One of the wildest things about going through this archive is realising the people that I’ve interviewed that I have long since forgotten. If you had asked me a few minutes ago if I’d ever interviewed anyone from August Burns Red, I would give a pretty confident reply of “no.” And yet, here is my trusty archive with the timely reminder: “Yes, you have.”
Needless to say, I remember absolutely zero about this interview. It seemed to go okay, though. And Constellations still bumps.
Across four albums and nearly ten years in the game, AUGUST BURNS RED have solidified themselves as one of the most respected and hard-working metalcore bands on the planet. Their latest album, Leveller, only cements this status further – and they’re here this April to show you exactly how it’s done. DAVID JAMES YOUNG spoke to lead guitarist JB Brubaker about crazy tours and staying ahead of the game.
AHM: Hi JB, how’s it going? Whereabouts are you at the moment?
JB Brubaker: I’m doing just fine! I’m in Chicago, Illinois. We’re doing the second night of two shows. Last night was a big show – it was sold out! It was great.
Sounds like it. It was around this time last year that the band announced that you would be releasing your fourth studio album, Leveller. Now that the record has been out for awhile and you have time to reflect upon it, do you still feel the same way about the album that you did when you were recording?
I was really excited about the record when it was written, and I’m still excited about it now. It’s my favourite record that we’ve ever written. It’s my favourite record to play live, and I think that one of the reasons is bands always tend to enjoy the latest stuff they write. It’s newer and more exciting. We’re still going to keep playing our old stuff, but it’s not nearly as fresh or exciting to us. Leveller is still relatively new to us, and we’re playing places for the very first time with this record. We’re stoked that people like it.
When I interviewed Dez Fafara of DevilDriver and Coal Chamber, he emphasised the importance that DevilDriver placed on releasing new material every two years. ABR’s discography runs a similar course of new music every 2 years, and I was wondering if you held a similar degree of importance on it?
It’s definitely important to us. It was especially important when we were a younger band, newer to the scene. Bands that put out a record and then don’t do anything for three years, I feel, can be easily forgotten. Especially when you think about how many bands are out and touring there now. It’s important to get your stuff out there – but, at the same time, you don’t want to rush it. If you’re not ready to put out an album, then don’t force it. We’ve kind of scheduled our touring to be able to release new material every other year. It’s something that we wanted to do.
You guys have been touring fairly consistently since the release of Leveler. What have been some of the highlights for you from touring on the back of this record?
We took the record off on the main stage of Warped Tour all summer. That was a career highlight for us – we all went to the Warped Tour as kids, and to be able to play on the mainstage so many years later was completely surreal. We did Loud Park in Japan, which was a lot of fun; and supported A Day to Remember in Europe. Those shows were huge. It was probably the most successful tour in Europe that we were a part of. Kids were really responding and buying merch and all that jazz. We’ve had some great shows for this record.
Across all these shows, you must come across very different types of audiences – whether it’s a festival, a headlining slot, a support act slot. Have you developed any preferences for the types of shows that you play as a band?
Festivals are a lot of fun, because you generally get to play to play to a lot more people than you’d normally be able to. Most of our time is spent playing clubs, so sometimes it’s really fun to go out and just play to a sea of people. At the same time, though, we’ve been headlining shows for the past five weeks here in the States, and some of my favourite shows have been the small rooms with kids going crazy, going all over the stage and stuff like that. Those wild, intimate shows are still the most fun shows that we play. The next show we’re playing in Chicago actually doesn’t have a barricade, and it’s really rare that we get to play shows that don’t. I’m really excited about that.
Having been on the circuit for quite some time, it’s easy to note just how difficult it can be to stand out in a scene that’s often criticised for being incestuous and all the songs sounding the same. What do you think you have done as a band to stand out from the crowd and made August Burns Red successful?
I feel like we kind of pioneered a sound that a lot of bands are trying to do now. We were always kind of at the forefront of what we were doing. I’d like to think we were one step ahead of the curve as far as the metalcore pack goes. We’ve been doing the weird, off-time breakdowns with the really tight rhythms since our first record. I also feel like we are continuing to evolve whereas a lot of bands tend to get stuck in a rut and copycat whoever is popular at the moment. There’s been more of a pop formula towards the songwriting recently, especially with the sung choruses and the keyboards… I’m not into it. We’ll never be that band. We’re not young kids, we’ve been doing this for awhile. We’ve carved out our niche.
You’re coming back to Australia in support of Leveller this April with blessthefall. You must be looking forward to returning?
Yeah, definitely. Australia’s awesome. It’s one of the easiest places for an American to go on tour and feel comfortable, as far as foreign countries go. It’s not very unlike being at home, except the weathers obviously a little bit better [laughs]. Yeah, man, we love Australia. Always have a good time.
What memories and experiences do you associate with Australia and touring here?
We’ve only been over twice. The first time we came, we supported Parkway Drive, which was huge, as you can imagine. It was a really cool way to make our debut in Australia. The crowds were awesome, and all of us had a really great time. The second time, we were a part of the No Sleep Til festival a few summers ago. I mean, those were big shows. The festival setting was cool, and we had a lot of fun with those shows.
One of the things I’ve noticed about Australia, though, is the fact that everything’s expensive. Your prices are higher for pretty much everything. I’m not used to spending fourteen dollars on a McDonad’s value meal! [laughs] You guys are probably used to it, though. It’s just normal to a typical Australian, I imagine. But to spend eight dollars on a pint of beer… it’s crazy!