“We need to reach people who have never heard of us” - Bury Tomorrow open up about life on a major label and new album Black Flame
Metallers Bury Tomorrow have enjoyed a steady rise over the course of their 12 years. They began life as a scrappy metalcore outfit in their native Southampton, initially signing to tiny metal label Basick Records for their debut LP Portraits, the band quickly established themselves as a firebrand live outfit and ones to watch.
They then signed to metal hothouse Nuclear Blast and would release three more albums, each more expansive, more powerful and more ambitious than the last. They built themselves a sizeable fanbase and each of their albums sold solidly. But now, it’s time to aim for something bigger.
For new album Black Flame, the band have upped sticks from Nuclear Blast and are now signed to Sony imprint Music For Nations. They’ve got a new team behind them and with their new album, they’re looking to step things up.
Their debut LP, Portraits, was produced by Dan Weller, who has since gone on to work with Enter Shikari, Young Guns and more. At the time, Weller was fresh out of his career with eccentric metal types Sikth, but now he’s an established producer and, in a nice piece of symmetry, he is now back behind the controls for Black Flame.
As the album arrives on shelves, we spoke to frontman Daniel Winter-Bates about wanting to expand the band’s audience, why their fans inspired the album and adjusting to life on a major label...
How did you want do things differently on Black Flame compared to the way you’ve written and recorded in the past?
“You’re always trying to push yourself. Each record you want to keep growing musically and lyrically, you want to reach more people. We wanted to hit a larger audience, whether that’s just within metal or people who have more mainstream tastes, just widen our reach. We also wanted to trim the fat and really hone in on what’s worked for us. We’re pushing the genre as far as we could.”
Did you try different things? Vary how you wrote the songs?
“We wrote in the same way we always have, working on the road, we want it to have that feel, but we really stepped things up in the studio. We spent a lot of time in pre-production, we ripped the songs apart and built them back up, it was a really brutal process. No song was good enough, everything got either re-written or scrapped completely.”
“We spent a lot more time on the vocals and melodies. Dan (Weller) allowed us to be much more invasive and more forensic. He did our first album with us and it was nice to bring him back, he’s improved so much as a producer and his input was brilliant to have.”
When did you decide he was the right man for the album?
“It was a weird one. We were bandying around names of producers. We thought about just getting an engineer and then sending it away. But we decided we didn’t want to send it away to mix and master, we wanted a person to be with us from beginning to end, to mix along the way. We’ve been a band for a long time now and we need to be comfortable, we need a mutual respect for a producer.”
“Dan had to be able to turn around and say ‘You need to do that again’ and we needed to feel comfortable enough to stand up and say something if we didn’t like the way things were going. He was one of the first names we came up, we knew this album would need a more involved producer and he was perfect.”
His back catalogue is pretty diverse, Young Guns, Enter Shikari, did that attract you to him?
“We’ve known him for a long time. He’s a friend as well as a producer and we’ve played shows together. We knew what he could do personally, he wasn’t just a name from someone else’s album.”
How did the songwriting go for this album? Did you write a lot and then pick the songs that would make it? Or did you focus on working on a more select few?
“We always write above and beyond. We knew this was going to be a short, direct record. Our last record Earthbound was 10 songs and I think people get a bit bored after that. We ended up writing three or four songs more than we needed. We’ve never been a band that writes 20 or 30 songs for an album and then culls them. You spend too long deciding and miss the real gold. We wanted it to be succinct and to the point.”
What kind of album is this in lyrical terms? Is there a theme tying the songs together?
“They’re all quite separate, but there is a shared undercurrent. It’s personal, there are anecdotes in there, there’s a song about losing a loved one, the environment we find ourselves in. I think it’s a relatable album. For us, the Black Flame is our fanbase, stories that our fans have told us and that’s influenced us. We’re all about connecting people, the spread of the flame.”
How are lyrics for you? Are you always writing or do you need the song to be in place before you start?
“I’m always writing. You have to be open all the time, sometimes I even write lyrics along to other bits of music I hear. I’m the catchline master, I’m always looking for catchy things, trying to find cadence and melody.”
When did you decide Black Flame was going to be the title? Was it there from the start?
“No, originally the album was going to be self-titled. It’s our fifth album and it feels like a defining record, but then I wrote ‘Black Flame’ and it really felt like it connected. This is the best title and the best we’ve ever sounded. As soon as I explained the theme of the song to the other guys, they were straight on it, it really fell into place.”
How’s your setlist looking for the upcoming tour? Will it lean heavily on Black Flame?
“It’s the worst part of being in a band, you know you’re going to be disappointing someone. We’ve released four singles off every album and now we’re on our fifth, that’s an entire set, before you’ve added a single new song. We want to push this album, so it’ll be heavy on Black Flame, but they’ll be some old ones in there too.”
Finally, this is your first album since leaving Nuclear Blast and signing for Music For Nations, how has the change been?
“We’re really amped up our reach. We didn’t leave Nuclear Blast because we hated the label and there’s no bad blood. It’s a purely business move. They’d have been happy with us staying with them forever. This feels like a defining record and we need this to take us to a level that’s impossible to get to on 90% of labels. We want to reach the world. We need something to push us over. We need to reach people who have never heard of us.”
“Sony and Music For Nations seemed to be the perfect way to do that. So far they’ve proved us right, our new singles have reached places we never have before and we’re being put in front of brand new people. Gone are the days when major labels interfere with a band’s sound. We wouldn’t allow that. We wouldn’t accept them telling us how to write better songs or how to make more money, that’s not why we’re in this. We’re grateful for the opportunity, but also for not interfering.”