The Cover Story

Bury Tomorrow: “I want to promise you, our band is never giving up”

When all was crumbling down, it could have been easy for Bury Tomorrow to walk away, but they haven’t fought this long and hard to throw the towel in now. Instead they found a light in the darkness, pushing on to create their most ferocious album to date. On the eve of its release, Dani Winter-Bates explains why it’s not over yet – not by a long shot…

Bury Tomorrow: “I want to promise you, our band is never giving up”
Nick Ruskell
Derek Bremner

Looking back on it, Dani Winter-Bates calls Slam Dunk 2021 “probably the single most anxiety-inducing experience of my entire life”.

It wasn’t exactly a weekend of low stakes to begin with. Having been shifted in the diary no fewer than four times, the festival’s organisers had been upfront with the not-so beautiful truth that, should things not fly on this occasion, it would be curtains. For Bury Tomorrow, there had been a similar feeling of skirting around a black hole.

Their opening song on the day, Choke, the leading track from 2020’s Cannibal, had by that point ratcheted up “something like 20 million streams on Spotify”. Thanks to the pandemic kicking in just as it had been released, the song had never been played live. Had Bury Tomorrow made some different decisions since its release, it’s entirely plausible that it might never have been.

“The two years up to Cannibal, it just wasn't good. It wasn't fun. It wasn't something that we were enjoying doing,” says Dani now. “If we'd have continued touring and nothing had changed, our band would have ended within a year. We would have crashed and burned, no doubt about it.”

Instead, arriving onstage at Slam Dunk with two new members – guitarist Ed Hartwell and vocalist and keyboardist Tom Prendergast, replacing guitarist and singer Jason Cameron – Bury Tomorrow played the shows of their lives. Dani says the reaction to Choke was an “absolute manic storm”. Write-ups of the day were quick to reach for phrases like “rebirth” and “renewal”. In a summer when every festival set was varnished with an emotional surge from remembering what having music fired straight into your head with both barrels felt like, for Bury Tomorrow it wasn’t simply a case of being back onstage, but being back on your game.

“Our band is different. The whole fucking planet is different right now. All we can hope for is fun, rejuvenation, and family,” announced Dani, before finishing with something even more succinct.

“I want to promise you, our band is never giving up.”

Reflecting on all this today from his home in Southampton, the thing that’s really spinning Dani’s head is that almost two years have passed already. “How the fuck has that happened so quick?” he laughs. “It’s almost scary.”

This Friday, Bury Tomorrow will release their new album, the aptly numbered The Seventh Sun. Even if, from the outside, Cannibal sounded nothing like a band developing rust from within, here they are visibly gleaming and renewed. Featuring by some of their heaviest-ever riffs – and some particularly virulent screams from Dani – it lands the traditional Bury Tomorrow punches with a refreshed vigour and, somewhere, a joyous glint in its eye.

The Seventh Sun also finds the band bending more to their creative whims than previously they might have done, going off on diversions, a marked change from what the frontman admits have been, in the past, purposeful exercises in “making the best metalcore album”. The spine of things is still very much recognisable as them, but by taking time to wander down an avenue more Tool-ish, as Dani’s vocals do on Boltcutter, or embracing a much more melodic impulse on the grandstanding, electronic-washed Majesty, it’s satisfyingly liberated as well.

“It’s the best thing we’ve ever done – of course I’m gonna say that, right?!” he laughs. “It seems like such a mental switch, but it was so easy to do. If you're going in to write the best metalcore album, you're only gonna ever come out with a metalcore album. We were trying things and letting it take us to new places. Things before, we probably would have inherently been like, ‘No, that's not really us.’ Well… actually, it was.”

Ask Dani to put a name to his mood as he heads into release week, and he’ll reply, “Weirdly confident."

"I’m trying my hardest to reframe my nervousness as excitement," he says. "They're very similar feelings.”

Three years ago, things weren’t quite so pretty. Within, anyway. Outwardly, hell yeah, the band were on a critical and commercial upswing that was comfortably robust. Cannibal had been a hit, charting all over the place, particularly Germany, where Dani notes that the band are now “probably even bigger than we are at home”. At Christmas 2019, they’d capped off a UK run headlining the Roundhouse in London. Monthly streams were well over the half-million mark. Label was happy. Fans were happy. Everyone was happy. Except the band.

“It was bad,” Dani nods today. “It wasn't fun. It was not a good process. We would have had either another member leave, or the whole band would have just given in. Regardless of how critically acclaimed you are, it makes no difference to how it feels internally.”

Asked what the difference is between now and then, Dani is politely diplomatic (“I think there was a lot of negativity at that time, which is no longer the case, so let's do maths and work out what that means…”). Equally, though, he says that after such a long time in the game – the band started in 2005 – it was also that their work-rate and schedule had started to become a drag.

“Those feelings, the unrest, the turmoil, is long entrenched in our band's history,” he admits. “We were all guilty of it. It wasn't isolated to one or two members. We had a chip on our shoulder that was like a bloody whole bag of fish and chips. [We always felt we] were the underdog. And we're not an underdog. We're very lucky that we've been granted our position.”

“We had a chip on our shoulder that was like a bloody whole bag of fish and chips”

Dani reflects on how Bury Tomorrow always considered themselves underdogs

As COVID took hold and Britain entered lockdown, and Cannibal’s release was pushed back by what seems now like a laughable three months, in the hope that the world would have improved by then, Bury Tomorrow for the first time in about a decade, had time to think. When they did convene to rehearse, there was a stiffness. Far from the pressure-release of getting together to block out a world that was insisting on impressing its realities on its inhabitants, Dani remembers thinking: what are we actually rehearsing for?

“We tried to force some stuff during the pandemic,” he says. “That probably highlighted some of the turmoil that was going on.

“What the pandemic did, having that space and time away, it was a weird silver lining – it gave us space,” he continues. “I wouldn't say it's a ‘good’ thing, obviously, that we couldn't, you know, perform the album and get it done. But do I think it helped us reassess and readjust and really understand what we're doing this for.”

Dani had other things to be thinking about, anyway. As an NHS manager in charge of wellbeing – and not the only member of the band to work for the health service, with brother and bassist Davyd and drummer Adam Jackson also employed there – the pandemic saw him working “90-hour weeks” in a senior role. He couldn’t have done the band if he’d wanted to.

“I remember at that point, I just been promoted to program lead for staff wellbeing across Southampton University Hospital,” he says. “It was just carnage. One of the best times of my life – because of seeing wellbeing and supporting people and just feeling like I was actually doing something that benefited the world, which was really unifying – but it was also brutal.

“I look back on that as one of the most grounding, but also beneficial times in my life, undoubtedly,” he continues. “I've worked for the NHS since I was 18. So nearly the entire duration of this band, and [the pandemic] is a period of time that I'll never forget. And not just from a traumatic point of view, but from feeling gratified and feeling like I'm making a difference. So I'm doing something that's right.”

Having previously worked in patient-facing roles, Dani’s new tasks involved keeping an eye on the wellbeing of NHS hospital staff (“The societal heroism that got held up at the start got dropped pretty quickly,” he says with a wry smile, “The NHS was the best thing ever, now [politicians are saying] it’s the worst thing ever”). It made him even more aware than he had been previously that, “actually, we need to give a crap about this stuff”.

“I'm head of organisation development across the ICB, which is six hospitals – 55,000 people,” he explains of what he actually does. “I look after equality, diversity and inclusion and wellbeing. The reason I bring that up is, it shows how beneficial that was in in my life, not just getting me a job. But, I was like, 'This is so important. I want to dedicate my career towards this stuff.’”

To this end, Dani admits that “I'm glad I wasn't touring. Because if I had to do any kind of band stuff [at that point], even though we did release the album, I could do it in my own time.”

As he says, though, had things continued as they were in the band, they might have broken anyway. When Jason left in July 2021, they had to ask themselves some serious, existential questions. “What does this band mean?” was one. “What are we continuing?” was another. “I'm not going to bastardise the memory of Bury Tomorrow just to try and prove my own ego that I think we're really good,” was one thought bouncing around Dani’s head. “That would just be utterly pointless.”

In some ways – and when the notion is put to Dani, he nods in agreement – it’s good that such things came up so far into Bury Tomorrow’s journey. After 18 years, and looking at doing their seventh album, they are older men than they were, where the wins and losses of dedicating yourself to a band are more self-evident and tangible. Dani’s job and home life, for example, mean that time dedicated to the band is at more of a premium. But here lies perspective: that just means that you have to cut out the crap.

“I think the biggest part was, if we are continuing, we cannot continue this ‘Woe is me Bury Tomorrow, aren't we hard done by?’ crap,” he says. “It's utter rubbish. My biggest thing at the moment is putting things into perspective. If you put it into perspective with of all the stuff that's going on in the world, and how fucked it is, if a member leaving a metalcore band from Southampton in England is the biggest issue for people to talk about, [after] the pandemic, and all of the loss that we've gone through, then, God, we haven't done that the right way.

“We're lucky that we survived the pandemic,” he continues. “There's plenty of bands that couldn't survive the pandemic because of financial issues, jobs, loss of life. I've managed to put a lot of things into perspective over this time. And whilst I've always been incredibly appreciative, it's almost been like, ‘Come on, guys. I know is this is really good to be in a band, isn't it? It's really fantastic. It's great.’ And now it feels like we're all aligned. We're all like that. This is who we should be."

“My biggest thing at the moment is putting things into perspective”

Hear Dani explain why the band couldn’t continue on the same ‘woe is me’ path

When Dani talks about the future, he does so as someone who enjoys what they’re doing, but who knows how much of a good thing it’s possible to have before it becomes a drag. Late last year, Bury Tomorrow went on tour with August Burns Red, a six-week jaunt which he says was amazing, but also reminded him how hard it pushes you, particularly when, on the road, he juggles his job with shows (“It was the most fun tour I’ve ever done, but I lost my mind slightly when I got home!” he smiles).

Still, Bury Tomorrow are a band with shiny new potency. On new lads Tom and Ed, Dani is full of praise, not just that they’ve plugged a hole left by a departing man, but that their talent is buttressing the band for what he sees as a lengthy and prosperous new chapter.

“Tom is an unreal musician,” he beams. “The guy is a producer and songwriter in his own right. He does all the electronics, he can play guitar, play drums, sing – he literally does it all. He’s able to blend it all together and pull it into this new era of electronically-fuelled metalcore, which is what it is without sounding like we're here in a dance band!

“And Ed, he wrote a lot on the record. He wrote Carcass King, and he wrote The Seventh Sun. So you can hear that darkness from some of his favourite bands like Faith No More and Deftones.”

Perhaps even more importantly, the enforced look in the mirror also reminded Dani and his bandmates that what they do is bigger than five – or, as the case now is, six – people. More than once he makes reference to Bury Tomorrow as “a metalcore band from Southampton”, in the context of things that are worth genuinely worrying about (“There’s a fucking war in Europe – that actually matters”), but his are a group for whom connection with the fans is paramount. It’s something they’ve fostered and nurtured, the idea of Bury Tomorrow fans as a collective. Dani’s openness when he’s spoken in the past on subjects like the importance of good mental health care has found home and resonance with the people who have chosen to sit closest to his band. Had things taken a different path with a dead-end at the bottom of it, Dani says that he now sees that he would have been “giving up on them”, and “they’re owed more than that”.

“If we gave up because one member of a five-member band left, we're not doing it right. And we're definitely not keeping in mind, ‘Who's the people that actually are important?’ It’s the fans, the people who actually care about our music that won't get to see us,” he reflects. “If this band ended tomorrow, I'm happy that I've gained much more than the band has taken from me. I've had an incredible time. But it's much bigger than just five members, or six members now, it is a whole community of people. They’re the ones actually waiting for us, who get something out of it as well.”

“We genuinely put more effort into this album”

Listen to Dani detail how a positive mindset can directly impact the art

Out the other side of all this, Bury Tomorrow’s outlook is brighter than ever. Already a pragmatic man, Dani today says that this is a more positive age for the band. What he’s learned is almost like something he knew already.

“The [positive] mindset is so important,” he says. “I'm not going to do some kind of inspirational TED Talk on a positive mindset shift, but it is important. There is science behind this, and if you can really dedicate that energy to doing something positive and enjoying the ride, then everything's a win, right? And that opens those doors. We genuinely put more effort into this album. We've given more of a fuck, we genuinely care more.

“I don't believe that things happen for a reason,” he continues. “I believe that you make decisions and you've got to go with your gut. Sometimes you've got to make decisions, you've got to push forward, and sometimes it's really difficult to do so and you need support. And, and other times you need to readdress, and you need to think about things differently.”

Bury Tomorrow have. And they’ve found their groove again and more. When Dani jokes that he feels almost ready for a future with “another seven albums” in it, it’s hard not to see where he’s coming from.

“I think we didn't realise or appreciate what an amazing position we’re in,” he smiles. “We've toured around this planet numerous times. We’re about to go and do our first headline U.S. tour. We're just about to go over and do our first headline Australian tour. I reckon we’ll hit a million monthly streams in a couple of months.”

He reflects again, and then laughs.

“What the hell have I got to be bitter about?”

The Seventh Sun is released March 31 via Music For Nations – available to pre-order and pre-save now.

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