August Burns Red: Pushing the envelope
The guys in the Christian metalcore band August Burns Red were the catalyst that turned Lancaster, Pennsylvania, into a hardcore hotbed. Whatever money the band earned from hosting shows, it put toward buying gear for its group. The scene isn’t as strong now, but August Burns became a national act years ago. The band had a big breakthrough with 2007’s Messengers and hasn’t looked back. Its most recent album, 2013’s Rescue & Restore, features complex time changes, string arrangements and intricate guitar solos. It’s a true tour de force that pushes metalcore boundaries. Now, in advance of a new studio album due out this year, August Burns Red launched the Frozen Flame Tour. Guitarist Brent Rambler spoke to us via phone from a recording studio in Lancaster.
How’d the band come together?
The band started when I was 18. Our youngest member was 15 at the time. We were playing covers at first. We knew each other through mutual friends. Our original singer, John Hershey, was one of my friends. We started jamming and put out an EP. It wasn’t very good. At the time, everyone was into that melodic hardcore sound. People gravitated toward it. We went on a small tour and it wasn’t what our singer John wanted to do. We stole our second singer from another local band. After his first tour, he decided this life wasn’t for him. That’s when we picked up Jake. We’ve had the same lineup since 2006. We got big locally and branched out from there. We busted our butts at home and once we knew we were good enough to play elsewhere, we did. It’s a lot different now. Now, bands put themselves on the internet first and put their face out there to see if girls like them.
And you were also booking bands?
We totally did. There wasn’t a place for bands to play. The only venue in town was the community club and it was 800 capacity. For a lot of the hardcore bands, that was too big. We took it upon ourselves to rent out the local VFW Hall. We got in contact with bands like Evergreen Terrace and The Red Chord who were big at the time and leading the whole hardcore scene. We booked those bands and then booked ourselves as the opener. It was a great way to put some extra money in our pocket. We bought a van. Our first show ever had 300 people at it because the band was This Day Forward. We booked them and it was at a hall in the middle of nowhere. It was great. We did a lot of flyering. We used to walk to the local high schools and flyer every car in the parking lot. You would get kids showing up who had never heard this type of music; they just needed something to do on a Friday night.
Is that an old-fashioned approach or does it still happen?
It seems to be a bygone approach because of the rise of social media. People think they don’t need to go out and flyer anymore. We run into that when we’re on the road. We get emails from promoters who want us to blast about the show when they haven’t done anything on their end. Not everyone looks at their Facebook invites every day. In all reality, with Facebook and Twitter and all of the social media, most people follow so many people that you have a small window of opportunity during which you can have your post show up in their feed. People don’t think about that. If you post your item at 1pm in the afternoon, no high school student is going to see it. By the time they get out of school, they won’t even take a look at it. Whereas a flyer in a coffee shop will be hanging there for two months. I think social media has made some people lazy about what they need to do and that rug is going to come out from underneath everyone.
When you were touring in support of Rescue & Restore, you talked about how you went out on a limb to try to do something more experimental.
We always try to do something different. For us, metal was our first genre of music. We still love it, but you want to play what you want to hear. We also like indie rock and straight up rock. We wanted to add more of those elements to what we create. There are many metal and hardcore bands and we want to stand out, be different and push the envelope. We’re trying to stay a couple of steps ahead of everyone.
Talk about the album you’ve been working on.
We’re in the studio now mixing and mastering and finishing vocals. None of us have been able to sit down and listen to the whole thing from start to finish. There are changes. We have a lot of different tunings. There’s more stuff where the songs take a bit of a break. There’s also some really, really heavy stuff. We always try to push ourselves. We push everyone’s limits and learn the stuff while we’re trying to play it on the record. It usually turns out well.
Did you add strings to the songs?
We have had strings since Messengers. We try to add more of that element. It provides so much more background and it feels bigger and fills out the parts nicely.
Are you playing the songs on this tour?
We will probably not be playing new songs because we don’t know when the album will come out. We don’t want to play new songs and then not have the album come out for five months. If we do that, the only someone can hear those new songs will be by checking out a crappy video that someone posted on the Internet. We are mixing up the set lists and playing a lot of songs we haven’t played in a really long time and a couple we haven’t played before. For our fans that have seen us a lot of times we want to play some deeper cuts.
Upcoming US Tour Dates
Detroit, MI – St. Andrews Hall
Cleveland, OH – House of Blues
Cincinnati, OH – Bogart’s
Milwaukee, WI – The Rave
Minneapolis, MN – Mill City Nights
Lawrence, KS – Granada Theatre
Denver, CO – Summit Music Hall
Murray, UT – The Murray Theater
Spokane, WA – Knitting Factory Concert House
Boise, ID – Knitting Factory Concert House
Seattle, WA – The Showbox
Portland, OR – Hawthorne Theatre
Sacramento, CA – Ace of Spades
Pomona, CA – The Glass House Concert Hall
San Diego, CA – House of Blues
Mesa, AZ – Nile Theater
San Antonio, TX – Backstage Live San Antonio
Dallas, TX – House of Blues
Houston, TX – House of Blues
New Orleans, LA – House of Blues
Oklahoma City, OK – Diamond Ballroom
Lake Buena Vista, FL – House of Blues
Fort Lauderdale, FL – Revolution
Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade
Charlotte, NC – Amos’ SouthEnd
Norfolk, VA – NorVa
Sayreville, NJ – Starland Ballroom
Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of the Living Arts