Between The Buried and Me / The Contortionist : Double Progression

Can You Contort Into A Coffee Mug?

Between The Buried and Me have strong roots in Australia and have made several connections with the wildlife; the band continue to bring a certain veracity to progressive metal encompassing methods renowned the genre over. The band are shortly to tour Australia and are bringing with them like minded technical prog fiends The Contortionist. Metal As Fuck caught up with both Dan Briggs (BTBaM) and Mike Lessard (The Contortionist) to chat about the tour, coffee mugs and change…

"Hi Carrie, the number showed up as blocked and I’d lost complete concept of time, I’m sorry [Laughs] I often do the same with blocked numbers. So how are things?"

I’m not feeling as Metal As Fuck as maybe I should, but I’m good. I understand you guys are currently on a US tour at the moment, how’s it all going? "Yeah it’s going really well, it’s just wrapping up, we are in the final week and a half with it, we have been playing the latest record, as we will be when we tour Australia".

Now you’ve been playing the latest album; Parallax II - how has the album been received over the past 12 months by fans? “It’s been great and interesting to see, like, going from playing one song before the record was released to playing it now in its entirety, just seeing over time, watching people slowly getting into, to now, everyone knows what they’re getting into now when they come through the doors and it’s great to see”. Playing the entire album from start to finish is a very ambitious act, any planned breaks during the set? “Basically if you were to play it over the CD player – that’s what it is, we wrote it to be a very cohesive piece, so that’s what’s going to happen [Laughs] unless some crazy meltdown happens”

The band previously mentioned that some of the older songs aren’t favoured due to the fact that they have been played a million times – is playing the entirety of Parallax II to combat against this? “Well *raspberries* we’re very grateful, a band as they get older though, they are always more excited about their newer material, but that doesn’t always necessarily hold true to their fan base, we have been very thankful that our fans kind of have gone along with us through all the changes and every time we put something out it just seems they are just as rabid about it as they were to our past albums which is just incredible because we definitely don’t want to play anything old [Laughs] I often think about older songs and think wow, we’re just not there anymore. The context of the music and the fact that so many things have changed and will continue to change. We’ll do one old song I guess [Laughs] we’ll do one for Australia, I mean we’ve been going to Australia for years and a lot of our fans there have heard a lot of the old stuff so this is the one time to see the new album in full”.

It is sometimes very hard to get the fans to move on from a particular album or song. The music of the band I find, is very unpredictable; some call you the scientists, the philosophers – trying to pinpoint the band to a particular genre is always a journo’s worst nightmare; having so many styles infused, what issues if any do the band have to address? “The storyline is always something to concentrate on; when using a conceptual piece it’s really essential to make sure that people can relate to, have an emotional connection with; like Dark Side of The Moon – that album is continuously eaten up by fans, as there are a lot of ideas presented that effect everyone”.

The band has mentioned that this album has gotten more of a flow to it – something that the band thought past albums had missed out on “We had a record in 2007 called Colors, which was conceptual musically but lyrically it wasn’t, so this was the first time writing a full on piece which was connected both musically and lyrically it’s my favourite way to write a record” This will be the way you’ll write a record from now on? “I don’t know, it’s hard to say, I’m sure we’ll change up the format here and there – a lot of my favourite albums are concept records, but not all of them. I feel we’re still so far off from writing another record, just not there yet. The new record has been out for a year but we’ve only just started to play it – so the plan is to go see the world right now”.

The first show kicks off in Brisbane – any fond memories of past Australian tours? “We did the things that you do when you go there [Laughs] we went to the Koala Sanctuary that was amazing, it was a very magical experience, connecting with the Koala one on one. We love coming to Australia, some of our best friends live in Australia, we are so thankful to be so well received there, it’s going to be a great tour”.

Thoughts also expressed by The Contortionist’ new front man Mike Lessard; the band are hitting Australia shortly for the first time with BTBaM, although you are no strangers to touring, are you currently still on the road with The Faceless? “We have three shows left, we have been out for at least thirty one shows on this run then a few weeks off before we head over to Australia”. What is the draw card to a live show of The Contortionist? “It’s usually a pretty good time…..” You need to start practicing contorting into a coffee mug! I scream “Yeah [Laughs] I think we should introduce that into a live show, it could totally work, if I start practicing now I might be able to have it ready by the time we land”

Regardless of being the newbie to the ranks, you would have to agree about the efforts given by the band in the last six years “Absolutely, they have been working very, very hard”.

What drew you into joining the band? What was it about The Contortionist that had you saying yes please? “Well I’ve known they guys for about three years now, my other band has actually toured with them and we actually share the same manager, we’ve always been friends, so basically what happened when their singer left, they called me and asked if I could fill in so I learned the set on a weeks’ notice, went out on tour with them for two months and that’s when they held auditions for the new vocalist, but things just happened to line up where I could take the gig, they were still interested in having me onboard and the rest is history”.

The departure of Jonathan Carpenter is definitely the hot news topic for the band this year, now you are officially the new vocalist; what were the band looking for in a replacement? “Somebody that they thought could obviously fill the shoes of Jonathan, but also someone that brought their own spunk, not a vocalist who would simply mimic to the tee, so I mean hopefully they feel like they found that in me.” [Laughs] Well the rumour mill has it that the move is a win-win and the fans have been very supportive of the change, fans aren’t generally supportive of change but in this case they are embracing it with open arms. [Laughs] “Yeah it’s very surprising how good the feedback has been so far, I’m really thankful for it”. So is contorting into a coffee mug a prerequisite or an initiation to the band? “Luckily it isn’t one or I would fail miserably because I’m not that flexible [Laughs] I would fail horribly at that”.

The popularity of music both for Between The Buried & Me and The Contortionist is very much held by guitarists – very much bands for musicians, do you find the floor mainly filled with guitarists? “Yeah I would say that it’s mainly guitarists, I think because it’s a more accessible instrument. I’ve always found more guitarists than piano players for instance; the guitar is a more accepted instrument for whatever reason that is”.

That reminds me, what is happening with the keys? “We are still sorting out exactly how we are going about that but we have a few different ideas, we will have keyboards on the next album whether that be somebody in the band playing or getting another member to play the  keyboards not too sure yet”.

For the band, Exoplanet received a wealth of success as the band’s debut album – what discussions have been held for the bands next release, any plans as yet? “We have already started writing and I don’t think there is any real expectation at the moment, I think right now we are naturally just trying to see where it goes and then as it progresses we’ll try to put more limitations on it and mould it into what we want. I think the beauty of it right now is that we don’t have any expectations”. Will you be writing the lyrics? “Yep! I’ll be writing all the lyrics, we’ve all been writing music also, so it’s a full band effort”.  The band have quite an evolution in front of them, many years to clock up which is exciting – the world stage is now at the doorstep of The Contortionist, what are your expectations right now? “You know, honestly, as long as there are people who enjoy the music and keep listening – I will keep playing, that’s all I really ever hoped for – the rest is up in the air, I just hope for the best”.