Vocalist Dani Winter-Bates talks us through the three years that very nearly burnt Bury Tomorrow to the ground
Belatedly released during the pandemic at a time when conversations about mental health were pushed to the forefront, Bury Tomorrow’s sixth album, Cannibal, inadvertently soared. A record documenting vocalist Dani Winter-Bates’ own struggles, it became the biggest selling album of the then five-piece’s career, but behind closed doors Bury Tomorrow were preparing to call it quits on a storied career of 15 years.
Following a period of external and internal strife, they’ve now decided to shape themselves a new future. With a fresh line up, a fresh perspective, and a fresh purpose, they’re returning with The Seventh Sun, a huge statement of intent from a band dead-set on breaking boundaries.
Ahead of its release, we sat down with Dani to reflect on working for the NHS throughout a global pandemic, the shift that ultimately saved Bury Tomorrow, and his new ambition to front the band he’d always dreamed of.
For a lot of artists, releasing an album and then not being able to head out on tour would have been torture. As someone who’s spent a large portion of their life balancing music with working for the NHS, how was that time for you after Cannibal in 2020?
Whilst it was the hardest time in my life, it was soul defining. I was working 80 to 90 hours a week, and I was in at 6am, out at 9pm or 10pm. I was supporting staff wellbeing and psychological safety through an immensely difficult and scary time, and when I look back it feels like it happened on a different planet.
It solidified that the NHS is my life as much as the band is, and though it’s difficult – and it has been for the last 15 years of my career – doing both is something that defines me. I’m really passionate about it, and I’m really aspirational. I want to promote the alternative subculture and all that we have to offer in places like the NHS, which are not inherently alternative.
Bury Tomorrow had undergone quite a big change by summer 2021 – especially with founding guitarist/vocalist Jason Cameron stepping down. What was it like for you all when conversations about music started back up?
We realised there were two options. We either don’t do it anymore, or we just do it, and that’s it. The band would not have continued as the five-piece that it was. It would have killed us, and it all would have burned to the ground. The internal dynamics of the band weren’t right, and that presented us with an ultimatum. Other bands were already doing stuff so we sat down and thought about what we could do, and we realised that we had settled into a groove over the last two albums. Black Flame and Cannibal had immense success, but it was just Bury Tomorrow being Bury Tomorrow. We were always focused on making the next one better than the last, but it felt like everything was on a conveyor belt, so we needed to shake up the dynamics.
We decided to mix up the live dynamic, our attitude, and our music all at the same time. We brought Ed [Hartwell, guitarist] and Tom [Prendergast, vocalist/keyboardist] in, and then we did Slam Dunk Festival. It was our first show in two and half years and we were headlining a stage to 15,000 people, playing songs from Cannibal we’d never played before, with new members and new production. It was amazing, and it started a new era of Bury Tomorrow. Now, we give a sh*t about doing this. I care about how people perceive our band, I care about how we present ourselves, how we look, how we act, how we are, and how we sound. We want this to feel the best it has ever been and could ever be.
That’s a statement that’s really come to life on The Seventh Sun, and this album feels like a new beginning in a lot of ways. After having that space and going through the emotions of the last few years, did it feel like the right time to lay the foundations for the future, rather than just continue to build on the past?
Our band has always gotten bigger with each release. It’s not been the easiest, quickest ride, but we’re releasing our seventh album and we have more listeners now than we’ve ever had, and we sell more tickets across the board now than we’ve ever sold. Because of that, I think we can only look forward. With this record, one of the biggest questions we asked was, ‘How do we feel different now?’.
Our band has been called an underdog for a long time, and we’ve almost accepted it, but we’re not hard done by at all. We survived COVID, both physically and financially, and we came out of it. We’ve gone through lots of changes, and there’s been a lot of perseverance, but we’ve got hundreds of thousands of people that listen to our music. How is that an underdog? We sell out tours, we’ve had a top ten album… we can’t call ourselves that anymore. We made a conscious decision never to accept that we are underdogs again, and I want us to operate in the spheres that we should be operating in. We’re one of the biggest metal bands in the UK, and we’re one of the biggest metalcore bands in the world, so let’s give a sh*t about it. We want people to experience the best possible version of this band.
After the events of the last few years, did you find yourself looking at the world a little more critically on The Seventh Sun?
With Cannibal I chose to talk more about how it felt rather than what was actually happening, and now I’m able to go to horribly dark places a lot easier. Sometimes you have to operate in chaos because chaos can breed creativity and transformation, and that’s an incredibly vulnerable and scary place to be. The last song on this new album, ‘The Carcass King’, personifies this feeling of self-deprecation and uses that to talk about what the future holds.
You’ve got to understand yourself and the world you exist in to understand what you want from the future. Because if you don’t understand that then you don’t know what journey you’re willing to go on. It’s not trying to sound like an inspirational quote that you’d hang up in your bathroom, but you can’t know where you want to be if you don’t know where you are. I spend less time thinking about where I’ve been, because retrospect is not your friend in a lot of situations, but this album is about me understanding how I feel right now by looking inward at myself.
Bury Tomorrow is over 15 years old now. The challenge for a lot of bands – especially within the metalcore scene – is finding a way to expand their original sound in a way that feels both natural and exciting. How do you think The Seventh Sun continues your evolution?
We wanted this album to be commercial in a way, but we also wanted it to be super heavy. We wanted it to have space, and we wanted people to go on a journey sonically. I went into this with a real no-holds-barred attitude. My part to play is working out how to make my screaming vocals catchy, which is something that’s inherently not catchy. You need to make that scream into something that people remember, and something that allows people to feel what you’re saying. Bands like Bring Me the Horizon and Enter Shikari were killing the game when I was first cutting my teeth as a frontman, and that’s exactly what they do.
Most importantly, we don’t want to be generic. Since Runes, it felt like we slotted into this rhythm which gained a lot of success, but now we don’t want to be labelled. If you look at ‘Abandon Us’, most people will look at that as an incredibly commercial song, but we made a lot of conscious decisions to ensure there were no reprises in it. All of the parts are different, and that’s because we wanted to make sure each part was cool on its own rather than just finding one cool part and repeating it. Really, a lot of this album was just about us not being lazy.
It feels like your fanbase has always sat at the heart of this band. Is that passion from your fans something which continues to reignite the flame every time it threatens to dwindle?
Our fans have always carried us. They’ve always been the constant, and they’re the only reason why we do it. Even when we weren’t a band that was held up in any regard, we always had a brutally strong fan base. They’re loyal, they’ll stick with us through everything that we do, and they’ll fight for us. That’s always been our focus, and regardless of what label we’re on or what shows we’re playing, we’ve kept our eye on the people that matter. We support our fans, and we love our fans, but it’s also just a smart business move. If you want to get bigger and better, you can’t do that without speaking to the people that consume the product that you’re providing.
It seems nonsensical to me, but I think some people get trapped in this artistic cycle of, ‘It doesn’t matter what people think’. More power to those people who are successful in that world but for me, I don’t write music just for myself, I write music for other people. That’s why I’m in a band, and that’s why I want us to be the biggest band on the planet. It makes a lot more sense to ask people what they want from us so that we can reach our goals, and they’re a part of it.
Reflecting on where things stood in 2021 for this band, and those difficult conversations you had, how does it feel to be here now?
I’ve been in this band since I was 16 years old, and in hindsight I’m so glad we had that space because we wouldn’t be what we are now without it. I’ve seen and heard more of our shows than anyone else ever has, and I’ve overanalysed each one, and I can categorically tell you that we are sonically better right now than we’ve ever been.
There’s no drama, we just get on and do what we do. That’s what we’ve always wanted to do in this band, and people can see it in our live show. I’ve met people after our recent shows who’ve told me that they could tell from a mile off how much things have changed, and that we seem like we’re on a different planet now. To be getting on a bit like we are and still have people rooting for you to be the next big thing… it’s amazing.
PHOTO CREDIT: Katja Ogrin/Redferns (Getty)