Forming side projects generally has a member of a band seeking musical fulfillment in some way outside of what he or she might do at their 'day band', if you will. For Dan Briggs, bassist of Between the Buried and Me, an interest in jazz-fusion and perhaps an affinity for Frank Zappa brought him, Walter Fancourt (tenor sax/flute) and Matt Lynch (drums) together for what they're calling Trioscapes. With their debut record Separate Realities hitting the streets via Metal Blade on May 8, Briggs gave us a bit of time in the midst of wrapping up writing for Between the Buried and Me to talk about Trioscapes, how his experience working on this album has given him the chance to broaden his horizons as a bass player and just how work on the new BTBAM record is coming along.
For those who are a little bit unfamiliar with Trioscapes, can you give us a brief story as to how you the three of you met and got this project started?
I knew Matt [Lynch] for a couple of years. His old band Eyrus opened up for Between the Buried and Me and, you know, I always kept in touch with him. We talked about jamming one day and he kind of knew Walter [Fancourt] a bit because he lived in the same town. Finally went and saw him play and was pretty blown away. So we just started talking about fusion and stuff and realized we had a lot of the same tastes in music and started working from there.
Thereís been a lot of metaphor heavy comparisons going around as far as how this sounds. How would you describe what youíre trying to do with Trioscapes and what can we expect as a whole on Separate Realities?
Weíve just been kind of been avoiding calling it fusion, because thatís such a vague term in the jazz world, you know what I mean? Mixing jazz and rock. I guess we call ourselves like a progressive-rock fusion band. But as far as the whole album, every song is kind of different than the one before it. The one we released, ďBlast OffĒ, is one of the more, I donít know if Iíd say straight-forward songs, but more one of the ones you would listen to and be like, ĎAlright, this is kind of fusiony.í [The albumís] got a lot of dynamics in the songs. Some songs Walter plays flute and are a little more chilled out. We cover the Mahavishnu Orchestra song "Celestial Terrestrial Commuters" and thatís kind of a jazz-fusion standard, but we kind of take it in a crazy different direction. Itís kind of a hard thing to sum up. A lot of it is really energetic and kind of wacky, but then thereís also the dynamic shift of it to something mellow and exploring the different dynamics of it.
Obviously people are going to recognize you in this group from being in Between the Buried and Me. What are some of the differences between writing for Trioscapes as opposed to your contributions to Between the Buried and Me and how that project comes together?
Itís pretty wild. When Walter writes, he generally just writes licks. He comes in and says, ĎHey, Iíve got these... [mimics saxophone] do-da-da-da-do,í and Iíll learn it and now ask what do we do with it. Weíll have this one lick and another lick and from there I kind of interpret that in my own way in my head. Iíll write a rhythm behind it or a counter-melody to that and give it to Matt. And Matt might give something wild and crazy behind it. Before you know it, off of just one or two bars of a lick, weíve written several minutes of variations on that. And thatís kind of fun and different. There were a couple songs that we did on the spot, just writing with each other where we kind of went in with just nothing. Thatís kind of a new idea. Thereís also some parts where Matt would just write drum parts and we would put notes to it and write sections off of that. That was all very new and different to me. Within the confines of our structures, thereís a lot of improvisation on Walterís part and my part. Thatís something that Iíve never been very comfortable with, but this band gives me more of an opportunity to explore. Itís fun, thatís what drives me to keep doing new musical projects because it is something different. If it were Between the Buried and Me part two, Iíd say thanks but no thanks [laughs]. Iíve already got that covered, you know?
As far as influences, one of the things I pulled away from ďBlast OffĒ was a big Frank Zappa influence. How did you first get exposed to Frank Zappaís music and what kind of things were you trying to consciously pull away from what he did with music?
Well, Zappa. I got introduced to him through my dad. My dad was a big Zappa fan when he was my age and it kind of carried into when he was older. I donít think he listens to him much anymore though. And from there, it was hearing that influence again in bands like Dreamtheater, which I kind of got head over heels about back in high school and college, then really sinking deeper into his back catalog, his early stuff Ė when he kind of had this classical music meets jazz meets weird rock, freak out stuff. When I really started wrapping my head around that, his genius really showed through, you know? Thatís one of the things I took away from him. Obviously, heís just schooled and brilliant in classical composition, but heís so quirky and weird and has no boundaries. Anything is up for grabs. I think heís one of the most important musicians of the twentieth century, and I feel like heís going to be one of those artists thatís looked back on centuries from now and is studied the way people study Bach and Mozart. Zappaís a tie that binds the three of us in Trioscapes though for sure.
Agreed. What are some of the other big things you guys pulled from in music when you were writing and recording this album?
Walter had gotten me into this French jazz guitarist named Marc Ducret, his stuff is really off the wall. Super avant-garde, super neat. Highly energetic and just super weird. Iím always kind of listening to King Crimson for influence and for pleasure, and theyíre more Ď70s-era stuff. All kinds of stuff though, because Walter for being as young as he is, heís twenty years old Ė just a wealth of musical knowledge. Heíd be like, ĎDude, you need to hear this afro-beat band from Senegal,í or whatever crazy shit that Iíve never heard before in my life [laughs]. But to do something with that, thatís neat.
How did your respective schedules play into the writing and recording of Separate Realities?
Well, I had the summer off with Between the Buried and Me, and thatís when we got together and started jamming Trioscapes stuff. We had the bulk of our album written within the first week or so we were together. We played a show, then wrapped up the writing session, and then I went to Europe for Between the Buried and Me in the Fall, and just came back and we went right into the studio in North Carolina with Jamie King and recorded it in a week. I like that, I just really wanted to capture the moment that we had that summer.
How did working with Jamie this time play into the outcome of the album?
It didnít really. I wanted to keep it very simple and very much like these are just three dudes jamming. But then we got to use the way Jamie makes records and use that to our advantage to really make it sound like us instead of sounding like a live jazz or whatever kind of recording. Obviously I love working with Jamie, and its one of my favorite records Iíve done with him.
How would you say writing with Trioscapes and perhaps only having two people creating melodies compares to Between the Buried and Me where you have guitars, vocals and sometimes synth to rely on for creating melodies in the songwriting process?
It was kind of cool. I was able to approach the bass sometimes more like a bass player and sometimes more as a lead instrument than I do in Between the Buried and Me. Thereís sections like the whole verse section where I just lay back and play a groove for a few minute while Walterís going off. Thereís not a lot of times in Between the Buried and Me where weíre on one thing that long for me to do something like that. But then later in the song, I set up a bass line, I loop it, and then I really go off and solo over that Ė which is something I hadnít really done up to this point in Between the Buried and Me. Bass-wise, itís a whole new world of... I donít wanna say stress [laughs]. But being the only electrified instrument and the only amplified instrument, thereís a bit of focus making sure youíre not messing up live. But coming across on the record, really just trying to experiment a lot with sounds. And with Walter, we run him through pedals and stuff too. We just really wanted to experiment and see how much we could do with just three people. Our drummer plays with midi-pads, so heís playing xylophone sometimes or African percussion sometimes on that. Itís all over.
Did it challenge you a bit more not having that vocal melody to interact with?
It didnít even factor into our minds at all I donít think. I had an interview where someone asked me if it was a conscious effort to not have a singer. And thatís never crossed our minds. Iím the kind of musician where I donít imagine vocals in my head. Maybe Iíll write a cool part and I can see Tommy [Rogers, Between the Buried and Me vocalist] whatever singing something to this part, like a nice melody or something like that. But I donít instantly write a part and have this great melody in my head for someone to sing. I would say all three of us in Trioscapes are kind of the same way.
While the album is being released on Metal Blade, you are handling the release of the vinyl on your own label Hogweed & Fugue. Does having a hand in the actual release of the album make this a bit more meaningful for you?
It does. But at the same time, Iíve always wanted to release music of my own, and weíve talked about it in the past with Between the Buried and Me, like is there something we can realistically do? And this is something that I can do on a smaller scale where I can do a limited amount of vinyl. Itís something really fun. For Metal Blade to give me the rights to do it was really cool. Iím excited about it, maybe in the future Iíll be able to put out friendsí bands, but for right now... they actually get shipped to my house on Monday. Iíve been tracking them! Iím really excited.
I know you guys have a couple release shows planned, but what kind of touring are you hoping to be able to do with this?
Weíre trying to do as much as we can. My year with Between the Buried and Me is usually laid out pretty well in advance, so I know where the holes are to fill in. Any opportunity that arises within that time, in America or elsewhere. Weíre definitely trying to really do it. And itís pretty easy with three people.
Switching over, you guys have started to release some teaser material with Between the Buried and Me for the recording of a new album. Where are you guys at in the process of getting that all together?
As you are talking to me tonight, we are finishing up the last song, which isnít the last song on the record, but the last song we have to write still. Weíre about to eat some dinner, go back and work on the last section and call it a day. Call it an album I guess. Weíre essentially done writing after today.
Do you already have recording time booked up?
Weíre going in with Jamie King May 14, and weíll be at Jamieís for five or six weeks tracking and a little bit longer mixing. Weíll be doing all of that before we leave for Summer Slaughter in July.
Does it feel good to be back at doing a full-length after doing an EP last year and this being your first full-length since 2009?
Absolutely. Before we had done The Great Misdirect, we knew that was going to be our last record with Victory. After that, we wanted to do something different, an EP or whatever. That thought was out there for a long time. Coming into this record, this has been the easiest writing process because we only focused on a half-hourís worth of material a year and a half or so ago, we came into this with so much material and a good idea of what we wanted to do. Weíd gotten up, not every week since the new year, but every week that weíve gotten up, weíve completed a new song in three or four days time, working at a million miles an hour. Just really psyched on it.
What can we expect as far as the sound of this album, more of what we heard on The Parallax: Hypersleep Dialogues?
I feel like it doesnít have much in common soundwise with Parallax. Itís pretty fucking out there. Itís got stuff that maybe weíve touched on a little bit style wise on previous records. We went there this time. Stretched that out for a whole song or whatever. Iíd say, maybe not the most focused, but the most cohesive from song to song and throughout the album. We kind of did this concept writing with Colors but this one is even more so feels like an actual solid piece of music within the confines of an hour or whatever. I havenít been able to sit down and listen to it from start to finish yet, but weíre all really excited about it.
Do you have any hopes for when this might be released?
Some time in the Fall, probably late Fall.
You guys excited to do Summer Slaughter and get on the road with Cannibal Corpse?
Definitely. Weíve never really met those guys before, and itís gonna be a good time. Thereís a bunch of friends on that tour. The Faceless, Job For A Cowboy. Itís gonna be a lot of fun, Iím really looking forward to it.