August Burns Red - 10/10/2009

AUGUST BURNS RED was formed in Lancaster, PA, in 2003, and took its name from a local news story in which a troubled teenage girl set fire to a pet dog belonging to her former boyfriend. Featuring vocalist Jon Hershey, guitarists J.B. Brubaker and Brent Rambler, bassist Jordan Tuscan, and drummer Matt Greiner, the group recorded their first demo in 2004, when some of the members were still in high school. Later that year, a local independent label, CI Records, released the group's first EP, ´Looks Fragile After All´.

 

Steady touring and positive response to the EP led to the group being signed to noted Christian metal label Solid State Records, who released August Burns Red's first full-length album, ´Thrill Seeker´, in the fall of 2005. ´Thrill Seeker´ also marked the recording debut for vocalist Josh McManness, who replaced the departing Jon Hershey. McManness's stay with August Burns Red proved to be short, and when their second album, ´Messengers´, reached stores in June 2007, the group had yet another lead singer, Jake Luhrs. ´Messengers´ marked the first time that the full band collaborated on lyrics as well as music for the album's 11 songs.

 

The long-awaited third full-length album by August Burns Red, ´Constellations´, has debuted at an impressive No. 24 on The Billboard 200 in the US and was released some months ago in Europe too.

 

 

 

It seems there is plenty to talk about and drummer Matt Greiner was available to answer some questions. Here you can read what he had to say to the readers of Metal-Experience.com

 

First of all, congratulations with the release of your album ‘Constellations’.

 

Which approach did you choose to make this album, did you go for a more raw exposition or something more reminiscent of your previous other works, or something all together different?           

 

I think the only thing we’re truly conscious of when writing new material is creating a collection of songs that we’re proud of.  I’m confident that ‘Constellations’ is the best record we’ve written to date.  I think our maturity as musicians, as songwriters, and as human beings enabled us to compose songs of a brand new caliber.  That said, I think ‘Constellations’ resembles ‘Thrill Seeker’ in technicality and ’Messengers’ in raw intensity.  It however goes a step further in introducing new dynamics, more in-depth lyrical content, and experimental elements.

 

What were the goals you had in mind when you started to record ‘Constellations’, any elements you definitely wanted to include on the album?

 

I knew that it was of dire importance that we didn’t recreate ‘Messengers’.  I’m a big fan of bands that do something different on every single record, it keeps the band exciting, fresh, and innovative. JB had solos in mind, I had more hip-hop, groove oriented drumming in mind.

 

Was it a conscious decision to do it this way?

 

Yes.  It’s important to be conscious of what you’ve done in the past and how you could improve on that on future releases.  Being capable of more, musically, we aimed for the stars.

 

Can you give us a little background information on the songs, is there a story behind them?

 

Yes, every song carries with it a profound meaning found in the lyrical content.  One song in particular, “Indonesia,” is about a missionary friend of mine who passed away in a tragic airplane accident last year.  It touches on his incredible sacrifice in serving an impoverished tribe and his families' ability to see the big picture, that life isn’t fair and God is bigger than all of our problems.

 

 

What is the utmost important ingredient for a song?

 

It’s hard to narrow down the composing process to a single ingredient.  I would say one of the more important elements we’re conscious of is incorporating melody with technicality in an original manner.

 

How can we imagine you work on new songs, what's the typical writing process like for August Burns Red?

 

JB, guitarist, writes the majority of the songs, tabs and sends them to me.  After writing my drum parts, JB and I get together and spend time with the song.  Sometimes we know immediately if the song is good to go or needs revision, other times we’ll spend a few days on it before moving forward with the rest of the band.

 

Could you please describe the implications of the title ‘Constellations’, what does it stand for and is there a special meaning behind it?

 

The cover of ‘Constellations’ features a figure pulling on a rope attached to a star in the sky.  The figure represents those of us pursuing God in our every day lives while the star represents God, the steadfast ‘entity in the sky.’

 

Inside the booklet are other figures flying kites in the same night sky as the figure on the cover.  These figures represent those of us that too easily rely on our own talents, inhibitions, and hobbies to lead us through life (represented by the stars).  The wind of life will send our kites sailing every which way, leaving us directionless and lost in a big and chaotic world.

 

Who was responsible for writing the songs and the lyrics on this album and where do you get your inspiration from?

 

JB is the main songwriter, while Brent, Jake, and I collaborate on the lyrical content.  I get most of my lyrical inspiration from philosophical writers like C.S. Lewis, Don Miller, and Brother Yun.  I am also very heavily influenced by my faith and personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

What would you say are the main themes in your lyrics ?

 

Our goal is to make our lyrics easy to relate to.  Some are more abstract than others but mostly our lyrics are about every day realities that anyone can relate to. 

 

Is the music written independently of the lyrics or do you try to reflect lyrical ideas through the music?

 

The music is written independently of the lyrical content and, for the most part, vice versa. The lyrics for “Meridian”, a slower, ‘doomier’ track on the record, were heavily influenced by the music.  A concept came to me while listening to “Meridian” that I immediately jotted down and Jake tracked minutes later.
 


 

How important is it to you that people pay attention to the lyrics apart from listening to the music?

 

Funny you mention this, I am actually doing a Q+A with a friend for his online blog regarding the lyrical/artistic value of ‘Constellations’, and how I’m disappointed at how often lyrical content gets overlooked.  I really do believe that music SHOULD BE only half of what you get when you purchase a record.  The lyrics, album art, and music should all complement each other and become the sum of their parts.

 

How do you think the fact that you recorded three albums, each with a different vocalis, has affected the overall sound and message of the band?

 

I think that the vocalist should be the staple image of the band. That said, writing and recording 3 consecutive records with 3 different vocalists has had a dramatic influence on this band’s current status as well as our fanbase.  Obviously each vocalist had differing standpoints and spiritual views that influenced their message. 

 

What comes first, lyrics or melodies? Is it like you sit down and write a new song because you need more material now or do you wait until you get an idea?

 

Typically we finish the music for our songs before we look too closely at lyrical content.  I had somewhere around 20 to 30 ‘sets’ of lyrics for ‘Constellations’ and we basically just picked the best of the bunch and matched them with songs for the record.  Dark or angry lyrics go best with the heavier, faster songs while the more upbeat and positive lyrics match up well with the more melodious songs.

 

How has the band's sound progressed from your first EP ‘Looks Fragile After All’ to ‘Constellations’ in your opinion?

 

I think overall we’ve become a more technical, melody driven band.  Most importantly I think we’ve figured out how to write whole songs instead of just a bunch of riffs thrown together.  It goes without saying that as you tour and spend time with your instrument, you naturally progress as a musician and, indirectly, a songwriter.  Seeing as we hadn’t toured at all prior to writing our first EP, we had little to none of this on-stage experience that lends to better song composition.

 

The Production of ‘Constellations’ was done by Jason Suecof, what made him the perfect man for this album?

 

Suecof is an eccentric individual that is a literal genius when it comes to vocal patterns, guitar orchestration, and the overall recording/mixing process.  We had been throwing around a bunch of producer names for the record but felt that Suecof was best suited to help us paint the picture we had in mind.

 

In which elements/songs on the new album can one clearly hear his vision and ideas?

 

I think Suecof’s strengths lie in the vocal department.  He was able to fine-tune Jake’s vocal patterns adding to the catchiness of the record and the overall impact of the lyrical content.

 

How did the recording process proceed this time, did you work differently than you did with producer Tue Madsen on your previous works and how much time did you spend in the studio?

 

We spent about 3 months at home writing the record and met up with Suecof for pre-production in mid February.  After the click grids were set up, I spent a week tracking drums.  We spent about 10 days on guitars and bass before heading to Dubai to play a show and finally finishing up guitars, bass, and tracking vocals for the last 10 days of the session.  Suecof was more laidback and relaxed about the session than Tue was, which made for a comfortable atmosphere but long hours.

 

Are third party opinions (press, fans, etc.) on your music important to you? Or are your music and band the only things that matter?

 

Press is incredibly important in gaining credibility in the scene.  A band and its respective music will only be heard if the press decides to promote it and the fans decide to buy it.  At the end of the day we strive to create the best music possible and trust that our PR people, booking agent, record label, and management will take it from there.

 

 

Overall, are you pleased with the outcome of the songs or would you have liked to have changed anything in retrospective?

 

I am very pleased with the songs on ‘Constellations’. I was excited to throw an extra track on the record this time, and was very excited about the song “Meridian”, a slower, sludgy song unlike anything we’ve done in the past.

 

Which element of the CD are you most proud of?

 

I am most proud of the artwork.  I think Invisible Creature did a great job of taking the art concept I had in mind and making it a reality.  I hope that fans take the artwork seriously and evaluate what significance it might have in their own lives.

 

I’d like to talk about your personal goals nowadays, specifically as a musician. Is there a particular area in your playing that you are still working on?

 

Of course there is!  As long as I play drums I will always be honing my chops and practicing new aspects of drumming.  There is always more to be learned. Lately I’ve been ‘taking lessons,’ per say, on YouTube watching the Drum Department guys shred it up!

 

Which song is your favorite one to play live? Which song do you find is the most challenging one to play live?

 

I enjoy playing “White Washed” the most.  We open our set with that song and it hits so hard live. I’d say the hardest song to play live is “Back Burner”.

 

Can you tell us a little about yourself and the kinds of things that motivate you in your writing, your poetry, and your lyrics?

 

I’m motivated most by my faith in Jesus Christ. I find my identity in him and thus base most of what I do and who I am in Him and what he has in store for my life.  I am very influenced by C.S. Lewis in lyrical content and by Salvador Dali in artistic content.

 

With several albums under your belt, how far has you career surpassed your original dreams and what would you say is the most rewarding part of being in the band?

 

I never imagined we would be touring 8 months out of the year as a career.  I always imagined myself playing drums twice a week at church and never leaving Lancaster, PA.  Now that I’ve been around the world and back several times, it’s all very overwhelming.  My favorite and most rewarding part of the band would have to be in the studio.  I love tracking!

 

 

What have been the highlights and low points throughout your career?

 

The highlight of my year has been going to Australia with Parkway Drive.  It was incredible to go to a place halfway around the world and play for thousands of fans every night.  There are NO low points as a musician!

 

Are there any particular bands who’ve been a big influence in your song writing, metal or otherwise and which album has been your biggest musical influence, one that made you think “this is what I want to do!”?

 

Between the Buried and Me has had the single biggest influence on my drumming.  I’d have to say their record, ‘Alaska’, has had the biggest influence in my own songwriting for ABR. 

 

How would you sum up ABR to someone that has never listened to the band?

 

Aggressive metal with melody.

 

The metalcore scene grown explosively in the last couple of years, hundreds of bands seem to have popped up. So, in your opinion, what makes the band stand out compared to other bands and is there anything missing in the scene at present?

 

I’d like to think that kids listen to us over other bands for a number of reasons, one of which is the attention to detail found in our songs.  We strive to create songs that make sense, that keep you guessing as to what’s coming next, and that make you feel inspired!

 

Could you respond to the following terms in just one word or sentence:

 

Metal : As I Lay Dying

Underground : www.myspace.com/hollywoodhardcore

Internet : Twitter

Religion : Christianity

Politics : Obama

The Netherlands : WEED!

U.S.A. : Seattle


Where do you see the band going within the next couple of years and where do you see the band’s musical direction going for the next album?

 

Philanthropy!  We back anything charity related and hope to help out those less fortunate.  We hope to progress as a band, always experimenting with new sounds and styles.

 

Anything else you'd like to add or share with us?

 

DEFINITELY NOT!

 

MATT

 

Thanks for your time.

 

 

 

Current members:

Jake Luhrs − Lead Vocals

JB Brubaker − Lead Guitar

Brent Rambler − Rhythm Guitars

Dustin Davidson − Bass, Backing vocals

Matt Greiner − Drums, Percussion, Piano

 

Former members:

Jon Hershey − Vocals (Looks Fragile After All)

Josh McManness − Vocals (Thrill Seeker)

Jordan Tuscan − Bass (Looks Fragile After All, Thrill Seeker)

 

Albums:

(2005) Thrill Seeker

(2007) Messengers

(2009) Constellations

 

EPs:

(2004) Looks Fragile After All

(2009) Lost Messengers: The Outtakes