Bury Your Dead – Mat Bruso (vocals)
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Vocalist Mat Bruso has returned to Bury Your Dead, in a move that had long-time fans salivating all over their copies of Cover Your Tracks. The band had been meddling in a metalcore sound for a few years, but Mosh ?N? Roll is back to the hardcore direction their first few releases headed in. Breakdowns, vicious vocals, and plenty of odes to author Kurt Vonnegut. It?s the type of album that many have been waiting for since 2006, and the band doesn?t disappoint in writing songs meant to cause a violent reaction. I had the chance to speak to Bruso about why he returned to Bury Your Dead, going back to touring, and the balance of a full-time job with the duties of the band.
Dan Marsicano: After almost four years away, why did now seem like an appropriate time to return to Bury Your Dead?
Mat Bruso: When I left the band four years ago, I left because I wanted to be a teacher. I still do want to be a teacher, and I am a teacher. Basically, I had so much school and work to do that I really couldn?t do both. Now I?m at a place where I don?t have as much school to do. I got a job I think is pretty secure. I have the time and attention I need to devote to a project like Bury Your Dead. To be honest, the timing was just good. The only reason I?m back is because they asked me if I wanted to be back. That?s pretty much the main reason (laughs).
A lot of fans are considering this a new era for the band, a rebirth. Many weren?t really too pleased with the last two albums. How do you personally feel about the material that the band made while you were gone?
When I first heard it…I said, ?Great music, great band, but it just doesn?t sound like Bury Your Dead.? I kept listening to it and got more feedback about the shows and this and that. I realized that was kind of a pompous thing for me to say. I don?t know if people would agree with me or not, but it doesn?t make any sense for anyone to say what is and what isn?t Bury Your Dead. I wasn?t willing to tour anymore, and Myke Terry was. Myke Terry continued to bring shows and high energy around the country and the material that they recorded continued to stay heavy and high energy. My first impression was that it was great, but it didn?t sound like Bury Your Dead. Then it occurred to me that it did sound like Bury Your Dead, because that?s what Bury Your Dead was. As far as the new stuff goes, it?s definitely a little bit different than the last two records. I think it fits comfortably between Cover Your Tracks and Beauty and the Breakdown. It?s definitely super aggressive and does not have clean vocals.
When you rejoined the band and went into the studio to record this record, did you feel any pressure on yourself to live up to Cover Your Tracks and Beauty and the Breakdown?
I don?t know if I felt pressure trying to live up to those two records as far as me not being able to do that. Most of the pressure from me was coming from whether or not I could do it. I don?t know. That?s a good question. I guess I could feel some pressure, but I wasn?t worried about being able to live up to those first two records. I was more worried about whether or not my lyrics would be interesting. I?ve done two records with the theme of family and forgiveness. I hadn?t been on tour in four years, so I didn?t have any resentment about living on the road. I think I?m quite happy with what I came up with.
What type of statement do you think the band wanted to make with Mosh ?N? Roll?
Definitely that we are back, whether it?s be that I?m back because I was gone for four or five years, or that Bury Your Dead is back, because they were on hiatus for a year. It?s not lost on these other guys that there was a change in the sound the last two albums. A lot of people fucking loved it. They continued to play show and continued to enjoy success, so it?s not like they fell off the face of the planet. This new stuff is just so energetic and it?s all been written to play live. The new songs hit so hard and chug so slow. They were definitely written to be played live.
When you rejoined the band, how was it to sit around and write songs with the other members? Was it organic or was there a feeling-out period?
We did it the same way that I?ve always done it, though I can?t speak for the last two records. Previous to this, they write all the songs before I ever hear them. Slim (guitarist) and Mark (Castillo, former drummer) have been playing music together since they were born, I?m pretty sure. They just sit and write records. They don?t take a lot of input from other people. They have a certain goal in mind. They had written and started to record pretty much the whole record long before they had asked me if I wanted to be back.
With my return, I made a couple of contributions. I like being able to hear the songs and have the songs inspire the words that I write. I?m not a poet who needs to sit around and write words just to get by. I like hearing music and being like, ?Oh, that?s what this song is song and that?s what that song is saying.? It was just like it used to be, because I wasn?t that involved, just like I?m usually not, if that makes any sense.
When you first heard the music to this album, what was your reaction? Was it exactly what you expected Bury Your Dead to sound like or was it a little bit heavier than expected?
When I first heard this record, I had a couple of reactions. There were a few songs where I was just blown away. I was like, ?I can?t wait to play this song live. I don?t have a single word written for it yet, but it?s already one of my favorite songs.? There were other songs where I was like, ?Wow, this song is way too long. I have no idea what I?m supposed to write to make this song interesting.? My reaction to it was like anybody would react to any record they get from a band that they really love. You hear some songs and they are total hits and you hear other ones and you?re like, ?I don?t really even know what they were trying to do with this one, but that?s okay because I?ll just skip to the next one.? I went into the studio and I was like, ?I think we should work on this one. This one is perfect.?
With your varying reactions to some of the songs, where there any songs that were left behind or left to the side?
No, not really. They were all Bury Your Dead songs. They definitely didn?t do anything wildly experimental. Basically, the ones that needed some work just got worked on. They are all structured in a way that makes it easy to apply lyrics to. One of my favorite parts about writing the record was trying to write lyrics in patterns that weren?t so obvious. They were put in a way that suggested certain patterns and I try to break those patterns. We were doing a lot of stuff, as far as writing lyric patterns that made the songs vibe a different way or be able to translate parts from one song into another. I?m pretty sure that nothing that I heard hit the cutting room floor, but at the same time, I wasn?t there for a lot of the process. Previous to my hearing, who knows how much they threw away.
When it came to the vocals, since you had been gone for a few years, was there any time it took for you to get your voice back or was it immediate?
Actually, it?s kind of funny. In my absence from Bury Your Dead, I did guest vocals for a couple of bands: Four Year Strong and The Ghost Inside. Those CDs, I went into a studio and got behind a microphone, and I was pretty much able to do it, no problem. A couple of takes, as they were very short parts. I was feeling pretty good. I was like, ?Oh cool. I don?t have a lot of rust.? For the Bury Your Dead record, I continued to teach middle school full-time while we were recording it.
I got into the studio and the first day I was there, I recorded two songs. I went home and I was pretty happy with myself and I?m patting myself on the back. Next time I went into the studio the next weekend, we were listening to them and I was like, ?Wow, I sound like crap. I don?t have any range in my voice. There?s no texture in it. It?s very boring, it?s flat.? They were like, ?That?s okay. We?ll just do it again.? We went back and forth the next couple of weekends before we recorded anything that actually stayed on the record. I would like to say I was able to go in there and hit straight home runs, but unfortunately, that?s not how screaming works.
The lyrics in the past have been based around concepts. Cover Your Tracks had Tom Cruise films and Beauty and the Breakdowns had the fairy tales. Does Mosh ?N? Roll have any type of big concept behind it? I noticed there?s a lot of anger behind it. Is that a theme or is there one that?s hidden underneath?
The Tom Cruise theme and the fairy tale theme really only applied to the titles of the songs. They didn?t really contribute to the lyrical concepts of the songs, and that?s the same for this record. The lyrical content is super bitter and super angry. Lyrically, I?m more proud of this record than I am any other, but as far as the theme goes, there?s a theme to the title of the songs, just like the last two I did. All the song titles are named after Kurt Vonnegut novels. He?s my favorite author of all time. I think, in my opinion, the best American author of all time. It?s just a tribute to him, as far as the titles go, but the song content is not inspired by him.
Tell me what it was like to return to the stage with Bury Your Dead on the first show back. What were you feeling? What kind of emotions did you have?
The first show that we did back was the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival, which was in my hometown. It was a perfect, full-circle kind of moment. It was really unbelievable. As a matter of fact, that Metal and Hardcore Festival, four or five years previous, was supposed to be my last show. It didn?t go that way, so it was kind of a cool, poetic way for me to return, whether people knew the story or not.
Going onto the main stage and looking out at a place I?ve played a dozen times before, it was exciting to come back. Doing our soundcheck that morning and having people hanging out in the venue intentionally just to see if I could still hang or just there to get excited about the upcoming show. It was really cool. As far as actually getting on stage, it was mind blowing how excited people were. We played one of the most memorable sets that I?ve ever played. Everybody on the floor went crazy.
A few songs into it, I was totally out of breath and realized how fat I had gotten and had absolutely no idea what I was going to do for the rest of the show. It was pretty punishing after that actually (laughs). It was very humbling to realize it?s not the kind of thing you can just pick up and do whenever you want if you totally let yourself go, like I did. It was really unbelievable, exactly how a perfect storybook would be, except in the fairy tale, no one ever gets tired like I did (laughs). We finished the show and I literally laid on the sidewalk for like 12 minutes. It was awesome.
How many shows do you think it took you to be able to get used to on tour and playing on stage?
It sounds kind of dumb, but luckily on this tour, it took me zero more shows for me to get into the groove, as far as being able to go the whole time. The venues are smaller. The main stages of the Palladium are big stages. I?m not the biggest guy, so I try to fill the whole thing. I really want to make sure I reach every corner of the venue. I want to see and connect with literally every person that is there. Maybe 3,500 people was too many to start with. The next show, we played in England, and the show after that started the Over The Limit tour. It was in Poughkeepsie, NY and 200 kids showed up. A small stage, where everybody could just jump off, and come up and sing the words with me. As far as the interaction and the high energy, I just needed a smaller space to try to fill it.
Do you think the Bury Your Dead music is better suited for a smaller audience than a bigger stage?
That?s one of the things I really love about Bury Your Dead is…that we definitely love playing in small venues. 300 kids, 1,000 kids, a stage with just a vocal PA or a legit sound system, we try to make the most out of everything we play and make sure everybody in the club has a good time. We?ve played some shows on this tour with just a couple hundred kids. We played shows on this tour with a 1,000-plus and every one of them is violent and fun. We play ?The Color of Money? and it takes eight years off my life.
It?s been the best experience, but at the same time in the past, it seems to translate pretty well in the bigger tours. Ozzfest and The Family Values and the bigger club tours with Killswitch Engage and bands like that. The energy kind of translates over large audiences well. It?s just a matter of if my body can handle it (laughs). The only way to convey that energy is to bring it out to them and brining energy out to 300 kids is a lot different than energy to 10,000.
With your job as a teacher, will that affect how tour dates are scheduled once this tour is done?
Absolutely. I go back to teaching at the end of this tour. Teaching is definitely remaining a priority for me. Whenever we got time off, I?m going to try to fill it with shows. We?re already trying to schedule stuff for Christmas break and spring break. Next summer, we?re going to play again. Our touring schedule is not going to be like it used to be, where we played everyone?s hometown for two months. It?s going to be a little bit more sporadic than that, but it?s going to be as consistent as we can make it.
Will that play into effect with future albums as well?
Like I said, just based on our style of writing music, I don?t think it?s going to affect it too greatly. It?s not like I need be only available for the writing process. I can?t predict how things are going to go, but I would assume things are going to run pretty much the same. Teaching is a great job. I get out at 2:30 everyday. I love the time that I spend at school, but it also allows me to have a large amount of time outside of my job.
If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Four or five years ago, the answer to that question would had been instant for me. I always wanted to tour with Papa Roach. I know that?s not the biggest band ever and they?re not the exact same genre we are, but I always liked their energy. I always thought that they wrote interesting songs and their vocal patterns are always really cool. I still really like that band.
Now, easy answer. Pantera, done deal. They are just the most ridiculously heavy band. A lot of what Bury Your Dead does, as far as breakdowns and the way that bands in our genre play guitar, has a lot to do with things that Pantera has done. They were the most entertaining band on stage ever. If I had to choose past or present, it would be Pantera, done deal.