Interview with Thomas Giles of Between The Buried And Me: Vital Signs

Between The Buried And Me is known throughout the metal world for being uncompromising in their creativity and unlimited in their imagination. They are prolific writers and their arrangements are unpredictable, so it should surprise no one that vocalist Thomas Giles used his time off after the last BTBAM tour to finish writing another album. This one, however, has his own name on it.

Pulse is a fascinating, multicolored amalgamation of acoustic, electronic and progressive music, distinctly different from Between The Buried And Me. The product of around three years of work, some of the songs were written years apart from one another, yet the album has the coherence and flow of a concept record.

Overall, it is a subdued-sounding release. Though some of the electronic tracks are a bass-drop away from fitting in at a dance club, they more closely resemble the meditative aspects of Nine Inch Nails than the catharsis of Daft Punk. Giles showcases his vocal talents the whole way through, with the emphasis on his ever-improving singing.

He checked in to talk about the rhythm of Pulse, as well as the upcoming shows in support of it, and recent activities of BTBAM.

When did Pulse start coming together?

I guess the oldest song is probably two or three years old. Basically, when I’m home I try to write a lot, in general. For Between The Buried And Me and whatever else. I don’t know. I just started collecting these songs that felt like they could be something else. When the time was right, I started working more and more on it, got the record complete and went in the studio and that was that.

It was one of those things that I didn’t know if it was ever gonna actually happen. It was kind of in the back of my mind and I kept it to myself until it was actually finished. I didn’t even really announce that I was doing it until I completed the recording. I did that on purpose, just in case there were any snags while writing or recording. That way I would have time to get it exactly how I wanted it.

So, you wrote the songs with the intention of doing something different from Between The Buried And Me?

Yeah, you know, they were full songs that were a lot different from what Between The Buried And Me does. It was just one of those things that I was like, ‘These songs sound good together. Maybe I could do a record with it?’ It just slowly went from there.

I had a few acoustic songs written that I knew would be a nice little change for the record; I used some of those. It was just a lot of brainstorming for years and I finally had a window to actually make it happen. So I’m really glad I did it. It was a fun experience in the studio, getting these songs together and I’m very happy with how the record came out.

I think it’s amazing that you have electronic tracks side by side with acoustic ones. It all flows really well. Was that something you labored over?

Yes, exactly. That was probably the hardest part about the record. I had all these songs and I knew some of them were very different from each other, but I like music like that. Even with Between The Buried And Me it’s sort of like that. We try to take people on different journeys. I wanted it to still feel like an album, even though the songs were very different from each other. It took a while. I had to write some extra stuff and rearrange some stuff to make things fit better. Even though there are some drastic genre jumps, I feel like they are in the right spot at the right time on the record.

There’s a motif of the beating heart on a couple tracks, with the bass drum—that’s how I interpreted it, anyway. Did that come up after you named the album?

No, it was kinda natural. I named the record because a lot of the lyrics are very personal and I felt like there was a pulse to a lot of the songs. It just felt right. Even one of the songs, “Suspend The Death Watch,” the beat in that song is from an actual heartbeat. So, there’s definitely a theme there.

I was kinda surprised to hear that you were going to be doing some of the stuff live. There are a lot of loops and layers to it.

I’ve been actually working on that a lot here lately. I’m getting a band with me. I have three other guys with me.

Anyone from BTBAM?

Paul [Waggoner], our guitarist, is going to be playing with me. And, actually, Between The Buried And Me’s first drummer [Wil Goodyear] is gonna be playing, and the guitarist from the band Hopesfall is going to be playing bass and I’m playing guitar and keyboards and singing.

Some of the songs I’m going to rearrange a little bit. Like the song “Catch & Release” is mainly electronic on the record, but I made it so it’s all guitar, bass and live drums. So I’m gonna do some stuff like that to make the songs a little different. There’s gonna be some cool little changes here and there that I’m excited about. It’ll be fun to kind of switch up the songs a little bit live.

It’s coming together well. After the record was done, I was like, “I wonder if I’m ever gonna play a show?” And now that it’s happening, I’m really excited about it for sure.

Is it a full tour?

I’m just doing five days on the East Coast. Just to test the waters and see how it goes. See how the reaction is. It should be fun.

You feel like you’re putting yourself out there in a different way?

Yeah, I’m used to playing metal every night. I’ll be out of my comfort zone, for sure.

Were they aware that you were working on a solo thing?

Yeah, I played them some stuff here and there. When I had some songs written I’d play it for them. See what they think. We’re all very open with all of us doing whatever. Dan, our bassist, he’s in another band. Our guitarist and our drummer are in another band as well. It’s one of those things that we all know that our head is 100 percent with Between The Buried And Me, regardless of whatever else we do. That’s always priority number one.

We’re all very supportive of each of us trying new things. I think that’s awesome. I think a lot of bands don’t have that freedom, you know? There’s definitely a lot of freedom in our band—even when it comes to our own writing.

BTBAM just signed to Metal Blade, was that going down while you were recording?

We were talking to a lot of labels. We were out of our Victory contract. At that point, when I was recording—like I said, I didn’t even tell anybody I was doing this till after I was done with it. When I was done with it, I told all the labels we were talking to and Metal Blade was interested in [Pulse], as well. Things lead to one another and they wanted to put it out, and I was very into it. They decided to release it and fairly shortly after that we all decided that that was right for Between The Buried And Me, as well.

So Pulse came before the signing of the band?


What’s the reaction to Pulse from the band?

Oh, they’re awesome about it. They seem to enjoy it. It’s like I said earlier, I think we’re all very open for us to do different things and we’re all very supportive of everything we do. It makes me feel good. It’s awesome when the people you’ve been playing music with for years and years support something you’re doing. And I’m very stoked that Paul is doing the tour with me. I’ve been playing on stage with him for almost 12 or 13 years now. That level of comfort is always nice, to have him with me.

Between The Buried And Me just released like half of one of the new songs. Why only that part?

[Laughs] I think the label just didn’t want to give too much away. It’s only three songs, so we didn’t want to let you hear a third of the record already. I think, you know, we want to get people excited and give them a little taste. I think that was kinda the motive behind that.

How come BTBAM only did an EP [The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues] this time?

It’s a two-part record. We’re doing the EP and then a full-length. It’s just something new. We thought it would be a cool way to make a concept record… We knew that if we did an EP we could get something out fairly quick, just keep our name out there. Get people excited about a full-length.

It’s 30 minutes long, that’s almost a full-length.

Yeah, there’s a lot of bands with full-lengths that long. I’m really happy with it and I think it’s going to get people really excited about where we’re going with our music and the plans we have ahead of us.

Do you have the full-length written?

No, not yet. We’ve started a little bit. We’ll hopefully get it done this year and hopefully get it out next year. That’s a loose goal that we have right now.

We’re gonna start touring full-time next month.

Thomas Giles will be performing material from Pulse on April 1 at the North Star Bar in Philly and April 2 at Santos Party House in NYC. Pulse is available now via Metal Blade Records. Between The Buried And Me’s The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues, will become available on April 12.