Every Time I Die had just come off this summer's Warped Tour and were three weeks away from the launch of a Canadian trek when bassist Chris Byrnes informed the group's four founding members that he was out.
Just as the Buffalo, New York, metalcore crew was about to take the stage for August 19's 10th annual Dirtfest in Birch Run, Michigan, Byrnes broke the news that it would be his final performance with Every Time I Die. But frankly, the guys weren't at all shocked. When it's happened four times before, the fifth is sort of a breeze.
"Our bass players are like Spinal Tap's drummers: They just spontaneously combust," joked guitarist Jordan Buckley. "We had gone over a year with the same bass player, and that just doesn't happen in our band. If he didn't quit, we probably would have killed him and eaten him."
"This time, we're not going to give him that $1 million signing bonus like we did with the last guy," said Jordan's brother, frontman Keith Buckley, of their latest hire, the Chariot's former bassist Keller Harbin (making a reference to Metallica's Robert Trujillo, whose bonus was documented in "Some Kind of Monster").
"But we do cry every night," added guitarist Andrew Williams, "because we really want a permanent fifth member."
Keith Buckley said Byrnes' decision to quit came down to money: While the core of Every Time I Die resides in Buffalo, the ex-bassist lives in much-less-affordable New York City. "He really couldn't afford it on our touring schedule and salary," he said. But Byrnes will still be involved with the band to some degree, just in a different capacity. He now works at Entertainment Services Unlimited, the New Jersey management firm that has Lamb of God, Atreyu, From First to Last, Breaking Benjamin, Norma Jean — and yes, Every Time I Die — on its roster.
But ETID is not going to let a little thing like their ritualistic replacement of bassists slow them down. This fall, starting October 6 in San Diego, the boys will be hitting the road with Atreyu, From First to Last and Chiodos. Following that run, which wraps in late November, the Buffalo soldiers will start writing the follow-up to 2005's Gutter Phenomenon, which they hope to have ready for release next summer.
And on Halloween, the band's new DVD, "Sh-- Happens," will hit stores. Williams describes it as a "crapilation of the last nine years of our band, compiled into the crappiest DVD ever." His bandmates have a slightly sunnier view of their latest video, for Phenomenon's "The New Black." The clip was directed by Dan Rush (Lamb of God, Theory of a Deadman) and is making a huge impact even though Jordan joked, "We're going to have to CGI Keller into the new video, because Chris has such a kick-ass part in it."
In the video, which is set in the 1970s and features the bandmembers in fake mustaches, leather pants and even Speedos, frontman Buckley plays a potential lead singer for a label-concocted rock band. "But I show up in snakeskin pants at a meet-and-greet party," he said. "I show up just really pretentious, and they embarrass me as the video goes along until I'm just out of it and I don't even know how to be cool anymore." That all changes when Williams "kisses me on the forehead, and I'm gifted with these powers of dance."
"He has such an awesome sense of humor," Keith Buckley said of Rush. "Normally, with a director, we can say, 'We think this is funny, so let's put it in the video,' and they go, 'Cool, let's do it,' and it ends up being kind of funny. But Dan would say, 'That's not funny enough,' and shoot us down. We had a verbal toss-about, and we came up with some amazing ideas for this video."
Surely some of the video's success can be attributed to the fans the band made on Warped this summer. The band said it was one of the best touring experiences they've ever had, and would return to do the fest again, if asked.
"We have done every major punk/metal/hardcore summer tour," explained Williams. "At Ozzfest, it was maybe 30 drunk dudes at the end of the day who'd be like, 'Oh, that one band that played after so-and-so was awesome.' It really didn't do anything for us. Sounds of the Underground was just us playing for the same kids we've been playing to for the last eight years.
"But Warped, you're playing in front of thousands of people that have never heard you — to kids who are used to My Chemical Romance and Fall Out Boy," he continued. "And then you have [us], these jerks running around onstage, and they haven't seen anything like us. It was a shock to the system for them, and we started picking up fans."
As the tour carried on, the crowds got bigger and bigger — from 300 bored kids waiting in line at the fried-dough stand to 6,000 recklessly moshing crazies.
"We've played so many tours where we just went over everyone's heads, but we converted a lot of psyched kids," said Jordan Buckley. "It was really awesome for me, because I remember going to the first Warped and just being so psyched to see one band. So, when I see a kid who's psyched to see us, I remembered being that kid, and it's rewarding."