"This moment in time is going to be in history books. It’s a little capsule that will prove to be important in the whole of human history, so we wanted to have something to show for that." - Tommy Rogers
Between The Buried And Me recently released their latest album 'Colors II' via Sumerian Records.
A spiritual and ethical successor to their 2007 classic, the band threw everything they had into the pot and came out with a challenging, mind-melting and joyous celebration of sound, creativity and collaboration. Crafted throughout 2020, it also serves as a frenzied timestamp of a strange and trying period in human history and the result of five best friends doing what they do best to make it to the other side.
We jumped on the phone with vocalist Tommy Rogers to discuss the record's creation and how the last two decades of the band's existence not only assisted them but also encouraged them to push further and further into the unknown...
Was this era the culmination of bits and pieces that you already had and built on, or is it something you started entirely from scratch?
"It’s a mostly now record. There are always a few things floating around on a personal end, stuff from just writing whenever we feel like we need to write. The piano piece that serves as the album’s intro was something I wrote on our last tour just because I had a day when I wasn’t doing anything. It wasn’t intentional for anything, though.
"Everything started when we came back from South America, and everything started to be locked down. We were planning on writing a record anyway, so let’s start working our asses off. We’re huge on things having to feel right, though, because if we write for the sake of it, it just doesn’t work. So we took some time to get our lives in order within the pandemic and then get in a mood to be creative. When that started, it was like a floodgate. We always work well together, but this time it was so much music happening so fast. It was so collaborative, too, because everybody was at home, and it was therapeutic in a way. Because we had put the pressure on ourselves to call it ‘Colors II’ and make it a whole thing or find ourselves and our identity and going back into the mindset we had on that original record, it brought so much out of us."
So, where did the word ‘Colors’ come from within this conversation? When did you start throwing it around, and when did it stick?
"It was before the pandemic. Our drummer had the idea, and initially, he felt like it could be a marketing dream. Then the more we thought about it, the more it sounded like a cool idea, but we didn’t want to do it unless it made sense. Then once the pandemic hit, it just all made sense. We weren’t in the same spot as when we first wrote ‘Colors’, but it still felt like a new beginning and that we were starting over. We hit the 20-year mark last year, and that put some weird realisation shit into motion. Like, ‘You need to step it up and show people that you are still a force’. All of these things just aligned, starting from nothing and building something. That’s what ‘Colors’ meant. It wasn’t intentional, but some moments remind me of the old days. And there are new moments that show the fans that we are willing to push things into the future. I think that’s cool and it’s something that I like about it. It’s a very dense journey that cycles you through what we are, which we aren’t even that sure of."
The last year has resulted in a lot of forced reflection for bands, resulting from stifled creativity. But when you’re in a position where you’re not reflecting on how things were in success terms but terms of ethos, that’s an entirely different strain…
"Exactly, it was so natural. There weren’t moments where we were sat listening to ‘Colors’ or harking back to it. It was a feeling, and that made it feel so normal. We were able to be ourselves. And the reflection served as reminding us that we needed to come out of all of this on top with a very special record. This moment in time is going to be in history books. It’s a little capsule that will prove to be important in the whole of human history, so we wanted to have something to show for that."
You don’t realise until you’re in moments like this just how big your tool belt has become. And it shows that in the time when others were following the pack, you were working on your craft. Was this all created digitally and remotely?
"All online. We didn’t see each other until we were in the studio. We’ve been writing remotely for a long time now. But normally, we would get together a few times to chat and make sure things were correct and working. This was the first time we didn’t see each other. Because of our music, everything we do before we get into the studio is already squeaky clean and ready to go. The thing that takes forever usually is the writing and pre-production because we record and demo everything exactly how we want it to be before we get anywhere near the studio. And sometimes, there are three sections of a record being worked on at precisely the same time in different places. We figure it out and make it work for us. So even this time around, we just made it all work and made it happen. It’s in our nature."
The thing is that over the last 20 years, you’ve realised that there aren’t any free passes for where you want to go. The blueprint is complicated, to begin with. And what that does for character and drive and perseverance is impossible to come by unless you’ve been through it, and they stick with you…
"It’s something you have to learn, and it’s where being in a band for a long time helps you. If the situation we found ourselves in this past year happened when we were younger, we probably would have just dissolved. But now we know how to roll with the punches, and pretty much everything under the sun has happened at some point to us. It’s all a big learning curve, and it never ends."
Within your emotional connection to the songs you created, what were the typical strands that kept on coming up as you realised what this album was about?
"I had decided in 2019 that I didn’t want to make a concept record this time around. I was tired of writing the stories because I’ve been doing them for so long. I still enjoy it, but I had reached a moment where I felt like it was almost expected of me. So this time, I just wanted to write. I would go out in the woods and write with no intention. After I got a bunch of lyrics, I put them to music, the conceptual person that I have become meant that I was naturally piecing things together. That’s where the idea of the writer came from, but that’s not strictly me. It’s a case that these have become the fans’ songs because once we are done working on this, it becomes yours. Then there are a lot of moments with apocalyptic scenarios that we still are about to happen at any moment. But essentially, this is just me letting everything I feel out, which is how I used to be."
When your band was always about the unexpected, remembering that there is no actual boundary or border to what you can do is something that you would never really expect to feel…
"And we are so lucky to be in a position like that. We’re so fortunate that our fans expect and want that from us because many bands don’t have that."
In terms of the time that has passed between these two ‘Colors’ releases, how does it feel to consider the position you are in now as the people you are now?
"I’m incredibly proud of us, and I’m not even really talking about that on a success level. Albums should be a capsule of a time, and being genuine is so important to me. So when I look back to anything we have done, it is so genuine at that moment. Even if things aren’t perfect to my ears now, I know it’s what we needed to write at those times. We’ve built up such a bond throughout those moments, and I’m so proud of what we have been able to do as this group. We’ve been playing one of the first songs we ever wrote on our recent tour, and it’s so crazy to think back to sitting in a shitty apartment playing guitar, and now we’re doing things we never thought we would. There are so many layers you can pull back and realise how special what you do is.”