From bitter breakups to BETTER LOVERS: Inside heavy music's hottest new supergroup | Revolver

From bitter breakups to BETTER LOVERS: Inside heavy music's hottest new supergroup

How former members of Every Time I Die and Dillinger Escape Plan came together to create a whole different animal
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Almost immediately after Every Time I Die devastated fans in early 2022 with their shocking breakup, the metal and hardcore worlds began clamoring for a new project from the group's instrumentalists, who shortly thereafter revealed that they were working on music together. Fronting said project would have been a dream job for any number of heavy-music vocalists.

But not Greg Puciato.

At that point, the former Dillinger Escape Plan wild man was six years removed from the notorious mathcore daredevils, who split in 2017, and Puciato has finally found inner peace both in his personal life and with his myriad other projects: the gothy Black Queen, the rip-roarin' metal supergroup Killer Be Killed, his genre-hopping solo career, and his gig singing backup vocals in Jerry Cantrell's solo band.

The Dillinger Escape Plan's algebraic detonations and frenetic live shows had been creative therapy for him. "My life was constantly a mess. I was fucking depressed and anxious," Puciato says of his time in Dillinger. "That band gave me an outlet to creatively deal with a lot of that stuff."

When he was offered the vocalist slot in the ETID boys' new group, soon to be named Better Lovers, Puciato wasn't even sure if he had the capability to tap back into the chaotic, maniacal side he had purposefully left behind post-Dillinger.

"I wasn't jonesing to scream and jump off shit," he admits. "[That frustration is] just not fucking frothing out of me like it was back then."

No one who has seen Better Lovers live or heard their debut EP, July's God Made Me an Animal, would guess that. Puciato did end up joining the former ETID members in their new group — which is rounded out by Fit for an Autopsy guitarist and noted producer Will Putney — and despite his initial doubts, he's rekindled his vein-bulging Dillinger-era ferocity. He is fucking frothing — as are his bandmates, who churn out a head-spinning mix of rawk grooves and mathy metalcore not for the faint of heart.

Better Lovers don't come across like a bunch of veteran musicians trying to recapture former glory; they attack like a fresh, hungry band out for blood. Which is just what they are.

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In summer 2022, guitarist Jordan Buckley's frustrations were at an all-time high w­­hen he crossed paths with Puciato backstage at a Jerry Cantrell show. His long-running metalcore institution, Every Time I Die, had dissolved in January after a messy intraband blowout that pitted him against his brother, ETID frontman Keith Buckley. Given that Every Time I Die were writing at the top of their game (2021's Radical was a career highlight), the acrimonious split was a heartbreaking cap on the Buffalo band's 24-year career, and it left Jordan in rough shape.

"I wish I had a happier answer, but I was extremely fucked up after it," Buckley says, soberly, when asked about specifics surrounding the breakup. He doesn't want to get into the details of the sibling sparring match but says this of his personal experience: "I was just extremely depressed, extremely bed-ridden, and I got diagnosed with PTSD."

Fortunately, he already feels a lifetime removed from those dark days and credits the gradual rebuilding of his music career with getting him to the other side. "One of the ways I got out," he continues, "was by writing and focusing on one goal: to get back onstage and start a new band." Buckley shared his intentions with Puciato at the Cantrell show and offered to send the singer some instrumental demos for a new, still-unnamed project, which then featured his three other ETID instrument-playing bandmates — guitarist Andy Williams, bassist Steve Micciche and drummer Clayton "Goose" Holyoak. Puciato took him up on it but was nervous.

The final Dillinger record, Dissociation, was released in 2016, so it had been over half-a-decade since Puciato had written any songs in the screamy, frantic style of both TDEP and ETID. After months of sitting on Buckley's riffs, waiting for inspiration to strike, Puciato finally had a 3 a.m. breakthrough for a song and jumped up in the middle of the night to record the vocal phrasing that came to mind.

That song became the first Better Lovers track, "30 Under 13," which they dropped out of the sky to introduce the new band in April 2023. Conjoining the sludge-blues lashings of Every Time I Die with the glass-munching howls Puciato was known for during the Dillinger years, the song was immediately appealing to fans of both bands, but also sounded like a fresh start. The band returned a couple months later with the surprise-released Made Me an Animal, and then embarked on a summer tour where their feral online hype was affirmed with buck-wild live shows.

"I still have a hard time understanding it," Puciato says of their instantaneous rise to internet-breaking attention and then selling out 500-cap rooms. "It was so fast and the response to it was so over-the-top, and people seemed so hyped on it."

For Buckley, the overflowing positivity of this new beginning was absolutely necessary. "I was so ready to ditch all the resentment, sadness, negativity and all the anger, and move forward and forgive," he says. "Be a happy person and have a happy life again."

For Puciato, Better Lovers has also been an overwhelmingly positive step forward. Though he wasn't sure if he'd still have his mojo, getting back to screaming in people's sweaty faces and leaping off balconies has felt pleasantly natural to him. That said, Puciato confidently shoots down the question that's been lingering in many fans' minds since he returned to making mosh-pit music: No, Better Lovers isn't making him want to reunite the Dillinger Escape Plan.

"I don't miss it at all," Puciato says candidly. "And I hate to say this, but if we were to get back together, it would be for money. And I don't fucking want to do that. Every year, all those festivals… they just throw astronomical amounts of money at us to get back together. And it's never even been something that we even entertain.

"When Dillinger ended, I thought to myself, 'OK, I want at least five years,' and now it's been six and I can't imagine it happening within the next five years, even."

Better Lovers is the focus, and the pipes are flowing with creative inspiration. "We're all systems go right now," Puciato enthuses. "We fucking have a text chat that has 200 fucking texts in it by the time I wake up every day."

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The band confirm they have a whole album's worth of new songs in the works, but strongly suggest that fans will first be treated to another short-form release — possibly before the clock strikes 2024. "The biggest band hack you can have is to have a producer in your band," Buckley says of Putney, who replaced Williams once the ETID axman had to make the painful choice between music and his other gig as a pro wrestler. Buckley was sad to see him go but loves having a Better Lovers member who can record all of their ideas in-house.

The uncertainty of where the band will go and how they'll get there is particularly exciting to Buckley, who felt both a sense of accomplishment, and humility, during the Better Lovers' summer tour opening for Underoath, the Ghost Inside and We Came as Romans. Compared to his experience in ETID as a big-room headlining act, flicking on their amps to a half-empty crowd right after doors opened was a stark change of pace for the guitarist — but he emphasizes that starting from that level was a conscious choice. 

"We want to be able to say that we deserved everything we got," Buckley says. "We didn't want to just rely on our resumes."

"Basically, in a year we're going to be the biggest band in the world," he adds with a casual confidence. "So at least now we can say we started from the bottom."