Since their inception in 2003, August Burns Red have been a regular and disruptive force within the Metalcore community. With earlier releases Messenger and Constellations, the band set a new standard for the genre, one that sent a shiver down the spine of all those who considered themselves peers of ABR.
Rather than returning to familiar, comfortable territory, the band continues to push on into the unknown, as we can see with their upcoming record Phantom Anthem, set to drop Friday, October 9. The album is shaping up to be an aggressive output, taking queues from the human condition, as well as the current socio-political climate.
Though, as guitarist Brent Rambler would explain, there was no master plan. There was no loose plan – there was no plan at all. The music we hear on Phantom Anthem, and indeed all August Burns Red albums past, was never the result of intention, but rather letting the wild horses run, so to speak.
The Neversphere: October has totally crept up on us, so Phantom Anthem is going to drop any moment now. You guys must be pumped to finally be getting this thing out…
Brent: We’re really excited. We’ve been done with the record for quite some time. We finished recording it in April, so it’s been a while. Definitely excited for people to hear it, for them to have it in their hands; we’re slowly getting over the nerves of putting out a new record.
The Neversphere: From the get go we heard lead singles The Frost and Invisible Man. For me, I saw some strong parallels to Messenger, was that part of the plan or did I get the read on this totally wrong?
Brent: It wasn’t an intentional thing, it never really is for any of our records. What gets written is what gets written. The songs we write take a long time to actually get written. For example, Jake [Luhrs, vocals] worked on the song Lifeline for a year [laughs], so it can take a really long time to write a song. It’s hard to actually sit down and say, ‘For this record, we want to go this direction‘…It’s just how the riffs come out, and how the songs play out. It’s not anything intentional – I think there was maybe one song that JB [Brubaker, guitar] wrote, he just said ‘I’m going to sit down and write a super heavy song‘, and that was the only song that had any intention…Other than that it’s just however it turns out.
The Neversphere: What’s it like listening back to the finished album after you make it that way? Do you find yourself surprised by the outcome, given there’s almost no intention?
Brent: It’s really hard as a musician. Usually the first time you’re listening back to your record you’re doing so to make mix critiques. It’s been a while since I sat down and listened to the record, because I’d say for a month straight we were listening to new mixes over and over again. Then we were listening to new masters. To sit down and listen to the album without any distraction, or pointing anything out…I mean…it’s kind of hard to do.
For me, the record started to come together when we were working on vocals. Granted, we did a couple of days of edits on the vocals, and there’s stuff I hear now in the vocals even though they were taken out and aren’t in the final edit. I don’t know how many bands, or artists, who can sit down and enjoy the record from start to finish for a long time after it’s come out.
The Neversphere: I heard recently that our brains aren’t actually that efficient. If we’ve written something, and go back to read it, or edit it, or listen to it in your case, our brains won’t actually be out of ‘writing-mode’, which is why it’s so challenging to edit your own work, your brain thinks you’re still writing it…
Brent: [Laughs] Yeah, you definitely can’t edit your own work. Just today we sent over this video to get done, and it had a list of stuff in it. We came back to the marketing person for it and she said ‘we need a tonne of edits for this.’ and we’re just like oh man…
The Neversphere: You did say there weren’t any intentions for the album but I’d like to ask about the tone of it. It’s a very aggressive album, no doubt something that came to light during the process. Did you set out to write an aggressive record, or did you just realise you were writing one and kept going down that road?
Brent: I think that happened with the vocal and lyric process. We were sitting down, and Jake and I did a lot of work on the vocal stuff for this record together. We were combing over the lyrics we picked and were like ‘man, there are a lot of happy-sappy lyrics that aren’t going to work for a lot of this record’ or there were songs that have lyrics with more positive parts in them. So, we’re like ‘Ok, we’re going to have to figure out how to write around that,’ because it’s a strong lyric we don’t want to scrap it. We had to work out a way to write around it because of how aggressive the song is. We felt that more during the vocal process versus the actual writing of the music.
The Neversphere: August Burns Red has always had such great lessons and home truths in the lyrics. And while I’ve never picked up any political posturing in your music before, I’m wondering if you guys drew on the current socio-political state of the world to inform some of the lyrics for the album?
Brent: I really, for a bit, tried hard to not do that. The world and politics and all that, it goes in waves. I’ve always tried to stay away from politics just in general. But when we were making this record, I remember walking into the studio one day, and I was just like ‘That’s it, I can’t take it anymore…I have to write something‘. I write a lot. I write dozens of lyrics for every record before it gets whittled down. We have this song Hero Of The Half Truth, which is about our political climate here in The States and how divisive it is. Nothing gets done and nothing will get done, because people are constantly trying to one up each other, and can’t agree on anything.
The Frost quite literally started out as a song I wrote while on a bike ride [Laughs]. When I write lyrics, it’s whatever is happening at that moment. I usually stop what I’m doing it and write it down in a note on my phone. The Frost is about how finding something new in life. I think that if you find something new in life it can help you escape stress. It can push you as a person. I think that’s important. A lot of people hit that point in life where they need a new pick me up and don’t know what to do.
The Neversphere: You guys have some adoring fans in Australia, myself included. When do you think you’ll be bringing the record down for us?
Brent: We’d love to come to Australia. We tried to come down on the Messenger tour but were told pretty much point blank that ‘We don’t think people here are interested in seeing that’, I think was the exact quote [Laughs]. We’ve been trying to come. We want to come, we just have to get someone to bring us down there and book some shows for us.
We’ve always had really good shows there, we’re just waiting for the right person to look at our numbers and make it happen…
…We’d love to get back there.