The guys from August Burns Red just don’t fit the metal band stereotype. Their haircuts are usually clean. They don’t wear makeup on stage. Only a few of them have tattoos. They dress more like they’re on the way to a college coffee shop: fitted jeans, crisp button down shirts or baseball tees and shoes designed for comfort. Perhaps that originality has partly led to their passionate fanbase. They’re not always cluttering albums with excessive chugging and 808 drops. So when the news broke the Lancaster, PA quintet were leaving Solid State Records — the only label they’ve ever known — for Fearless Records, many fans were worried of a fallout: Would they go soft? Abandon metal and fall into a money grab of mashup generic metal? Fans should rejoice: the iconic metalcore band’s sixth studio album, Found in Far Away Places, is not soft nor a sell out. The album is a musical expansion, and, as guitarist and primary songwriter J.B. Brubaker puts it, they don’t like “discs scratched in their metal.” But they do like violins and western-themed bridges in between heavy riffs and masterful guitar play.
You go by J.B., right? That’s usually how you go?
Right. Just wanted to make sure there’s not another way to address you for the interview.
You can call me Master Shred.
(Laughs) I’m kidding.
We can do that, too!
That’d be hilarious.
Worst joke ever. I’m sorry (laughs).
No worries. Let’s get going. Why don’t you catch us up with what you all have been up to. If I’m correct, your next tour is worked out, yes?
That’s right. Yeah. Well, currently, we’re at home where we’re doing a lot of stuff for our new record, which will be coming out on June 30.
Doing the Warped Tour. Doing a follow-up tour on the main stage. It’ll be our third time doing the whole tour on the main stage. We’re really excited to put our record out on Warped. It’s a great opportunity for us to get in front of a lot of people, which, you know, is the goal with the record coming out. We’re shooting a couple of music videos. Doing a lot of press and photo shoots, stuff of that nature.
How is Warped for you guys? I feel like Warped is loved or hated.
Well, I can’t think of a better place than Warped Tour for us. … I love Warped. The crew positions have to get up really early and unload and do a lot more time in the hot sun. As an artist on the tour, its not very difficult from my perspective. We don’t have to play a very long set. We don’t have to get up early and unload all of the equipment; we have crew guys that do that for us. And you have a lot of free time to hang out with other friends of yours. I mean, there are always lots of bands that we’ve been on the road with (from a) previous tour, so it’s cool to catch up with old friends and stuff. It’s no cliché, but it’s like punk rock summer camp for a lot of people. So I personally think Warped is a lot of fun, and I’m looking forward to it.
“They signed us because of the band we are, not because they want to turn us into something else.”
The first thing I want to touch on is the record label change.
When it first happened, I (first) noticed (the) Facebook comments: “What is this going to do? Are, are they going to lose their sound?” What (does) this mean for August Burns Red, for who you guys are?
OK. Can I ask you a quick question, Jordan?
Have you heard the record?
I did, actually. Yesterday.
I understand that coming from a (fan’s perspective) — and if I look back on how I thought things, then the record is right before I really knew how things worked, something like this would have been a bit of warning to me and to the fan of a band, as well. Like, if I was a big fan of NOFX, you know, and they went and signed to, like, Atlantic or something, I’d be like, “What the heck?”
I know Fearless isn’t a major label. I mean, it wasn’t that drastic of a change, but I understand that a lot of people view their roster as being a lot popular, which it is. It’s like ABR immediately becomes a thing, like, the heaviest band on sales records. So I can see why that will be concern to some people. But Fearless is just another record label that’s going to be putting out our albums. It’s like if we had gone to, I don’t know, like some indie label. It wouldn’t change our sound; it’s just a different person to market and distribute our records for us.
They signed us because of the band we are, not because they want to turn us into something else. They were, “Here’s, here’s your budget. Here’s what we’re going to do for marketing. Go make your album, and we’ll do the rest.”
Upon hearing the album yesterday, did you think it’s a drastic departure from the ABR sound? I’m curious of your opinion on that.
I’ll be perfectly honest. I thought it was ABR, is what I heard.
I mean, I think so, too.
I’ve heard all your albums, seen you guys live many times, and it was good. It was original. Not to bring myself in this, but I will say ABR is what I heard.
What we normally do for new records, we kept our core sound and we tried some different things with different parts. I don’t think anyone is nervous about a change. I don’t think you’re going to put in the record and think, “Oh crap. It sounds like the new Pierce the Veil.”
(Laughs) Something like that, you know what I mean? So it’s just a new catalyst for putting out our records.
“I like taking the ‘no rules’ approach to our music, especially at this point. We started dabbling with that on Leveler and our fans were gracious enough to accept us for doing that kind of thing. It gave us more leeway and the confidence to do more things like that in the future, which I foresee us continuing to do.”
You all had been with Solid State for so long.
And Solid State’s great. No, we have no issues with them. Still keep in touch with them. I mean, we have a lot of back catalogs. We just felt like it was time for a new label. We talked a lot different labels and we just felt it was time to make a switch, a different perspective on how to move forward.
Did you ever consider doing an indie record, like just your own record? It’s something that’s been popular, I’ve noticed, with a lot of bands recently. I was just curious if that was ever anything that touched your minds?
We definitely put very hard thought into that. There was a time (where) that was definitely the (route) we were planning on taking.
Ultimately, we decided that it made more sense to work with a well-oiled machine like Fearless Records than trying to figure out on the fly how to do this ourselves — which we’ve never done it before.
And we don’t feel like we’re at a point in our career where we can rest and let things happen. We still want to push very hard and do the best we can to continue to grow as a band.
I would consider you guys veterans in this genre and in the field.
So how is the process of putting out a record this time as compared to you know, I don’t know, your first few records? Is it different? Are there any nerves, is it stressful, is it easier?
From an artist’s perspective, I’ll say there’s always nerves when you’re releasing new material. We want people to like it, you know. So it’s nerve-racking putting out a record and thinking, “Boy, I hope people still like our band and like this new record.” It always seems like when you release a record, if people aren’t feeling it, it seems like your career is quickly entering a tailspin.
We don’t plan to stop anytime soon, so we want to keep putting out music our fans are digging. That’s why most of the nerves come out. We need to see how it’s going to be received. And you know, fingers crossed, it’ll be received well. But you never know until it will be out and about.
Does the process of making it get any easier? You know, people say if you really love what you do… Is it still hard?
We put as much time in this as we did on any record. These songs don’t just come out quickly. There’s a lot of revision, back and forth on chords, trying to get everything to stay in a line.
I write, like, all the music for the songs, and then we bring them together as a band. But we work on the lyrics and vocals last. Basically, everyone in the band has the option, if they so choose, to write lyrics. And then we pull all of those lyrics together and kind of randomize them, so you don’t know whose lyrics you’re reading.
And then we read them. All of them. And then we all score them, you know? A scale of 1 to 5. Our producers had input in this, as well, so we have some outside perspective. And then we basically tally up and see what songs were scoring the highest. And then these are prioritized as the songs we’re going to try to use for the record.
Now, basically, as we get to (this) lyrics stage, we’re working on about 12 songs total. And you only have one or two songs left that need lyrics. Maybe they aren’t fitting the vibe of the songs that are remaining. In that case you can dig a little deeper on some of the other sets of lyrics that didn’t make it in the top 12 cut or whatever.
But, you know, Jacob (Luhrs, vocalist) takes all the lyrics and matches them to songs. And flushes out all of those parts with replacement ones. Then we sit down as a band, with our other producer, Carson Slovak, and comb over everything they’ve done vocally. Everyone has their own opinion on how lyrics should be delivered and come in and stuff like that. That’s the most stressful part of the entire recording process, critiquing of the vocals. We know Grant and Jacob spend a lot of time getting the vocals in place where they’ll be really stoked. And then we have to go, “Wow. I don’t very like that part. I want you to redo it.”
We do a lot of voting. Should that be changed? Is it good? A lot of back and forth. But it ultimately develops a better final product just from going through that process.
Is that how you always done that process when you made an album?
It’s kind of warped into that over the years. We did that very similar process on Rescue and Restore, but we have always had an open forum for writing lyrics.
“We do a lot like, voting, like, should that be changed or is it good? A lot of back and forth. But it ultimately develops a better final product just from going through that process.”
Is there any song on the album that’s special to you or that you like?
Yeah. I have favorites. And, if you were on the phone with a different guy in the band right now, you’ll have their favorites and they will be different than mine.
I tend to lean towards the more linear, almost progressive side of things for a song. On the songs I like, my favorite track is track eight, which is called “Broken Promises.” It’s the longest song on the album. It has a lot of almost jammy elements to it.
I love the last song on the album, “Vanguard.” It’s, I guess, the least heavy song on the album, and it also has a lot of instrumental breaks and stuff. And, you know what? All the vocals are more melodic; it’s not just screaming. I guess the whole song is kind of more of that tone. But I really like that more textured and dynamic stuff.
Was there any goal when you’re making the record, I don’t know, lyrically or musically? Or was it something that kind of just unfolded throughout the process?
As boring as it is, I think it’s more something that just unfolded. At this point, we’ve done a lot of records, and it’s hard to say, “The specific goal for this album is this.” We just want to write an album of really great songs. I think that’s always been the goal of ABR when writing new records. We’ve never done a concept album or anything like that. It’s just been, Put together as many great songs as you can and let’s release them. That was certainly the process.
How, how was it like working with Jeremy McKinnon, and how did that come about?
Jeremy’s an old buddy of ours. We’ve been on the road with A Day to Remember off and on since 2009. Actually, 2008 we did Warped together, and we’ve been doing stuff off and on with them for years, ever since. So he’s an old friend. I guess he’s a fan of ABR, and we’re a fan of him. We were thinking about if we had clean vocals on the album, who would make the most sense? So we asked him, and he was kind enough to oblige us. He did his parts in his studio down in Florida, so we didn’t actually get together when we were doing the tracking. But we did leave the whole section open, we gave him the lyrics of the song and then said, “Here’s your part, dude. You can write what you want.” Because, you know, he’s an artist, he’s a good writer and knows what he’s doing.
So he wrote his own lyrics and his own melody, did the whole section and, you know, it was really cool to collaborate with him on that and to see how he works.
That was good, I agree. I think his clean vocals fit the song awesome. I heard violins again on the album.
I can’t remember the name of the song, but one had a Western-themed bridge. Where did that come from?
For the Western section (which is in track six, called “Majors and the Minors”) I couldn’t tell you exactly where inspiration for that came from or why we launched into that sort of thing. Ever since we did “Internal Cannon” like that on Leveler, I’ve been getting these sorts of questions. “Where did that come from? Why do a part like that?” There’s generally not ever a great answer. “Well, I heard this. And was feeling this. So… I wrote this western section” (laughs).
It just came out. I was noodling around and I came up with the backbone of the part. I fleshed it out and turned it into what it is on the album. I like that kind of stuff, and I think doing outside the box stuff … is really fun for us, especially after six albums, to be able to branch out and play some different genres of music. And just try different things that you might not expect.
I like taking the “no rules” approach to our music, especially at this point. We started dabbling with that on Leveler and our fans were gracious enough to accept us for doing that kind of thing. It gave us more leeway and the confidence to do more things like that in the future, which I foresee us continuing to do.
It’s become your own little thing, you know? To have these types of bridges. I think it’s really cool, too.
Thank you. I’m sure there’ll be other people who say, “That song was cool until you went into that part!” (laughs).
In all seriousness, though, I really do see that as a part of you guys, and it’s cool I saw that continuing. I was curious if you had gone to the desert for a year and had this revelation…
(Laughs) No, nothing like that.
I saw you and Brent were on with Jarrod Alonge, the YouTube guy. I have to know how that came about. That was a funny, funny video.
He hit up our publicist and wanted to do something with us. We came through Atlanta on our last tour. He came up with the idea of doing a funny video where we were basically pretending that we were always in a Christmas band. We had seen his stuff before and knew that he was a funny dude. We improved the whole thing with him, and started to really drive it home. We were maybe more dry than we should have been with it.
It was a fun interview to do, for sure. Very, very different for us because we’re not generally known for doing comedy stuff, I guess.
What is your favorite up-and-coming metal or hardcore artist? Are there any new bands you’re listening to?
OK. That’s a hard question for me (laughs). One of my favorite bands relatively new in their career is Deafheaven. I guess they’re not terribly unknown at this point, since their last record got a lot of acclaim, but I think that band’s awesome.
There are not a ton of newer bands, especially in the metalcore world, I am gravitating towards. I’m pretty jaded on the genre as a whole, being in it for so long and it changing so much. I don’t like to sing pop choruses and that kind of thing.
For heavy albums I’m excited for this year, the new Between the Buried and Me that’s coming out in early July. … I’ll mention that we have a guitar solo from Paul Waggoner of Between the Buried and Me on (our new album), on the song “Everlasting Ending,” that ridiculous guitar solo. That was really cool for us. Being longtime fans and friends of those guys, I know it was really special for me personally.
I didn’t realize that. I’d heard the song, but I didn’t know that he did that.
People are going to think that’s me, and it’s totally not. I can’t play that part!
August Burns Red was posted on May 11, 2015 for HM Magazine and authored by Jordan Gonzalez.