To mark barnstorming new single Future Proof, we sat down with Keith and bandmates Nick and Charlie Bellmore to talk heavenly influence, the struggles of sobriety and the ear-battering catharsis of moving on…

Many Eyes: “This band has been like a drink of water for my soul”
Sam Law
Jena Yannone

Whatever you do, do not Google: ‘Biblically-accurate angels’.

It’s a nugget of wisdom that’s been knocking around the weirdest corners of the internet memescape for years now. All twisted dogma and teasing reverse-psychology, the dare is there for those not in the know to find out that – in the Old Testament, at least – God’s messengers were not the handsome, largely-humanoid figures with big wings, long robes and shiny halos that we know from modern Christian doctrine and popular culture. From the animal-human hybrid Cherubim to the six-winged Seraphim, they are weird, often frightening beings. None more so than the Ophanim, comprised of interlocking gold wheels filled with countless all-seeing orbs.

For Keith Buckley, there was no better inspiration after which to name his new band: Many Eyes.

“Angelology is awesome!” the singer grins. “I had been getting into studying a lot of that stuff – like, there’s a whole class of angels called ‘Thrones’, which are basically just chairs – but I found the idea of the Ophanim so awesome. There's no indication of any specifics on their measurements or anything, just that they have a ton of eyes. There’s something about that idea of silent observation that seemed to fit our music. It’s very eerie, not knowing if you’re watching or being watched.”

As oddball introductions to excellent new bands go, this is right up there. But Many Eyes are not messing around. Keith has just driven nine hours from his home in Buffalo, New York with daughter Zuzana in tow to join his bandmates – brothers Nick (drums) and Charlie (guitar) Bellmore – in Milford, Connecticut and as we sit down to talk for this first-ever full-band interview there is a real sense of purpose. Third single Future Proof is locked and loaded for release. Tour dates in support of post-hardcore veterans Thursday are due to commence in under two weeks. They’re due to meet touring bassist Sean Vallie for their first rehearsal as a four-piece in just a couple of hours.

“Maybe Many Eyes is a weird name for a band,” Charlie picks up, “but it’s not Murder Death Kill or something. It doesn’t pigeonhole us much. That’s good, because we want to play with everybody.”

Nick nods. “In a way, it sounds like its own already-established thing. It’s not a local band. But it’s not specifically ‘punk’ or ‘rock’ or ‘death metal’, either. It’s got a real ‘fresh start’ quality to it.”

Indeed, a fresh start was needed. The last time we spoke in-depth with Keith, it was October 2021 and his old band Every Time I Die were just about to drop sensational ninth album Radical, which would promptly be named K!’s Album Of The Year. Keith’s lyrics on that record had pre-empted lifestyle changes – the break-up of his marriage, a pursuit of sobriety – that he had since begun to enact. Coming to terms with the alterations he needed to make would be challenging for his then-bandmates, he understood, but he was optimistic that, together, they could go on to be bigger and better than ever before. Instead, on January 17, a much-chronicled falling-out led to their split after 24 years on the cutting edge. Keith is in no hurry to relive those dark days, or to lash out at the other parties involved, but having poured his heart and soul, pain and suffering so completely into Radical, seeing his world collapse in the record’s wake had a profound effect.

“It just kinda happened all at once,” he strokes his beard, eyes flickering as they cast back over a turbulent few years. “A lot of my ‘drinking’ friends and family were unhappy that I wasn’t anymore and had already stopped being around me. My marriage was ending at the same time. So it felt like I had all these different factions poisoning the well as far as my reputation went. It made me feel so distant. If people had really read the lyrics that I wrote for Radical, they would have seen these changes in my life coming. They would have understood that I was struggling, that I was working through some really bad mental health, that my drinking was out of control. It was like nobody believed me, or nobody wanted to believe me. It took me a long time to get over the indignation that I felt about people’s [apparent ignorance] around why I was making these changes. ‘Does nobody read what I write about?’ ‘Does nobody really know me?’ Apparently, no, they don't.”

Re-centring was essential. Keith retreated from public gaze with Zuzana and then-fiancée, now-wife Angie to focus on being a dad and sober human being. The fascination with mysticism and spirituality which had been building over recent years came full circle, taking him back to the Bible verses of his Roman Catholic upbringing. (“Jesus Christ was the ultimate mystic,” he shrugs, “whether you believe he was the son of God or not.”) A month in a treatment centre in Salt Lake City helped to develop new life skills and saw a long-overdue diagnosis for bipolar I, with which Keith had been living – and for which he’d been self-medicating – for years. It was hearing two of his good friends and hardcore heroes, Jamey Jasta of Hatebreed and Scott Vogel of Terror, discussing his next steps on a podcast, however, that opened the road back into making music.

“I was never just gonna go home again and get right back on the horse,” he says. “After everything that happened, I wasn’t just going to go out looking for a new band or to get gigs. I’m getting too old for that. My life need to change. So I decided to wait and see what came to me. But to hear those guys was very humbling. And when I spoke to Jamey and he told me I should get together with [Nick and Charlie] it felt like a sign. It was a situation that I could go into very timidly – ‘I just got hurt, I don’t know who to trust, the music industry screwed me over…’ – with an open heart and mind. And I’m so glad I did because the stuff we’ve created already has been unlike anything I’ve done before. This band has been like this drink of water for my soul that I’d been waiting for.”

For Nick and Charlie, too, it was a new beginning. Both accomplished writers and players with legends like Jamey, Dee Snider, Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens and Kirk Windstein’s Kingdom Of Sorrow, they’d been part of great things but never really equal shareholders, able to truly bask in the limelight.

“We’ve played with some big names like Dee,” Nick gestures. “But it always felt like we were these other guys in a band with him. It never felt like it was our band.”

“If I’m writing for Jamey or Corpsegrinder or Ripper Owens or Dee, I’m in a box,” Charlie continues. “I write to the style in which they play. But for this band I just went hog wild. I’m a massive ETID fan. I love Keith’s choice of melodies and his ability to write a massive chorus. But, at the same time, we didn’t want to be a copy of Keith’s other stuff. We wanted to be the first Many Eyes.”

Full disclosure: the trio have already written and recorded an entire first LP. They’re just not quite ready to talk about it yet. In the trio of singles they’ve drip-fed out thus far, however, we have gotten a taste of what they’ve been cooking up. Sonically and thematically, first release Revelation cleaves close to late-era ETID, all groovy metallic hardcore, massive chorus and wrestling with an anthropomorphised incarnation of the demon drink. Mystic Cord saw them steer into slightly softer alt. and grunge territory as Keith wonders how to untangle himself from the traumas and weaknesses that can be wrapped into one’s past, one’s heritage, maybe even into one’s very DNA. The just-released Future Proof feels like the pulling back of a curtain, though: a colossal modern rock anthem already destined to be soaked up and sung back by sprawling festival crowds.

“It’s about invincibility, I guess,” Keith unpacks. “I’d gotten to a point in my life where the hardest part of getting things done was actually doing them. I’d already thought about it. I’d already planned it out. But if I knew I had to just [pull the trigger] at four o’clock, I’d want it to be five already. Where with the first two singles you could hear that we were trying to bridge the gap with what I’d done before, here I don’t care about bridging that gap anymore. I’m back in my zone!”

The trio tease that those songs could be seen as a microcosm for the LP, albeit with some far heavier and piano-laden softer moments, but their stylistic choices would help unravel the specific feeling they wanted to connect with in this band. While British post-punks IDLES were an initial reference point (and one undisclosed song still heavily bears their influence), there was a natural gravitation towards the ’90s sounds of outfits like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Failure and Radiohead that took these 40-something musicians back to the energy of where it all began.

Charlie grins. “The ’90s are at the heart of the music I make. I was 11 when Anthrax’s [divisive sixth album] Sound Of White Noise came out, and I’ll defend it unabashedly. I remember one of the first things that Keith ever texted me was about what he wanted to make this thing into. ‘It'll be a little punk. It’ll be a little hardcore. I really, really wanna focus on the grunge.’ I was like, ‘Okay, I think we might just have become best friends!’ It’s about sharing that vision where you’re just able to get together and write like when you were in a garage band aged 15.”

“It was about aligning this with our values,” Keith picks up, subconsciously drawing parallels early inspirations and his renewed interest in spirituality. “That’s where the ’90s really came into the conversation. I think that might’ve been the last era where all of us truly identified with music. Everyone who was on the radio and MTV were kids like us. And they believed in something. It felt like the opposite of so much pop culture today. That’s why it became our guide-post.”

Ultimately, of course, Many Eyes is not an exercise in reliving teenage dreams. These are artists who’ve paid their dues. They’ve (sometimes painfully) learned what works for them and what does not. It is no coincidence that Nick and Charlie are lifelong teetotallers, ready to support their new friend in learning how to be ‘the sober dude on the road’. And the commitment to that sobriety is already reaping rewards, as Keith wraps up our chat with real lucidity and none of the rambling he’d grown prone to in years gone by. If there’s a singular goal, above all it’s to not waste another second and to live their best lives as only band dudes with this kind of tenure ever really can.

“I’m a mature musician, but maybe an immature man,” Charlie laughs. “If you told me in 1997 when I was starting out that I was gonna be in a ’90s influenced band with Nick that was kinda hardcore but with all this other stuff, I would’ve just wanted to [skip ahead and] do that then.”

“We’ve played in so many bands,” Nick concurs, “but there’s always been an element missing. It turns out that element was Keith. Now that he’s here, everything’s beginning to make sense.”

The frontman signs off with a warm, defiant smile. “Maybe people aren’t used to seeing guys like us making changes or starting new things in our mid- to late-40s. But there’s an arrested development when you’re out on the road. It’s hard to learn lessons, or they end up stunted by alcohol. Finally learning them helps you learn a lot about yourself. This band isn’t about living out some 40-year-old dream. It’s not about getting revenge. There is no bucket list that we need to tick off. I’ve found out that my life tends to work out better if I just surrender myself to the greater good, so I’m just going to ride this wave and see where it goes next. If you’d asked me how I’d feel about doing that a few years ago, I’d have been terrified. But right now, I’m just so excited to see what’s next…”

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