Here’s a fact for you: Bury Tomorrow break down barriers and bulldoze the charts. In 2020, with their album ‘Cannibal’ copping a Top 10 spot in the UK’s Official Albums Chart and their biggest headline tour to date on the horizon, the world was theirs for the taking.
But, of course, Covid-19 put the cycle on hold, forcing the band back into their bedrooms. ‘Cannibal’ had barely any breathing room before being laid to rest. And then founding member, guitarist, and co-vocalist Jason Cameron decided to down tools and leave the band for good.
For the first time in fifteen years, Bury Tomorrow found themselves in flux.
“I’d be lying to say that there haven’t been conversations about what we’re doing or what the future holds for our band,” reflects frontman Dani Winter-Bates, direct from the studio.
“It doesn’t matter whether you’re in a band, in the music industry, or in construction or working for the NHS, I think everybody from a global perspective has been asking themselves the questions of: is this right for me? Is this the direction I want to go? And what do I believe in? Do I stand for those kinds of things?”
They’re questions Bury Tomorrow – completed by bassist Davyd Winter-Bates, drummer Adam Jackson, and guitarist Kristan Dawson – asked themselves repeatedly. It could’ve spelt the end of the band, but then they had the small matter of co-headlining a stage at Slam Dunk 2021.
“We walked away with basically zero profit,” Dani chuckles, quietly reflecting. “We wanted that show to be everything. We invested time, we invested money, we invested practise – it’s the most nervous I’ve ever been for a show in 15 years of being in a band.
“But it was perfect in every way, I would not change a thing on those shows, and that’s very rare because I’m always striving for perfection. For the situation that we were presented with, to do what we did, I’m immensely proud of us for doing that.”
Considering the wounds of Jason Cameron’s departure were still wide open, few would’ve held it against them for backing down. Instead, they bought former Heart In Hand guitarist Ed Hartwell and vocalist and keyboardist Tom Prendergast into the fold, rolled up their sleeves, and got stuck in.
Inspired by their sensational Slam Dunk sets, Bury Tomorrow found themselves feeling freer than ever. For the first time since 2011 single ‘Lionheart’ – which coincidentally came at a crossroads for the band not too dissimilar to this one – they’re making music track by track. Of course, it didn’t come about right away; they had to do some soul-searching first.
“When Jason left, we weren’t in the studio the next week – that would have been awful and callous – but we had structured conversations about what the future will hold for our band,” Dani explains, emboldened by the band’s ability to remain brothers in arms no matter what. “It was needed, though; jumping into a studio after not being in one for three years is a big deal – I didn’t even know if I could still do this; that’s how crazy the last two years have been.”
Breaking through the mainstream barriers flying the flag both for British metal and mental health awareness, only to come crashing down to cancelled gigs and departing members was a whole new level of upheaval. But hopping into a studio was like injecting musical therapy into their veins.
“We felt unlocked as a band, and there was so much freedom because this could’ve been, and luckily, it’s not, but this could’ve been our last hurrah, the last song we ever do, so let’s give it everything we’ve got. It was that feeling of, let’s try all the things we might not have tried before for fear of falling short. We took all the best bits of ‘Cannibal’, and we plumbed in a whole new influence from our new members and our creative freedom.”
And from the brink of breaking up, they’ve delivered their most visceral offering to date. Drilled open by slabs of industrial synths, they’ve filled in their tried-and-tested metalcore with epic, arena-ready orchestration. It’s called ‘DEATH (Ever Colder)’, and it’s a statement of intent.
“We just need to let go of feeling like an underdog; we were lucky to have survived a pandemic when many bands haven’t. Yes, we’re in a different form, and yes, we sound slightly different, but we’re stronger than ever, so we’ve got to relinquish this feeling of being hard done by.
“We want to sound like we can fill a stadium; I just want us to be the band that we love listening to, like why do we love listening to bands that take metal into arenas? Because they sound big and epic, and they’re not constrained by ‘ooh, is this or isn’t this metal?’ We’re in a position in our lives where we just need to unleash the shackles and try what we can do, and luckily I don’t feel like it’s come across conceited or forced; it’s a natural progression into that space.”
Bury Tomorrow are no strangers to the big time. They’ve watched their friends in Architects and Bring Me The Horizon bring home Number 1s and headline arenas over the last few years, and they’re ready for a piece of the action. But it’s not just scale they’re after; they’re continuing to explore the unchartered territory they covered on ‘Cannibal’ lyrically, too.
“For me, it’s about delving into those subjects and topics that are really difficult for people to deal with. I’m one for trying to break down stigma in every aspect of my life, and I think this is an opportunity to talk about what that means to us. That title, ‘DEATH’, what feelings does that conjure to you? What feelings does that make you feel?”
“Equally, it’s an evocative or provocative title that will make people go ‘wait, are they talking about dying themselves?’ and I think that poses more questions than it does answers.”
Of course, approaching a subject as daunting as death requires some due diligence. Or as Dani sees it, digging into the dark depths of open wounds in search of catharsis, no matter the cost.
“I took the lead in forcing myself back into that mindset; it’s always cathartic to go to the darkest places of your mind and put that on paper. It’s a feeling of relinquishing ties and vulnerabilities; it’s got that feeling of just saying it how it is.
“It’s also a feeling of relief, like the line ‘death comes easy to me’, well death does come easy to me. It’s a feeling of like, you know what, I’m good, I’m okay. I’ve made peace, and it’s alright that we’re different. It’s alright that we’re strange and weird, and we have these thoughts, and we are who we are.”
Whether it’s coming to terms with our mortality or the death of Bury Tomorrow as we know them, ‘DEATH’ is the work of a band retracing their steps to find new ground – and, importantly, it’s a challenge to themselves.
“There’s the line ‘you really think I gave up on life?’ – it’s a real challenge to myself, like oh, you really thought that? You thought that was it? Metaphorically that can be seen as our band, as a parallel that can be seen as ‘you really think we gave up you really think that’s all we’ve got’.
“It’s about the hardships and the toughness and trials and tribulations. It’s not easy to go through, but it happens, and it’s easy to get into those spaces where everything sucks. It takes support, it takes coming together and changing your vista of opportunity to get to that space where you’re like, ‘you know what, I’m not giving up’.”
These convictions have driven Dani to become a leading light in mental health awareness in both the music industry and beyond. Alongside being Bury Tomorrow’s frontman, he spends his days working for Solent NHS Trust, a provider of community and mental health services.
If ‘DEATH’ is a glimpse of the future of Bury Tomorrow musically, it’s also a gateway into what’s next thematically. Dani has always done everything he can to connect the dots, and ‘DEATH’ takes that one step further. It invites discussions and debates, and it encourages conversation. If anything, it empowers you to speak up.
“I genuinely believe if I can open social media and have a conversation with somebody, then I gain from that also because I can listen to experiences. If there’s one thing the pandemic’s done, is it’s humbled everybody. You think people who go out in front of their stadium audiences and perhaps might be a bit arrogant, do you think they feel arrogant now?
“We really need to recognise human factors and human interaction. I take so much from having a conversation with somebody; it doesn’t matter who that person is. It’s about their story and their experience, not their status. I don’t care whether it’s a peer or a band or media or a fan, if their experience is something that I relate to, or I can support with, I don’t care what they can give me; I care about what they’re doing in that space.”
Dani is quick to affirm that he and Bury Tomorrow aren’t the answer, but are catalysts. It’s the one thing that’s guiding the band’s future, whatever that may look or sound like.
“It’s important for people to recognise that I can’t fix, and I can’t help in that space, but everybody has the tools. Everybody’s got what they need somewhat to open up and be vulnerable, it might be harder for one person than another, but everybody has that in them.
“It’s for us to have a chat with them about our own experiences, and if that relates to them, that relates to them, and if it doesn’t, that’s okay; at least they’re talking. I can see the world as a collective now is asking questions about mental health. People are really challenging themselves on what their own mental health is, so this is an opportunity for us to push forward the stigma reduction work we do.”
Taken from the May issue of Upset. Bury Tomorrow’s single ‘DEATH (Ever Colder)’ is out now.