Levi The Poet was definitely one busy man while he was interning at HM Magazine. He even went to a couple shows in San Antonio. Here’s an interview he did with a very cool and beloved band — ABR.
You guys know Shawn and Ashley from Veil Arms, right?
Yeah. I met you… I think I met both you at uh, Warped in Las Cruces.
Matt: Oh! Okay.
With Shawn and Ashley… doing some stuff out there. So, uh… ha. Anyway…
JB: Yeah, that was a fun date
Yeah. How was that tour compared to this one?
Matt: Warped Tour?
Matt: It was really different. I mean playing outside is a whole different ballgame, for sure. Yeah, both tours were and are awesome. Warped Tour was huge, for sure, but this one is going really well, too.
JB: realizes lining is broken on the van window) What’s going on there?
Matt: Yeah, that was a quick fix.
Well, I heard a rumor from Shawn that the Composure video was filmed in somebody’s driveway or some dirt road leading out to one of yall’s house or something like that. Was any of that true?
Matt: Haha! No!
Not at all!?
JB: I don’t know where he got that. Haha. I was just filmed in the middle of nowhere. Tell Shawn to stop lying!
JB: It was just a dirt road out in Pittsburg. It was super hot.
Did you guys ever think you’d get to where you are now whenever you started out as a band?
Matt: Ah… definitely not. I mean, when we started, we started as kind of a fun, joke band. You know, like a cover band, basically. And covered three songs, and then played a show and started writing our own material and went from there. From there… I mean, yeah, from there things started to take off.
Matt: But it was definitely nothing serious from the beginning.
Where did, uh… the majority of lyrical inspiration come from for each of you guy’s albums?
JB: Well, Josh our first singer, for (CRAPCRAPCRAPCRAP) – he wrote almost everything for that record, so that’s a question I can’t quite answer without him being around. But with Messengers everyone, uh… kind of wrote down their own thoughts and ideas and just picked what we liked the best and meshed them into each song.
JB: It was more collaborative.
So each song is like a combination of everybody’s, like, lyrics?
JB: Um… no. The whole record is. Like, each song is, like… Matt wrote one song, I wrote one song, Jake wrote a song… like that, like, a whole song.
Matt: But I’d say “lyrical inspiration” – like, that’s, that’s more of a personal thing. For me… it came from like… it kind of came from life experiences. Like, one was a bout a friend that kind of turned the table on me and did some pretty crappy things. Another song was about people shifting blame and just, like, never taking credit for stuff that they do wrong, which is, you know, for me, a huge pet peeve and I was really pissed off about it at the time and I wrote a lyric, you know, a song about it. For JB, it’s… you know, I’m sure it’s somewhat similar. He’s wrote backburner…
JB: Yeah. It’s just about, uh… Backburner is about, like, you know, you’re convictions… and throwing them to the wayside. Being like, whatever, who cares? I know this is wrong, but… uh, like, I’ll figure this out later. Like, “I’m young I can do whatever I want. I have all the time in the world” type of thing. Which is kind of a stupid outlook.
Matt: Ha! Kinda!
What do you think influences you guys most musically? Like, other bands and people like that.
JB: Um… I’d like to think that we’re not, like, super influenced by other bands anymore. That we kind of have our own thing going. But there’s definitely bands that we like a lot and respect. And uh… I’d say, especially back on our last record, on… on Thrill Seeker, we were listening to a lot of like… Unearth, bands like that… just some of our favorites in the genre.
Matt: Yeah, I mean… here, now, it’s more so… You know, JB comes up with stuff on his own. It’s not like he’s listening to a record and he’s like, “Oh! I like that part! I want to make a part that sounds like this!” Like… it’s not like that at all. It’s more-so, like, you know, we write the kind of music that we want to hear in a band.
JB: I’d like to think that we’re doing our own thing.
Matt: Yeah like… hopefully it’s unique, three records in.
Oh for sure I think that… I think you’ve definitely accomplished that. Do you guys listen to as much hard stuff as you play when you’re just listening to music or no?
What’s your favorite band?
Matt: Uh, my favorite band? Ha, I’ve been listening to a lot of Kanye West recently, and it’s kind of like a guilty pleasure… I guess you could say. I just like his beats, and I think he’s an intelligent lyricist. A lot of rappers don’t have very good lyrics and they’re kind of shallow. Whereas Kanye West, I feel like, has a little more value or meaning to them. You know… granted, it’s kind of vulgar, or whatever. But uh, Kanye West. I’ve been listening to a lot of Mogwai, actually. Um… the new Anberlin record, Solid, um… of course, Between the Buried and Me and all their records… I’m always spinning them. Foo Fighters! I’ve been on a huge Foo Fighters kick lately. JB?
JB: Um, I’ve been listening to Sea Wolf and Savor and…[Loud, shrill beeping noises] Matt: Keep that beep in.
JB: … the new Cult of Luna is pretty awesome.[Louder, shrill beeping noises] Matt: keep that beep in, too.
JB: I dunno. I like a lot of 90s rock stuff too. Like, the Bush record and I like –
Matt: Pearl Jam?
JB: I don’t like Pearl Jam. Third Eye Blind, though…
Matt: Yeah, I like Third Eye Blind. I’ve been listening to a lot them. Their self-titled…
You mentioned Cult of Luna. I just talked to Jimmy Ryan about his new Trenches thing – have you guys heard all that yet?
Matt: We actually played a show with them last year… was that last year or this year?
JB: This year.
Matt: It was this year?
Laurel: With Trenches?
Matt: Mmhmm. Cool band. Cool dudes.
What went through your guy’s heads when you played a show for the first time? Was it scary or anything like that, or at big shows and stuff like that after you got signed?
JB: I don’t even remember our first… well, like… what I was thinking our first show. I’m sure I was nervous and excited. Um… boy, what goes through my head now?
Matt: I don’t know.
JB: I’m not- I don’t think I’m, like, nervous anymore. It’s kind of… I get anxious. There was a position, or a situation, where we’re, like, supposed to be starting… what festival did we play? Oh, we played a fest called Life Fest this year, and there was a speaker on the main stage and we weren’t allowed to start our set until he was done. And he went over like a half hour or forty-five minutes or something. And I remember being super anxious and uncomfortable. Cause we were just standing there for like, forty-five minutes waiting to, like, walk out and start.
Matt: Yeah. The crowd’s chanting. Like, the lights are down.
JB: Yeah. We’re supposed to be on to play. It’s just like, “Let’s go!” Like, that anticipation…
Matt: For me it’s like… I always get anxious before I play. It’s not like the anxious where I’m like, “Oh my God!” to where I’m like scared to play – I’m just ready. Like, I’m… you know, the adrenaline’s running. My blood’s, you know, flowing fast… my heart’s pumping. But if I didn’t have that I wouldn’t play well and I wouldn’t be excited to play. So I’m excited that I’m anxious. I need that… that. But, uh… no, I mean, I don’t really get nervous to play. I’m sure I used to more than I do now.
That’s cool. How do you guys feel about being so big in the Northeast with Purple Door and Creation Fest and all that stuff? You guys were pretty popular.
Matt: Uh. We never played Creation, actually.
Creation? Maybe it was Life Fest that I’m thinking of…
Soulfest! That’s what I’m thinking of.
Matt: Yeah, Soulfest is in the Northeast.
JB: We did get to close… did we close out Soulfest this year? Or no, someone played after us, I think.
Matt: At Soulfest?
Matt: No, I think we closed out Soulfest.
JB: I though like, Skillet, or someone played after us.
Matt: Oh yeah. Yeah, yeah.
Haha. Kind of a drastic change.
Matt: Yeah, some of those fests have some interesting lineups.
JB: It’s cool to move up the ladder though. Like, like we were the last band to play at Purple Door this year on the HM stage. And, like, the previous years we played at like, 10 a.m. – 11 a.m. And we got to play late this year, which was cool.
That is cool. I remember, uh… 07 Cornerstone? You guys… eh, Maylene couldn’t make it or something like that and you guys ended up playing Main Stage or something.
Matt: Yeah! Yeah we were really excited about that. I remember being at band practice and JB getting the email or call that we’re, you know, in the running for Main Stage Cornerstone. And I was like… that stage is huge! It was like… the first time we played a stage that big, I think. Or, at least for me, it felt huge.
JB: That’s a big stage.
It was fun.
Matt: It was fun. Packed lineup that day, too.
Yeah. For sure. The show the night before was so crazy. I was standing there in the middle of the crowd for you guys’ set and it was like – the first two seconds and I was just, like, at the very back of the tent. Like, everybody just killed everybody.
Matt: Oh yeah, yeah. At the Encore Stage.
JB: That was an awesome year at Cornerstone. That was so fun. I wish we would’ve gotten to play this year, but… did work out.
What would you say is the most blessed experience that you guys have had being with August Burns Red?
JB: Hmm. That’s a hard question to answer. We’ve had many, many experiences. Many good experiences. Uh… people often do super nice things for us. Like, as far as, like, having a blessed experience. Um, there’s this guy named Rafael from Houston who just always comes out… he’s a youth leader or something. He always comes out and brings us tons of food and like, will feed us.
Matt: Yeah. Like, five pounds of ribs.
JB: He’s always just like taking care of us. That’s how he wants to like, aid our ministry. By like, feeding us, or whatever.
Matt: Yeah, he’s really generous.
JB: Something like that happens every once in a while which is always, like, special.
Matt: For me, recently, it’s been kids that come up… or not even kids. But like, you know, young adults that come up and are like, “Yeah, I was just in the army” or “I’m like hope for a while from the Army or the Navy or whatever.” And, they’re like, “Yeah, I listen to your music a lot and it helps me get through…” You know, whatever, my day or my week there – you know. That really helps a lot. That means a lot. That’s sweet. Like… that we’re like, reaching out to that certain field. And I’m like, wow, you’re helping to serve our country and putting your life on the line.
For sure. What do you guys think about the… kind of “music as art” or “music as ministry” side of things… like…
JB: Like, saying those are the only two options?
Yeah. Or… or your approach to either one.
JB: Um. I think it can be… I think it can be both, man. Like, why not? There are some people that are going to take what we’re doing as art, and others who are going to take it as a ministry thing, and I think it all depends on where you’re coming from. What your background is. So, I’m not gonna be the one to decide, like… how people are going to take what we’re doing.
Matt: Yeah, I think it’s subjective to the listener for sure. You know, to the fans. Cause like, say like, say… a portrait, or a painting – like, some people might see it as art, or whatever. And other people don’t see it that way at all. They might see it as just paint on a piece of paper, or whatever. It’s subjective for sure. But I think the two can definitely mix, you know? I think some people will see our music as a ministry and an art form as well.
Yeah, just… I don’t know… like, Doug did an issue on that… and just, like, kind of talking about the frustrations of the “Christian Music Industry” or whatever, because people are just…
Matt: Wait… who’s Doug?
Doug is the editor of HM. And it’s just like… he was talking about how people are, like, quick to,,, quick to judge a band, you know, if they don’t necessarily use their stage as a pulpit, or whatever. And he talked about how that’s not, you know, like a bad thing either. You know… so many kids just find so much meaning through the people’s stuff and just talk to them, like, afterwards… or don’t even talk to them at all. But it’s still hope, you know? So…
JB: I think we’ve always the impression: get people into your band first and put on a good show and then let your lyrics and what you’re saying… kind of do their job behind the scenes. Because if your band sucks why would anyone listen? You know? So you’ve got to kind of…
Matt: You have to have credibility.
Favorite thing to do when you’re not touring?
Matt: Oh! Sleep! No… uh, hang out with friends… for me. Just chill. Cookouts. Or, uh… you know, go to sporting events – baseball games. Go to, like, a little baseball game.
JB: Mine’s definitely, like… Philly’s Baseball. Huge. Huge for me. So that’s what… I mean… I’m doing that right now on my phone. Watching the pitch by pitch. But… so, especially like this last… we had this last month off before this tour started. And like, every night, was just… go out with my friends and watch the Philly’s. Or like, go to the games or whatever.
Cool, cool. What’s your favorite part about being on tour?
Matt: Uh… sleeping! No… probably… post-show. Like, after we’re done and I’m like, cooled off and talking to kids. Like, that’s when I feel best on tour, for sure.
JB: I think my favorite part is actually playing the show. It sucks setting up. It sucks tearing down. But it’s still fun to play, especially when things are going right, when things are clicking, when people are havin’ fun. It’s like… a feeling your can’t really get otherwise. If it wasn’t fun I don’t think we’d really be touring as much as we do.
You guys like traveling?
JB: Yeah! I do, I like traveling.
Matt: Yeah, for sure.
JB: It’s really cool getting to see new places and stuff.
Matt: I think if we didn’t really like traveling we wouldn’t be able to do this. For sure…
What’s the funnest place you guys have been to? Or, enjoyed the most…?
Matt: I love Seattle. Like –
Haha! Me too!!!
Matt: Yeah. Like, the Northwest. Seattle, Vancouver, Portland. Awesome.
JB: One of the most fun things that I did this year was… Matt did this too… we did this… it’s called the West Edmonson Mall in Edmonson. And there’s a huge indoor waterpark. We went there one day. It was a blast.
Matt: That place rules! It was ridiculous! It’s like… I think it might be the biggest mall, or the second biggest mall in North America.
Matt: Yeah. Something like that. It’s ridiculous.
Where is it again?
Matt: It’s in Alberta. Check it out, if you go Canada sometime.
Yeah. I’ve heard about a mall like that in Montreal. It’s supposed to be, like, miles long above and below ground, or something like that.
JB: I don’t anything about that. we’ve been there many times. I’ll have to check it out.
Yeah, maybe I’m an idiot. Maybe I’m totally wrong, but… I feel like… eh… (to Laurel) do you have any questions?
Laurel: Uh… I was going to ask what you guys listen to, like, while you’re on the road and stuff, but he already asked… so…
Matt: Oh! The new Coldplay, too. I’ve been listening to a lot of that.
For sure! I work at Starbucks back home, and they were like the first ones to start selling that. That and like, Bright Eyes and stuff for a while… a bunch of random crap.
Matt: Probably the new Death Cab…?
Matt: Pretty household names for Starbucks.
Yeah, for sure. Any uh, last words, last thoughts?
Matt: Um… thanks for doing the interview.
JB: It’s awesome when HM covers us, man. I feel like… well, this is just like… I’ll see an issue with the Reader’s Poll and be like, “No one at HM cares about us.” You know, like, I’ve never seen us in any of that stuff. And we… I don’t think we do a whole ton of stuff for you guys so I’m really excited when we can.
Matt: I think we did… I think we might have done, like, two bigger things.
Yeah. There’s a couple… there’s like a feature… or something like that.
Matt: That rules. Cool magazine. I’m stoked to be in it. For sure.
Cool guys, thank you very much. Tell Shawn and Ashley hello for me when you get to see them…
Matt: I will! I will. We’ll be going through (Albuquerque) pretty soon here.
Slap Shawn in the face for me.
Matt: Haha! I will! I will!