In September of 2020, during an understandably emotional and tumultuous time in the world, Coma Regalia released Marked. That album hit me like a ton of bricks and was a life changing event. As has been the case a handful of times in my own musical journey, sometimes a record hits at just the right time and the impact is immeasurable.
That album was my first introduction to the wider world of Middle-Man Records and the work of Edie Quinn. I quickly began obsessively devouring their extensive back catalog which in turn led me to discover Burial Etiquette by way of their Coma Regalia split Held Tight In Fragile Embraces. That split to this day has my favorite Burial Etiquette song “Gentle Wings”. I told the band as much when I first reached out to them to participate in this feature.
Burial Etiquette are a non-binary screamo/emo, post-hardcore band from Thunder Bay, Ontario. Their sound delicately threads the needle of a sonic collision. On the one side of this knife’s edge lies despair and on the other hope. Anguish is palpable in every heartbreaking scream and optimism is felt in every glorious cry dreaming for something better. With a heartfelt and introspective style they quickly became a very special band to me, so I was thrilled when they agreed to join me in conversation about their sound and origins. The band is incredibly prolific, already having put out several EPs, numerous splits, as well as contributing to multiple compilation albums. All of this output despite only just now getting ready to drop their debut full length album later this year, but more on that later – for now, let’s meet the band. After thanking them for their time and interest I asked them first to introduce themselves by way of what instruments they play in the band.
Jaccob: ‘I play guitar, drums & do some of the vocals.’
Taylor: ‘Primarily, I do vocals and bass. However, when it comes to pitching ideas, I will send a skeleton of an entire song with programmed drums, synths, guitars, etc. It’s always up for molding and shifting to fit everyone’s vision once it’s out of my hands.’
A passion for music has varied roots which are sometimes nurtured and allowed to grow beyond simply enjoying listening for oneself and discovering the joy of actively creating. Unfortunately not everyone is lucky enough to come up through formal training. Many musicians find their own way, learning as they go. These humble beginnings yearning for expression even before you have the proper tools are the essence of punk.
Jaccob: ‘I didn’t start playing guitar until I discovered punk in grade 7. When I told the (local record store) owner, Will, that I liked Nirvana, he gave me the Unwound box set for Christmas. Not only were the albums enthralling to an impressionable kid discovering DIY posthardcore, but the 10,000 word essay & interview inside felt like a call to action. I couldn’t help but fall in love with the idea of spending my life playing in bands.’
Taylor: ‘I remember when I was about 11, my step-brother got an electric guitar for his birthday and was instantly envious. Now, he was excited about it, but not nearly as much as I was. I hid in my bedroom during his party and was strumming complete nonsense for an hour until my mom came and grabbed it from me lol. I didn’t really start performing or making music until I was fifteen or sixteen. I had since then received my great-grandfather’s acoustic guitar which led me to making a bunch of half-assed, horrible covers, but I was really proud to be doing it.’
Screamo is an extremely chaotic and abrasive genre. So I’m always interested to hear musician’s screamo origin stories. How did they come to find this wonderfully weird genre in the first place before they decided to try taking it for a spin themselves?
Jaccob: ‘Playing in bands as a teenager, I always felt a slight dissonance about not having the words to describe the kind of music I wanted to make. Finding screamo through the Unwound – Drive Like Jehu pipeline felt like everything made sense for the first time. It felt like, for the first time, all barriers & predetermined genre expectations ceased to exist. Strangely enough, it felt similarly freeing to when I discovered I could identify as gender queer and go by they / them pronouns. To me anyway, screamo feels like an expression of musical androgyny. There are no rules!’
Taylor: I fell in love with Alexisonfire, who frequented Thunder Bay a fair bit during the 2000s and 2010s. They had introduced me to other bands within that realm, like Saosin, Moneen, Underoath, Chiodos, etc. It wasn’t until 2018 when I stumbled upon Skramcave and other online forums, that I really delved into the screamo scene.
From a six-way split put out by Zegema Beach Records featuring: Hawak, Joliette, Our Future Is An Absolute Shadow, Eyelet, Elle, and Burial Etiquette. Cleverly titled Cube, this ambitious album is a showcase of passion. Every band on this thing brought their A-game and Burial Etiquette are no exception. Their two songs from this split are some of the best anywhere in their discography.
Burial Etiquette have an evocative band name appropriately befitting their particular style of music. The name calls forth somber reflections of mortality while simultaneously invoking ritual and sacrament. Equally curious as the meaning behind their intensely gripping moniker is the band’s inception. What provoked them to start creating music as an outlet?
Taylor: ‘Initially, I was only doing guest vocals for the track “Empathy to Apathy” and “Flowers for a Broken Machine”. It wasn’t until 2019 where I joined the band fully, and then months later I would take over as bassist. The vision was already set in motion, and I was excited to become part of it. What we do is something that sets us aside from other screamo bands having cleaner vocals mixed with harsh shrieking. The project was created to honor the friends who are no longer with us, and that resonated a lot with me.’
Jaccob: ‘Burial Etiquette was formed as a direct response to the crippling grief I felt from the loss of my cousin and (then a year later) my best friend. At first, out of desperation and then curiosity, I started researching how various cultures around the world mourn their loved ones. I personally don’t have religious beliefs, but I was longing for anything to let me feel close to them again. The thing that resonated the most with me was the concept of two deaths – the first is when someone leaves this earth, the second is the last time a loved one speaks their name or remembers a moment together that makes them smile.
‘The name Burial Etiquette originally stemmed from a self declaration of wanting to learn how to honor our loved ones who have passed in a world that moves way too fast for feelings to be given the substantial weight they deserve.’
The concept of two deaths is one I was already vaguely familiar with, but put so eloquently and tied into the meaning behind the band’s name was especially powerful. From a young age I personally have never believed in a literal heaven. Therefore I struggled with the desire to feel a connection to the loved ones I’ve lost over the years, without being able to take solace in the image of them draped in white in some far off cloudy sky utopia. Similar to the Seuss-ism ‘Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.’ The idea of someone living on in the memory of those they loved and the lives they impacted is a soothing balm to hold close in times of mourning. All of this sentiment is lifted directly from the spoken word section of “Gentle Wings”:
‘memory refers to our ability to hold in real life the features and feelings that made up the essence of a person who has already died. the memory of a deceased person lives for as long and fully as they’re close people carefully remember. this seemingly clear banality is not as simple as it might seem at first glance. people begin to forget right away, as soon as the life leaves the body. and only a constant, every minute mental effort, requiring the most careful concentration of attention, memory and imagination, allows you to keep the departed among the living, as if they were still with us. a wall of glass swallowing itself into a myriad of broken reflections that I cannot repair’
The dual overlapping harmonies mixing clean and harsh vocals are to my mind the definitive signature sound of Burial Etiquette. It’s what first drew me in as a listener immediately reminding me of my favorite band of all time, Circle Takes the Square. Multiple voices attacking the mic using various vocal styles seems like quite the challenge from a songwriting perspective. How do they tackle writing and performing these sonic gymnastics?
Jaccob: ‘I love that comparison, As The Roots Undo is one of my favorite albums of all time. And definitely a major influence on our work.
‘The songwriting process can vary from one release to the next. Sometimes, Taylor will approach me with fully written lyrics or a theme they want to explore, and I’ll write my parts in service of the core frame they initially set in place. In these scenarios, I try my best to add to their idea without drawing away or distracting from the ‘heart’ of the song. Other times I’ll bring a batch of lyrics & ideas to Taylor, organized in a multi page essay akin to a design document that a small team would use when developing an indie game. It’s not for rigid instruction but more so a guideline for setting mood & tone. My favorite kind of art has always been the kind where the more you put into it, the more you get out of it.
‘We like playing with the lyrical format regarding multiple vocalists by taking influence from other mediums like stage plays, films & video games. For example, in some songs, we use our different voices to convey multiple character perspectives. Our intent is to tell a story with deeper meaning with the beginning, middle & end running non-linearly throughout our discography.’
Taylor: ‘Wow! That means a lot. CTTS is one of our bigger influences, so that makes my heart very full.
‘I find that I’m always given leniency when it comes to vocals. I tend to hear a melody within the first or second playthrough of the song. I am usually given free range to do whatever I want once the song’s structure is built. We take turns branching off of each other, unless specifically stated that we want vocals.’
Another unique aspect of Burial Etiquette’s sound is their blend of heartfelt almost indie folk ballads with the intense raw anguish of screamo. Not only are they balancing vocals, but also disparate musical styles as well. It seems like quite the tightrope act. So again what does the songwriting process look like musically as they weave this delicate balance between soft and loud elements?
Jaccob: ‘That’s a very apt description of our sound. Dynamics are and have always been extremely important to us. We love bands like Carissa’s Wierd just as much as we love bands like Ostraca. I think our dedication to this idea comes from observing music over the years and determining what has given us the strongest emotional reactions. Often, the writing, recording & mixing process all happen seamlessly. Rather than writing a batch of songs and then recording them over a few weeks.
‘This approach stems from when I discovered lofi home recorded bands Eric’s Trip & Elevator To Hell. At the time I was fourteen & living with my dad for the summer in Moncton, New Brunswick. He introduced me to some of the local bands the city was known for. I had no idea their approach would end up so hugely influential to me. They did everything by themselves in their home, and it created this uniquely comfortable & intimate relationship with recording. Sure, it could objectively sound a lot better, and have a lot less noise. But it was the first time I heard room ambience used as an intentional texture to differentiate the verse from the chorus. Shrouded in a haze of static, the verse sang of alienation & a burning sense of aimlessness. And then, clear as day with no buzz, the chorus sang of new revelations, and momentarily feeling free of self destructive inner bias.
‘Just like punk taught me that anyone can play guitar, those two bands from Moncton, taught me that the act of recording can be a songwriting tool and that limitations create a vast amount of new possibilities. Recording at home is wonderful because you do things at your own pace, be comfortable and make creative decisions at any hour, even with a low budget.’
Located in the frigid wilds of Canada on the northern shore of Lake Superior, Thunder Bay is often referred to as the gateway to northwest Ontario. Surrounded by the great outdoors and wildlife must have an impact on the local music scene and the sounds they generate. ‘The scene here is pretty unique because we’re so isolated,’ Jaccob states. ‘There aren’t a ton of bands so almost every show is a mixed bill. This often creates a really cool pacing for the night. With bands on opposite ends of genre extremes playing right after one another. Our sound is definitely inspired by feelings of solitude brought on by moonlit forest walks and long winters of isolation.’
Burial Etiquette performs “Exhaustion That Led To Collapse”, one of the standout songs from their amazing split with mis sueños son de tu adiós, at a local skate park where the band puts on all ages shows:
A common through line I have picked up throughout Burial Etiquette’s catalog is an attention to detail and embracing the DIY aesthetic with artwork, liner notes, and creative physical releases. What motivates them to approach music in this way?
Jaccob: ‘It’s important that we do things on our terms. That means not compromising on diy ethics and maintaining a transparent & direct connection with our audience. I fell in love with what one might call a ritual. Physically holding the album art and taking the record out of its sleeve. Reading the lyrics, credits & acknowledgments. Seeing the pictures of the band in their practice space. Understanding the album beyond a piece of music, but a special moment between close people captured in time.’
Burial Etiquette just put out yet another new split February 5th. “Faceless Departure” starts out with this fiery drumbeat and soft angelic vocals low in the mix. The song has an almost shoegaze feel to it at first. Then there’s a tempo switch midway as the harsh shrieks join the mix and the band’s signature sound takes over. Dynamically shifting to a spoken word downtempo section as the track spirals towards its conclusion. The four way split titled Kaleidoscope is out now with three cassette variants from Gizzmoix Records in EU / UK, BSJD in Japan, and Self Versed Records in the US. Once again the band has partnered with labels that are putting out music in creative physical formats reinforcing their DIY hands-on aesthetic. The Gizzmoix variant even comes with a custom Pokémon card featuring the split’s artwork in random evolutions.
Speaking of new music, from following the band’s socials I became aware of rumors that their much anticipated debut full length album might finally be coming out this year. So I asked them to confirm that as well as offer a possible release date and some more specifics. Jaccob says, ‘That’s correct! The release date is slated for March 25th on Zegema Beach Records. There will be vinyl.’ Their output has been so consistent and impressive it’s actually kind of surprising they’re only just now putting out their debut full length. But was it a deliberate choice to take their time putting out the album? ‘It was & it wasn’t,’ Jaccob admits. ‘We had half the album written when the global pandemic started, and we were forced to reevaluate our options. Since we didn’t feel comfortable playing shows and putting others at risk, we decided to use the networking resources available to our community & spend the next few years recording material for splits with bands we admired around the world.’
Was the creative process different writing and recording for an album compared to their other work so far?
Jaccob: ‘It differed greatly. When we decided to focus on recording splits during quarantine, that also meant taking the time to rehearse & play the album over the course of years. We found ourselves developing another writing style by rewriting it organically over a long period of time while also giving it periods of rest while we worked on split material. On the other side of this extreme, “Right To Choose” was written & recorded in a day along with the riff at the beginning of “Exhaustion”.
‘[You can expect] our most dense and dynamic material yet. Intricate song structures featuring recurring lyrical & musical motifs. Inspired by DIY late 90’s posthardcore and early 2000’s screamo. More in line with our harsher sound on Burial Etiquette (2018) & Held Tight In Fragile Embraces (2020). A ten minute closing track.’
A ten minute closing track! Coming hot on the heels of their epic nearly seven minute song “Mirrors for Eyes” from Zegema Beach Records‘ Zampler 22 just released at the end of last year. I’m definitely looking forward to what they explore on another long form track.
In addition to a passion for creative expression as a band, Burial Etiquette is also extremely involved in the community. By contributing to compilations for charity, protecting trans kids, standing up for LGBTQIA+ rights, or more global causes like e-sims for Gaza and supporting the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund, Burial Etiquette is extremely benevolent, so what role do artists have to play in activism? Jaccob gives their take: ‘I believe very strongly that art has the ability to shift hearts and open one’s eyes to new experiences & interpretations. We are blunt & uncompromising with having our political beliefs integrated through our music & the ways we choose to release it. If you disagree with our political beliefs or don’t use proper pronouns for your friends, then our music isn’t for you.’
Creatives make for some of the more intriguing fans. It’s telling and informative what authors choose to read and what musicians enjoy listening to themselves. A few rapid fire insights into their tastes will give a broader perspective of some influences and interests. I wanted to know if there was anything they currently had in heavy rotation, if they had any go-to musical guilty pleasures, and finally what is one of their desert island all time favorite albums?
Jaccob: ‘My recent go to albums are the new Awakebutstillinbed album as well as Clarity by Lypura & the Coma Regalia / Snag split. I try to refrain from using the term guilty pleasure, but I totally know what you mean. I listen to a lot of stuff someone might not initially expect. I love artists like SOPHIE, Young Fathers, Sadurn, A Tribe Called Quest, a ton of hyperpop & breakcore.
‘Body Of Wasps – It Ends And So It Begins Again. The first thing that comes to mind when thinking of this record, is how perfectly paced it feels. From start to finish, each song builds and drops in intensity while keeping each new movement grounded to the last. At its softest and most vulnerable, the album illuminates the importance of honesty with both yourself and those around you. The drums bring everything together, adding a sense of urgency and high stakes to every moment they are present & leaving a sense of anticipation when they are absent.’
Body of Wasps is just one of a plethora of projects by Edie Quinn of Coma Regalia. Kind of wonderful to come full circle back to the artist that got me into Burial Etiquette in the first place to find a favorite album that we share. It Ends And So It Begins Again goes way back into the depths of Quinn’s vast catalog. All the way to 2011 if you can believe it, because that album is every bit as fresh as when I first found this gem digging through MMR’s releases.
In closing I decided to borrow a question from someone who I consider to be one of the all time great interviewers and conversationalists Lex Fridman, who routinely closes out his program by asking his guests what advice they would give to young people.
Jaccob: ‘Don’t bother trying to compete with industry trends or what you think people want to hear. The tides are constantly shifting and the best you can offer is something uniquely you. Pay attention to what you like about the things you love and the things you aren’t so hot on. You’ll end up creating a distinctive amalgamation of your personal taste. No one else can emulate that, even with a hundred million dollars.
‘On writing – As someone who doesn’t know music theory, this might sound strange. But this is an example of a headspace I put myself in when I get stuck and need a different approach to writing. The idea is that rather than creating something from structure or expectation of what it could be, you are taking an ice pick to a glacier and trying to gently shape it while preserving its core theme and mood. This glacier can be anything, but for me, it is almost always imagery or colors associated with a hard-to-find-words-for feeling. The motivation & purpose of every part in the song is to invoke and reflect this image. Don’t put too much pressure on the initial idea to be great.’
Burial Etiquette are uncompromising in their ethos and unparalleled in their earnest contribution to the scene. Nothing else comes close to their one of a kind combination of the best of bedroom emo’s wails cut with the fierce intensity of hardcore. With two splits coming out this month leading up to their debut full length next month this is a great time to already be a fan or for an introduction. It has been my privilege to share a glimpse behind the scenes into their creative process with you throughout this feature.
Burial Etiquette are…
Jaccob Hanley (they / them) – guitar / vocals / drums / piano
Taylor Jocelyn (they / them) – bass / vocals / programming
Check out and support the awesome labels putting out their music.
And if you or your band are local to the Thunder Bay area and want to attend or perform at one of their shows feel free to reach out to the band for arrangements.
Photos by Burial Etiquette.