August Burns Red

author PP date 27/10/08

August Burns Red have been responsible for solid metalcore for a couple of years now despite having changed their vocalists three times during a total of three releases so far. I met up with current vocalist Jake Luhrs at the obscure 'backstage' area of The Rock (read: the kitchen) in Copenhagen for an interview which, despite Mudslide's on-going soundcheck on the background, turned out really well with long, in-depth answers to my questions. Read on to find out everything there's to know about August Burns Red (well that might be an overstatement but read on regardless). Hi and thanks for doing this interview. If you could start off by introducing yourself for the readers
Jake: Yeah no worries. I'm Jake Luhrs and I'm the lead vocalist from August Burns Red. How's the tour going?

Jake: Tour's been awesome. This is only really the fourth day but the tour's been a lot of fun. The drives have been a little long so I feel for our driver but we sure get our sleep. It's been nice on this tour because the pro of being the only band on the actual tour is that we can just walk around wherever we are. We walked around earlier today, which is awesome, Denmark's a beautiful place. We've been to Oslo and that place is awesome, it's amazing. So we got to actually visit places and see Europe more than just being dropped into a venue and waiting there, playing and then driving. It's been awesome, it's been a great experience. This is not your first European tour, is it? I read that you had some troubles in 2007, you were trying to get to Europe but you couldn't..
Jake: Yeah in 2007 there were many times where we were trying to get to Europe but we couldn't, something would just fall through last minute kind of thing. This is our second European tour, our first one was with Misery Signals and Emmure, and that was 27 days long. This one is our actual headliner which is just us and it consists of an actual whole month. What's new in the August Burns Red camp?
Jake: New, lets see. We recently signed to Channel Zero Management, which is great for us. We love those guys and they work really hard for us. We have an international booking agent, Tom Taaffe, who we recently picked up not too long ago. So we have a great team with us, we're still on Solid State Records, after this tour we're gonna go home and take a little time off for Christmas and see our family, and then we're gonna record a new record, so we're really excited about that. We're not quite sure who the producer is going to be, but we have some ideas, and we're really excited for it, and hopefully our new management can help us get distribution over to Europe with our new record, so we're excited for that. But with this tour, it's funny, because I ask the kids, you know, "who has our latest record 'Messengers'", and half the crowd raises their hands. So I don't know how they get their hands on it, I'm sure it's kind of expensive just importing it from America. But it's just awesome to see how dedicated our fans are over here, and so that's very nice to see. But hopefully guys, we'll have our next record out over here. I've read that the band name is derived from an incident regarding the relationship breakdown of a former member and his girlfriend - I know you probably get this question asked a lot but if you could just tell that story behind your name one more time?
Jake: Sure. It was actually the first vocalist of August Burns Red, his name is Jon Hershey. He was in high school, the band had formed when some of the guys were in high school - I think actually all of them - and they started playing gigs outside of Pennsylvania, we were gonna start touring and things like that. So the band was going on a serious note. His girlfriend was kind of overly protective and a little crazy [laughs], so he kind of broke things off with her because the band was moving forward and she was too touchy, I guess, always wanting him home and didn't want him to go to shows and band practice, she didn't want him on tour. So either way, he breaks up with her, and she goes crazy. She decides one day to go to his house, and he wasn't home, and she was so furios that she locked up his dog. I guess the names are very relevant here in this story.. her name is August and the dog's name is Redd. August, his ex girlfriend, locks his puppy, his dog Redd up in his doghouse and burns the doghouse down with the dog inside. And the next day it made the newspapers, the Mannheim central news paper, saying August Burns Redd. And we're like "wow that's.." cause they didn't have a name really. So they were like "why don't we just use that as a name, because it's got a legitimate story to it, it's not just some stupid name, it has an actual story and background". So they just took off one of the d's and it's August Burns Red. So you guys are often defined as Christian metalcore in the press and the media, what are your thoughts on that?
Jake: On that? I think that music is music and I think that it's important that your music has a meaning behind it, whether it's positive or negative, I mean I guess you're expressing your feelings, your emotions. I know that we're all Christians, we're all Christians and believers, and that does have a big influence on us as musicians, and a lot lyrically as well. So I don't know, if you want to call us Christian metal, I don't see anything wrong with that, but I think that we have a good mixture and balance. We're not overbearing with our beliefs, even though we are definitely here to spread the word with what we believe in, obviously I think a lot of people do that through their music. That's one way to communicate. But we also love just playing metal, or hardcore, whatever you wanna call it. I don't even wanna jump into the genres, the genre thing, but yeah, we're a Christian band, or a Christian rock artist, I guess you could say. So you wouldn't actually call yourself 'metalcore' as such?

Jake: You know, I'll tell you this. As far as Americanized metal, we are metal, but I have come to learn that in Europe, we're not metal in Europe-size. And that's fine, we don't wanna be stuck in genre. We want you just to come and like the music and say 'wow that was a good performance', or 'wow, I like their musicianship'. And that's what it is, or "wow those guys have great lyrics and they touch me", don't walk away with (puts on a tough-guy accent) "they're a cool metalcore band I guess", or whatever like "you're not real metal", that's just silly to me. Music is music, enjoy it for what it is. The vocalist of a band is often seen as the front figure, obviously influencing how fans and listeners view and remember the band. Now, you guys have had three vocalists, one for each release in fact. What effect has this had on the band?
Jake: Well, I'm actually quitting before the next record...

Gullible Really?

Jake: I'm just kidding [laughs], that's a joke, we wouldn't make it four. I guess in the beginning it wasn't necessarily a big deal because no-one knew who August Burns Red was, and I'm speaking before "Thrill Seeker", our EP. So when they made that transition I don't think it really necessarily hurt them. But then after "Thrill Seeker" came out, their frontman Josh quit the band right after his first tour with them, so I jumped in line and joined up with these guys and toured the whole cycle. So we tried to keep it low-key, and a lot of people say that Josh and I have similarities in our vocals, which I kind of wanted to make a smooth transition from "Thrill Seeker" to "Messengers" vocal wise, because I think that in some instances vocals can make or break you. Some statistics or something I heard, it's like 85 to 90% of listeners listen to mostly the vocals. And I'm not talking about real metalheads, I'm just talking the average person that listens to music usually listens to the vocals. So if there's a huge change in that and they don't like that change, then they're just gonna throw you aside. We wanted to make a gradual step, I think, but I don't think it's hurt the band at all, I think that my vocals complement the music just as good or even better than Josh's did. I personally think that I stepped up to bat pretty well. I toured with them for a long period of time before becoming an official member, and then when we got home, we worked really really hard on what we wanted, as far as the vocal sound and everything else, and I think it was a smooth transition overall, for sure. I'm trying to explain this situation a lot so you can just pick whatever you want. "Messengers" was released over a year ago. If you look back at it right now, how do you feel about the record?
Jake: I think that it was good, I think that it is good, I had a lot of fun writing that record. I think that it has made a big impact on our fans, and I think we've gained a lot of fans from it, and it has in a way put us on the map, you know. But I think that this next record is going to be.. I think we've grown a lot since that record. I think that's what I'm trying to get across here. We've definitely matured a lot, as far as musicians, and as far as our influences and where we want to take the band now. "Thrill Seeker" was the beginning of August Burns Red. "Messengers" was.. we were searching for what we are, and I think that this next record is where we're gonna show you what we've got. It sold over 45,000 copies in the US alone - does this mean that you guys have now 'made it' as a band?
Jake: I don't think I'm ever gonna 'make it'. I mean, I don't look at music that way. I don't look at it as.. okay, we're here in Europe. I mean that's an amazing accomplishment, and that is a goal that I think we've all strived to want to accomplish. But just because.. like that's a number. I think that the day that I decide I don't want to play anymore music because I did what I wanted to do with it, and the day that I stop helping my fans or these kids that are looking for something and find it in my music, the day that they don't find it in my music anymore is the day that I've made it, because that's when I've finished the whole process. I started a dream when I was 16 years old, and I don't know if I'm gonna finish it in a year, I don't know if I'm gonna finish it in five years, but whenever I come to see that I have succeeded in helping others and making myself feel like that I've accomplished my music career, then Ive made it. But as far as numbers and money and everything else, dude that's just.. I don't even wanna get involved with that. You gotta stay humble man, because the moment that you letting money take a grasp on you, you start getting a big head, you forget about your fans, you forget about the music and why you're doing it, and you start to become jaded, and then you just become something I don't wanna become. So I don't think we've made it, not yet, I'm not done! How did you choose the title "Messengers" and what does it imply?
Jake: The reason we chose the title "Messengers", plural, because we've all written lyrics for that record. Which I think is great because everyone... not only do we all partake in writing the music but then we all partake in writing the lyrics. There's some things that are on Matt's mind, on Brant's, on JB and Dustin's, and mine, that might be a little different. We're all from different backgrounds and we've all been through different things, and we all have something to say. We all have experiences that, I think, a lot of the average kids go through, or are going through, and I think that it's very important to have something real involved in the lyrics. Not just a full length about how your girlfriend broke your heart, you know, "okay we get it now", like track 11, it's the same thing. No-one wants to hear that anymore. People are.. because there's so much music out there, they want good music, and they want the lyrics to mean something, they want to be able to.. when they're up there on stage, to sing along and have that feeling that all the hair raises up off their arms, because they're right there with you, and they can see exactly what you're saying. I think that's very important, and everyone in this band has experiences, and when they're on stage, they're singing along too. So I think that's why we went that route, I think it was a good idea, and I think that's probably what we're gonna do with the next record. Sure. Speaking of the next record, as you've said before, once you finish this tour, you're going to the studio to record your next album. What are your expectations for the next album?
Jake: Expectations? We want it to be a progression from "Messengers". I think it's gonna be a little more thrashier, I think it's gonna be a little bit more dynamic, a little more diverse. Because "Thrill Seeker" was a hard hitting record, like very energetic and non-stop, and "Messengers" was pretty similar to that, it was a natural progression. But I think on this one we're gonna really try to throw in some different abstract ideas.. or not abstract ideas, just go about it differently. Speed things up, or slow slow slow things down. It's not just gonna be like a groove throughout the whole record, it's gonna be split up a bit. Have you guys got a title in mind yet for the new album?

Jake: No, I think that's something that we do very very last, just because we don't know what the record's going to be about right now. We have lyrics and things like that, but we don't have the actual feeling of the record, we don't have the lyrics lined up and the songs tracked in the right order. So basically what we wanna do is we wanna listen to all the lyrics and all the songs in the order that they're going to be on the record, and that's when we'll come up with the title at the very end, so we have no idea right now. If we go back to the term 'metalcore' again...everyone these days is talking about how the genre is 'dying out', and regardless what you're going to say, people are going to label you guys as a metalcore band more or less. So what do you think about that? What effect does that have on your band?
Jake: That metalcore's dying out? That people are saying that.

Jake: Oh, I don't care what people say. That's fine, like if that's what you wanna believe, that's fine with me, but I like playing what I play, and I do it because I like playing it, not because it's in or because it's dead or because of whatever. I think that it will be appreciated years from now, just like the Descendents and Screeching Weasel, and The Queers, NOFX, Mxpx.. yeah we're not even close to that size of a band, but that doesn't mean we're gonna be forgotten and everything's dead. You know 'ohh, techno's in now' and that's the new trend. I mean whatever dude, whatever kind of music you like to listen to, it's alive, if you like it, if you don't, then don't listen to it, it's not a big deal. But that doesn't make me wanna go home and write a pop record. I'm not gonna listen to some kid saying "oh metal's dead" and then go home and be like "oh yeah some kid said metal's dead so now I'm gonna change what I love to play and what makes me feel good and what I enjoy doing to fit the next big thing", you know, it doesn't matter to me. Moving on again, like you mentioned you're signed to Solid State Records. Can you just tell me something about being signed to Solid State Records, what's it like?
Jake: It's like a family, it really is. When we didn't have management and we were just starting out our A&R, Jon Dun, Jonathan Dun, who works for Solid State Records and is the bassist for Demon Hunter, he really helped us out. He was like our day-to-day guy. He would call us, make sure we were doing fine, if we needed anything, we went on the Young Bloods 2 tour, which The Chariot was headlining at the time, and we met up with solid state in Seattle, where their office is based out of, and a lot of the guys from Solid State Records got us all cabins and we went out to these cabins, we hung out, we prayed, we talked about why it is that we're doing this, and we just had a great time. We had dinner, just hung out, you know, and it was really nice. These are the guys that are... you know, this is business. And specially music industry is a very cut throat business. But to have these guys say "look, we signed you because we like your music, we signed you for your beliefs, we signed you because we feel that you have something that other bands don't have, and we're gonna push you as hard as we can, but here, lets get on a personal level too, we want you to know that if you have any problems, you can come to us" and sure enough man, being on the road as long as we have, and we're still a young band, but I'm saying, we tour 9 months out of a year, man, you're gonna have issues, you're gonna butt heads, it's just nice to know that you have someone else to go to, you can call one of those guys and say "look this is an issue" or whatever. It's like a second family, more so than it is a bank account or a label. Okay, another off-topic question so-to-say: I've noticed that on your t-shirts, you guys have a number of different kinds of animals on them quite often, all of them look pretty angry as well. What's the story behind this?
Jake: [visibly amused by the question] To be honest, I think we just like the animals that we get, the animal designs. I don't really know how to answer that. I'm trying to think of all the ones to see if they all are actually angry... I know the gorilla is, the monkey looks kind of irritated, yeah I guess they all look a little angry. I don't know, I think that the designer, or the designers that we go through, I know that enthos is one of them, and they do amazing work, they send us those things and we just like them, we're just, I guess, all about the animals right now. I don't know, I'm sure that in a year it'll change, but there's no real big story to that, sorry! Fair enough. That was really my last question, so good luck on the rest of the tour and thanks for this interview. If there's anything else you wanna say to the readers or the fans?
Jake: Thank you so much. I just want to say to the people that are reading this, we appreciate taking your time to scope us out and see what we're all about, even if metalcore is dying [laughs], I'm just kidding. But thanks for checking us out and hopefully if you do pick up "Thrill Seeker" and "Messengers", and if you enjoy that, yeah we will be going back to the studio soon and we're very excited for it and we love Europe!

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