Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley on Harrowing Events Behind 'Low Teens' | Revolver

Every Time I Die's Keith Buckley on Harrowing Events Behind 'Low Teens'

Singer poured life-altering experience of almost losing his wife and child into latest album
EveryTimeIDie2016Halling, Josh Halling
photograph by Josh Halling

Keith Buckley is in Las Vegas enjoying a well-deserved day off from Warped Tour, and he's getting ready to party. "You know what they say: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas," the Every Time I Die frontman laughs. "So I'm gonna test the limits of that. I just bought a bag of Funyuns."

Funyuns will be the full extent of Buckley's wild night in Vegas. He quit drinking five months ago—and he doesn't gamble, either.  "Gambling isn't a matter of how much I could win, but how much I'm willing to lose," he points out. "And right now I'm not willing to lose anything."

Buckley came terrifyingly close to a devastating loss last year when his wife—seven months pregnant at the time—suffered a sudden and severe complication that threatened her life and that of the couple's unborn child. Luckily, both mother and daughter survived, but the scare shook Buckley enough to give up booze and reevaluate his life. He then poured the fear and helplessness of the experience into Every Time I Die's eighth and latest album, Low Teens. It's the band's first with new drummer Daniel Davison, formerly of Norma Jean and Underoath. The rest of the lineup from 2014's critically-acclaimed From Parts Unknown—Buckley, guitarist Andy Williams, bassist Steve Micciche and guitarist Jordan Buckley (Keith's brother)—remains intact.

REVOLVER Your new album is called Low Teens, which is a reference to the freezing temperatures in your hometown of Buffalo, New York. Your brother Jordan moved to Southern California a few years ago—have you ever been tempted to move away from the cold?
No, I really haven't. I think the ice is in my blood. I like the winter, and I think it brings out a certain part of your personality that makes you a little more resilient and tougher-skinned. It kinda keeps you humble and reminds you that there are some difficult things you have to deal with on a daily basis, and when you face those things it makes you a better person.

Speaking of difficulties, you had a big scare with your wife's pregnancy last year.
I learned more in that one night than in the previous 36 years I was alive. The worst part was dealing with these insane and vivid images of the what-ifs: What if my wife dies and the baby survives? Who helps me raise the baby? What if the baby dies? How does that affect our relationship? I had to envision these things because they were real possibilities. It was difficult, but it was fortifying as far as your soul goes, and it all went into the record. 

The song 'Petal' seems like the one in which you address that situation the most.
Yeah. If each song on the record is a phase of that night, that song is the phone call I got when I was told that I had to come home. That was me dealing with everything on the car ride. I was just floating in space. There was nothing for me to hold on to—no depth, no meaning—no nothing. I've never experienced that kind of helplessness in my life. But I can't deny that every song on the record is about what happened. There was so much going on that I could've written a hundred records about it.

Are your wife and daughter doing well now?
They're doing miraculously well. When my wife, Lindsay, finally got the clearance to leave the hospital, the doctor said that her recovery was so miraculous that she should be in medical textbooks. The rare syndrome she had was fatal, and if it doesn't kill you it definitely weakens you. But she had no lasting effects—it was like it never happened. So not only was the situation rare, the recovery was rare. I believe there was something almost supernatural about it, which is difficult for me to say because I know it makes me sound crazy.

You stopped drinking recently. Was that a direct result of what happened?
Yeah. When everything was happening, I knew that I could just go to the bar and slip out of the horribleness for a minute, you know? But the whole thing started with an unexpected phone call, and if the phone ever rang when I was drunk, I couldn't afford to not be there. So I stopped drinking. I don't know if I like myself any better yet [laughs], but the record was written sober so I guess that's a good thing.

Drummer Ryan 'Legs' Leger left Every Time I Die last year to spend more time with his family. Was his departure a surprise?
When people invoke their children as a reason for something, you can't question it. It wasn't preferable at the moment it happened, but we had to accept it and deal with it and that's fine. What's strange is that he told us on tour, and then a few shows later Daniel Davison came to hang out and we just asked, 'Do you wanna play drums with us?' He said sure, and that was it. [Laughs] We didn't even have time to mourn Legs, so it was very serendipitous.

How did you know Daniel was your guy?
When we lost our first drummer [Mike "Ratboy" Novak], the discussion we had was that we couldn't move laterally. We had to get someone who was a step forward. If the new drummer doesn't take the band to another level, we gotta call it quits. So we got Legs and it was great. But when Legs left, Daniel was really the only guy we all agreed on as far as drummers that could take us to the next level—and that was before we even talked to him about it. We basically said, 'If Daniel will do it, we'll do it.' And that's exactly what happened just a few days later.

Your first novel, Scale, was published last year. I understand the book has taken on a different meaning for you since it came out.
I was actually getting ready to go to my book release event in Toronto when I got the call that everything was happening with my wife. So my daughter came into the world the same night as my book did. There were a lot of emotions going on that day. It was this crescendo of lifetime dreams—I've wanted to write a book since I was 11 years old—and then all of a sudden it didn't matter anymore. Couldn't matter less to me, you know? I've had a book out as long as my child has been alive, but it's the child I've been focusing on. I guess I should be working harder to promote the book, though [laughs].