Grammy Award-nominated metalheads August Burns Red are back with their new album ‘Guardians’ that, once again, shows the Pennsylvania bands are kings of technical grooves and thoughtful lyricism for their most cohesive and collaborative piece of work so far.
Guitarist JB Brubaker said “‘Guardians’ is the culmination of a complete and total team effort. Dustin and I collaborated musically more than we ever have before. Jake and Brent collaborated vocally more than they ever have before. Matt bounced more drum ideas off of us than we could even comprehend. It was the most time we’ve ever spent in the studio on one album. We’re all so proud of this record, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.”
We had a chat with JB Brubaker about the new record, anniversary tours and releasing music during a global pandemic.
DP!: Last time we saw you were in the UK, you were on the 10 year anniversary tour of ‘Constellations’ – how was it to be back out playing the old songs?
JB: It was so much fun. There’s something special about playing an old album from start to finish. Nostalgia is an incredible feeling. We’ve felt this way as fans going to see other bands do anniversary tours, and that’s a feeling we wanted our fans to have as well. The energy in the room during those shows was something we will never forget.
DP!: The new release is ‘Guardians’ which is album number nine! Where has all the time gone?
JB: Time really has passed by quickly. We’ve been on such a long routine of cranking out albums, touring the hell out of them, and repeating. I can’t believe we have nine full-lengths, but I’m also really proud of that feat. I think a lot of bands are lucky to have even three albums. We are fortunate to have had a lot of things go our way, an amazing dedicated fan base, and a loyal crew. I mention our crew because we tour a lot and they help to keep things running smoothly on the road. Without them we’d have run into so many more headaches along the way and those things add up and can derail a band. We’ve also been through a lot together as band mates. The five of us have all endured a lot and we’ve been constants in each other’s lives through thick and thin.
DP!: How did you approach the recording for the album compared to ten years ago?
JB: Ten years ago we were still getting together and rehearsing regularly. Nowadays we all have a lot of stuff going on in our lives besides just ABR. We get together to rehearse for tours but seldom practice together when writing. We wrote the album at home individually, and then recorded it over two different studio sessions in 2019 (one in the spring, and one in the late summer). The two studio sessions helped us to see what we had in the album after the spring session, and write accordingly for the summer session. It was rad to spread things out so much and allowed us a lot of time to come together as a team to make this record.
DP!: The band have spoken openly about an increase in the musical collaboration during the writing. Is this something that you actively sought after or did it happen organically?
JB: It definitely was organic. Our bass player Dustin and I wrote all the music for ‘Guardians’. We were on the ’10 Years of Constellations’ Tour in North America for a portion of the writing process, which allowed us to get together in the back lounge of the bus and go over ideas together. We were able to sort out some songs on that tour that we simply wouldn’t have approached the same way had we been writing at home by ourselves.
DP!: The first tracks we got to hear from ‘Guardians’ were ‘Defender’ and ‘Bones’. How did you decide which songs to release to fans first?
JB: We wanted to come out of the gates with something heavy and in your face. That’s why we led with ‘Defender’. We knew fans would go nuts for the last minute and a half and we wanted to make sure people knew we hadn’t “gone soft” or tried to reinvent ourselves. ‘Bones’ was a song we all loved and felt could potentially appeal to a wider audience than some of our other songs. It’s pretty straight forward and has a catchy chorus. Basically we wanted to appease the fan base with our first single and try to welcome in potential new fans with the second.
DP!: Do you think these songs represent the album best?
JB: No, not really. They were more so strategic singles than songs that represent the entire album. I think both those singles are a lot simpler than the majority of ‘Guardians’. We wanted to hold our favourite tracks back for when the album came out. The goal wasn’t to release the “best” songs on the album right off the bat. I think people liked the first singles we put out and it got them excited for the record. Then when the album dropped we really got to do our “big reveal.”
DP!: Sorry to hear that you had to reschedule your upcoming tour in the States with Killswitch Engage and Light The Torch, due to the COVID-19 outbreak. How difficult is it for bands to make this kind of decision?
JB: In this case, not difficult at all. We really have no control over the situation. COVID-19 is bigger than any band. People literally aren’t allowed to go anywhere so obviously we can’t tour. It sucks, but we’re all dealing with the ramifications together. I think that realisation makes the situation a little easier to cope with. I do hope we’re able to tour again in 2020. It feels very strange releasing a brand new album, getting great feedback from our listeners, and then doing nothing else.
DP!: How do the band feel about releasing ‘Guardians’ during a worldwide lockdown?
JB: On one hand it sucked because people had less access to go pick up a copy if they wanted to buy it. Money is tighter for everyone and stores are closed. On the other hand, we’d be hyping this release up for months and our fan base was excited about it. To delay the record would’ve been cruel and quite literally only for more commercial success in terms of sales. I think our audience appreciated us moving forward with the release date as scheduled, and I know from experience that it’s important to have something to look forward to while at home in isolation. To take that away from people would’ve been cruel.
DP!: How important is music for people at a time like this?
JB: Music is huge right now. I am a big sports fan and have probably paid way more attention to sports than music over the past few years. Now that I don’t have sports, I feel like I’m rediscovering my love for music. I’ve been making playlists again, watching music documentaries at night, revisiting albums I loved when I was a kid and haven’t dusted off in a while. Music has become my favourite hobby again, and I’m so grateful to have it.
DP!: At the same time as the record dropping, you also have a new beer! Elder Pine Brewing & Blending Co have their new August Burns Red farmhouse ale with guava and pineapple – how did this come about?
JB: Elder Pine started brewing unique ABR beers for us in 2019 on our ‘Constellations’ anniversary tour. Our bass player’s brother started Elder Pine and this made perfect sense. They made this new beer called ‘Bones’ and they are sold out of it already. We were told it was their fastest selling beer they’ve ever brewed. I haven’t even gotten to try it yet. Hoping to get my hands on a can once the social restrictions have been lifted and it’s safe to get out again.
August Burns Red‘s new album, ‘Guardians’, is out now, via Fearless Records.