"I'm just looking for a sign." Keith Buckley, vocalist for establish metalcore act Every Time I Die, is a composed character, having fronted one of the most beloved metal acts of the past 16 years. He's conducted symphonies of straight-edge moshers meeting in the pit with hardcore veterans and beer-swilling stage divers, from the festival circuit to tightly packed Japanese bars.
So it's interesting that when asked about the next direction for such a storied, hard-to-categorize act, Buckley's aware of an uncertain future. It's safe to say, however, that whatever approach Every Time I Die has taken thus far has worked.
They're an exercise in dynamics, melding neck-snapping time signature changes with lyrics that can border on the intensely academic. Like their contemporaries in difference Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge, Every Time I Die's unclassifiable nature is itself their classification. It's why they can take the stage alongside acts like Fall Out Boy and Warped Tour newcomers to heavyweights like Terror and Chelsea Grin on this month's All Stars Tour.
"There is really something that we make very available and comfortable for both sides of the spectrum, for the tailgaters that are drinking since noon for an Every Time I Die show to the people that are studying English or philosophy," Buckley says. "I'm blessed in the fact that sometimes one message comes out, sometimes another comes out and they both play well off each other."
A defining element of the Every Time I Die aesthetic is the band's humor, found in everything from behind-the-scenes DVDs to stage banter. After 16 years in a genre that violently shifts themes from decade to decade, humor has been a common thread that's now intrinsic to Every Time I Die's approach. Keeping things light is just as important as staying heavy.
"I'm really trying to revert to being playful again, because I never got to do that, really," Buckley says. "Now that I'm up here, at 33, it's like, well, fuck, there's still going to be a playful element to it that I've never reveled in before."
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Playfulness is juxtaposed against consciousness in Buckley's work -- they've explored themes of philosophy and infinite regress, all while making Nietzsche and Shakespearean references. The messages are just as weighted as the music itself, even if they're not a conscious effort on Buckley's behalf.
"For some reason, when I'm writing a song and I'm in the mood to say something important," he says, "I think it's kind of cool that it gets snuck in there. The more [people] listen, the more they realize they might eventually start seeing the song a little different, and so happens if you look at anything long enough."
For that reason, Every Time I Die fans can grow with their music. Unlike metal bands that tailor their sound to whatever's most fashionable at the moment, Every Time I Die's initial outsider position has become their greatest asset, assigning an insatiable cult status to those in the know and intriguing to those outside of it. Whatever you call them, Buckley's firmly rooted in what has made the band a mainstay.
"I think it's our willingness to be able to fluctuate with the time," he says. "[We] kind of keep centered in what we believe in what music should be, and just kind of change everything else around that."
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Every Time I Die is scheduled to headline the All Stars Tour tonight.