Interview with JB Brubaker, guitarist for August Burns Red

Your guys’ new record, “Messengers,” just came out recently…you guys are going on your first headlining tour to support that, is that right? Actually, we are not headlining this next tour. Evergreen Terrace is headlining. Oh, right on, are you excited to tour with those guys? Yeah, sure, we’re stoked.

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By Tyler Davidson

By Tyler Davidson

Your guys’ new record, “Messengers,” just came out recently…you guys are going on your first headlining tour to support that, is that right?

Actually, we are not headlining this next tour. Evergreen Terrace is headlining. Oh, right on, are you excited to tour with those guys?

Yeah, sure, we’re stoked. We’ve never toured with them before aside from a couple shows we played with them in May. We don’t know them very well yet, but they seem like good dudes. I used to do a lot of promoting back in Lancaster back in like 2002, 2003, and I booked Evergreen Terrace a couple of times, so it’s kind of cool that we get to tour with them now. You said you’ve done some promoting in the past; what do you think the dynamic is like, promoting vs. performing?

Oh, boy…I think promoting is way more stressful than performing. Because, when you’re performing; you know if you’ve got your act together or not and if you’re going to be able to do a good job, but like…promoting is almost like gambling, in that, you can work your balls off and still lose money. (laughs) So, I mean, in that respect, I think it’s way more stressful. I think promoting is more difficult than performing. How long did you do the promoting deal for?

Um, 2 or 3 years. It was basically something I did to help fund August Burns Red when we were just starting out. If I’d make money, I’d just pour it right back into the band. Definitely. Gotta spend money to make money.Exactly. How has your guys’ time on Solid State Records been so far?

Oh, man, it’s been great. The label treats us awesome. I mean, it’s the only label we’ve ever really been on that’s done a lot for us, so naturally we’re stoked to be with them. The people at the label we get along with really well, we really like our A&R over there, Jonathan Dunn, he’s an awesome dude. Just all the people at the label that we’ve met and hung out with and interacted with have been really cool and good to us. So, no complaints about the label. Awesome, how’s it been compared to your time at C.I. Records?

Well, C.I.’s awesome, but I mean, I don’t think that C.I. could’ve ever done what Solid State has done for us, just because the finances weren’t there. And I love everyone at C.I., like Jeff & Jeremy, the two guys that run that label are like some of my best friends. I still talk to them regularly and hang out with them when I’m at home and stuff, but…it’s just a completely different ballgame, I think, between C.I. and Tooth & Nail. [Solid State is a hardcore-oriented offshoot of Tooth & Nail Records] In the past, people have mentioned the collaborative writing process that was used on the recording of “Messengers;” what were some of the pros & cons of such a huge group effort?

Well, obviously, with so many heads involved, there’s going to be a lot of differences of opinion. That was definitely a conflict or a stumbling block that we [encountered] in a few circumstances. Like maybe, two of the dudes would feel really strongly about a set of lyrics, and the other three guys would be like â€Å“Eh, I’m not sure about this.” So like, we’d have to sit down and talk about it and be like â€Å“Well, what can we change to make these work?” It’s just hard to make five people happy, especially when it comes to lyrics, because we’re all coming from a different angle while we’re writing lyrics. So we spent a lot of time just talking about it and sharing a lot of different ideas and stuff. I think that in the long run that helped make it stronger than it would have been had we been a little more lax about it. So I’m happy with the product. Where did you get the inspiration for some of the lyrics that you wrote on the album?

I only wrote the lyrics for track three, it’s a song called “Back Burner.” It’s basically just a song about taking your convictions and morals and just setting them aside and doing what the crowd’s doing just because it’s â€Å“in” and popular. I think that’s something that a lot of young people struggle with in today’s world. So I thought it was a good subject to talk about. Whether it be that or [another song], is there a track on the new album that holds more significance to you than the others?

I guess when you talk about significance, I’ve got to think about lyrics moreso than the music, and I think the first track [â€Å“Truth of a Liar”], lyrically, is awesome. It discusses kind of like…I mean, we’re a Christian band, and we hold our Christian values and ideals highly, and the first track talks about just how this life is so short and it’s not what we’re doing now that’s going to matter, but what we do to prepare for, like, what is to come. I think that’s the message of the song and I think people can interpret that in different ways, depending on how you look at it. But that’s what it means to me. You mentioned you guys being a Christian band; do you think there are any stigmas, or conversely, any advantages to being known as such?

I think that an advantage, which is cool but kind of unfair for non-Christian bands, is that, like, you automatically have the kids who are going to listen to you and welcome you with open arms just because their parents will not let them listen to anything except Christian bands. So, I mean, we get an advantage in that respect, but I guess, on the other side, some people will write you off immediately because you’re a Christian band. But I don’t think that’s the case as much as it was maybe in the past, because I think there’s so many Christian bands playing right now that are respected and people know that the music’s good. Everyone has their own views and ideals and morals and stuff, and it’s about the music moreso than the beliefs coming behind the music. Just a few weeks ago, I spoke with David [Bunton], lead singer of The Showdown, and he had a lot to say about the hypocritical nature of a lot of the market out there; what’s your stance on the Christian market as a whole right now?

I don’t know if I’m in the know as much as David might be, I don’t know what he said, but I don’t see a lot of wrong going on in the Christian market. I guess I see a lot of people exploiting it to make money off of it, in some circumstances. For example, and I could be completely wrong here, but we just played a Christian festival…was it Sonshine or Lifest? I think this was at Sonshine Festival, last weekend…I saw a booth, like a merch booth, and they had probably 75 different Christian T-shirt designs for sale, and I was walking with our tour manager, and we were talking about it, and I’m just…I’m thinking â€Å“Is this actually…are these people actually Christians selling these, or are they just trying to cash in on the name of Christ, like printing stuff about him on a T-shirt just to make a buck?” And also, I feel like people who wear that might…I don’t even know if it’s doing that much good for Christianity as a whole, but I think that people who wear stuff like that, and this is gonna sound bad as well (laughs), but I think people who wear stuff like that might come off as, like, judgmental and kind of extreme. I think it might turn a lot of people off, too. So, I don’t know, it’s kind of a double-edged sword, the whole blatant, like, putting your religion on the front of your T-shirt. I think it’s…I don’t know. Right, that’s sort of what I was getting at, because that’s almost exactly what he mentioned, shirts like a shirt that he had seen that said “Save it” with a cherry dotting the I, stuff like that. People, like you said, might come off as judgmental.Yeah. You mentioned doing Sonshine Festival, stuff like that; you guys have done like Cornerstone and stuff like that, is that right?

Right. What are some of your favorite things about doing festivals like that?

First of all, the shows are always huge, which is awesome. It’s really, really fun to play in front of a lot of kids, and have a lot of kids have fun. I mean, we play some big shows in clubs, but we’re playing for, in some cases, li
ke a couple thousand people at these fests. That’s like way more than we’re playing [for] at our tour dates. It’s awesome to get in front of a lot of kids and just have the energy [of] a huge crowd. And then, we get to see a lot of bands that we’ve toured with and just hang out with [that] we don’t get to see unless we’re at these festivals, so we see a lot of old friends. And just like all the festival junk food is awesome. Walking around and just hanging out. I think just like…atmospheres where like lots of people come out is just fun for me, personally. Are there any big differences between playing secular shows and [Christian] shows?

I guess the kids who come out would be different. But, as far as the reactions, I don’t think kids behave any differently. I think they’re gonna mosh just as hard as secular kids. Around the time that it came out, â€Å“Messengers” was streamed in its entirety on the Internet, is that right?

Yeah, on Decoymusic.com, I believe. Right. Now, to kind of touch on this, do you think the Internet has been a benefit or a detriment to the metal scene?

I would definitely say it’s been beneficial. Because it exposes so many people to the music that might not give it the time of day otherwise. I mean, it’s easy to click a song on a MySpace page and listen to 45 seconds of it and decide if you like it or not, and you can either close the window or listen to the rest of the song. But, before that, you had, I guess, compilation CDs, which is obviously not as efficient as an online stream. So, I think it’s been huge in just making music in general way bigger than it was five, ten years ago. So you guys use MySpace and tools like that a lot?

Yeah, definitely, I think we’re on our MySpace every day. (laughs) At least one of us is on our MySpace trying to answer mail and add friends and whatever. Is there any one of you that does that moreso than the rest of the band?

I think our singer, Jake [Luhrs] handles a lot of it. I think he handles a lot of replying to messages and stuff, and I know that we all log on there probably once a day and just check it out and see what’s going on. It’s tough to stay on top of it, but it’s fun too, so it’s not a terrible job. (laughs) (laughs) Totally. Now, in interviews before, members of the band have mentioned that you guys don’t exactly look like a typical metal band, or you don’t really fit into what people might see as the â€Å“metal image,” is that right?

Yeah, that’s probably the case. Is there any reason for that?

Well the thing is, we were all kind of like preppier kids in high school, and it just kind of happened that we got into punk and hardcore and stuff. We never really changed our style from what we were, we just kind of wore what we always wore and started a band, and just kept doing the thing we were used to doing. We always thought, you don’t need to dress like the music you’re playing, what’s the point in that? I mean, I understand like the concept of an image. I guess we’ve made that our image. Nice, nice, kind of like an “anti-image being the image” type deal.

Yeah, I guess. I guess. You guys are playing the SoCal area pretty soon; are there any differences between the SoCal scene and where you guys are from, the Lancaster area?

Yeah, definitely. I think kids are a little hipper, no offense to our hometown. (laughs) We love it there. I mean, it’s just a really happening area, and I think they might just be ahead of the curve a bit. I’m trying to think of what else…there’s obviously more culture there, as well. Lancaster kids, at our shows…there might be three black kids in the crowd, and like…it’s mostly white. Down in southern California, obviously, it’s much more diverse, ethnically. Talking about you personally and your history with the scene, what bands originally got you into metal?

Originally, the first bands that like got me into just like screaming music…because I was really anti-screaming vocals for a long time, but that band Finch on Drive-Thru [Records] gave me a taste, I guess, to like expand my horizons a bit. And then, I got into like From Autumn to Ashes, and Evergreen Terrace, ironically, was one of the first hardcore bands I got into. But like, as far as metal goes, like I guess right now…Between the Buried And Me, Darkest Hour, who else…Unearth; I think there are really sweet metal bands these days that I guess I look up to at this point. Talking about your skills as a guitarist, who are some of your biggest influences?

Paul from Between the Buried And Me is a huge one. I could only wish to play what he’s playing. (laughs) Chris Norris from Darkest Hour is also a huge influence. I think he’s ridiculous and awesome and completely underrated and deserves more recognition. Those two dudes are definitely my favorite guitarists. If you weren’t playing music, if you weren’t in August Burns Red right now, what do you think you’d be doing?

That’s a good question. I was thinking that the other day, what am I going to do when August Burns Red ends? Because, obviously, I probably won’t be doing this when I’m 35. But I did three years of college, and I was a marketing and communications major. I guess I would do something in marketing. I’ve always enjoyed that side of the business market. Something in marketing. And, I think at this point, I’d like to stay in the music industry as well, just because I feel like I’ve learned a lot, participating in it for the past four years. Hopefully I can land a job with marketing within the industry, but we’ll see. So, you started out in the industry promoting, right?

Yeah. What made you want to start doing that?

Well, the first show I ever did, I wanted our band to…we wanted to play a show, we had just started, and the first show we ever did, I put on. And it actually went really, really well and I actually got a lot of people out and made a healthy profit off the show, and I was like “Woah, I could be making money doing this.” And it kind of opened up the door for me. And then I just kind of went from there and started doing bigger and bigger stuff. But I was never doing huge shows. I was doing stuff at the local legion hall. Are there any underrated/unsigned bands out there you want to recommend?

Let me try to think…I know my friend, he used to sing for our band…(off the phone) what’s the name of Jon’s new band? Palmero? (back on) Our old singer, he actually only sang on our C.I. release, â€Å“Looks Fragile [After All]”, he’s in an awesome indie band that, I think they just put some music up on their MySpace, I’d definitely like to plug them, they’re called Palmero. They’re freakin’ great, if you’re into, like, chiller instrumental stuff. They’re definitely something worth checking out. Who else could I plug? Some bands at home that I think are really good and really underrated…the band called Century, they’re on Tribunal Records, and they’re awesome, as well as friends of ours in a band called This or the Apocalypse. They’re also good, and they should have a full-length coming out soon. I think they’re unsigned right now. I think they’re definitely worth checking out. You mentioned that your old singer, he only sang on that one release…you guys have had three different singers, does that change the dynamic, like is it hard working with that many people, or have you guys adapted well to that?

The hardest change to make was easily after Josh quit…but that happened so long ago that we’re so comfortable working with Jake, and he’s comfortable working with us. But I guess we’re over that hump finally of changing singers. I think we’re good to go now. Like our first singer Jon quit just because…I mean, from the get-go he was like â€Å“Guys, I’ll sing for you, but I don’t wanna do this full-time.” He was never like a hardcore kid, he was always more into like indie stuff, and it just so happened he could scream and he was our best friend, so he signed for us for a year and a half or so. It’s funny, he quit right after â€Å“Looks Fragile After All” came out, and then Josh quit r
ight after “Thrill Seeker” came out. But, Jake hasn’t quit yet, so hopefully he won’t. (laughs) So the last two singers, they left on good terms?

Yeah. I mean, Josh, when he quit, I definitely was upset with him for quitting, because he didn’t give us any notice and we had to cancel a tour over it. But I’m completely over that now, I mean that was a long time ago, water under the bridge. So it’s cool, I forgive him. So you had to cancel a whole tour over that?Yeah. Do you look at that as maybe the biggest setback you guys have encountered, or has there been something worse than that?

Oh, boy. Yeah, that was definitely our biggest setback. I mean, it didn’t end up being catastrophic, obviously. We just took a month off and did try-outs. We had a friend of ours, his name is Andy High, he plays in a band called Alethian now, they just signed to Ironclad Records; he sang for us for a tour we did in January and then we did some more try-outs and stuff when we were home from that in February, and that’s when Jake came and tried out and he’s been with us ever since. [When you were auditioning singers,] were you guys looking for someone similar or were you looking to go in a different direction after that happened?

We were definitely looking for someone similar. But, fortunately with Jake, he more than filled the shoes. I think he has the ability to sound like Josh did, but he can do so much more than Josh did as well. And he’s a much better performer. It worked out great that Josh quit. (laughs) Is there a favorite band that you guys have played with?

Definitely Between the Buried And Me. We got to do some touring with them last May and they’re freakin’ amazing live. I don’t know if you’re into them or not, but they’re definitely our favorite band. Yeah, I’ve heard lots of good things about them.

Yeah, they’re amazing. Is there anyone that you guys haven’t played with yet that you’d like to?

You know, that’s a good question. We all have these bands that we’d love to tour with at some point. Ironically, I know our drummer’s been really wanting to tour with A Life Once Lost, and we’re doing some dates with them in September. And Brent [Rambler] and I, our other guitar player, would love to tour with Darkest Hour and we’re going to do dates with them this Fall, so it looks like some of our favorite bands, we’ll get to share the stage with a bunch coming up. I’m trying to think…I love the band Cult of Luna, they’re from Sweden, and I’m sure we’ll never get to tour with them. (laughs) Though I would love to. They’re awesome. Is it safe to say you listen to the genre that you guys are [involved with]?

Definitely not. I actually find it kind of hard to find new bands in a genre that I’m so stoked on, just because I’m around it all the time. I feel like there’s so many bands sounding very similar. I find myself probably listening to softer stuff moreso than the heavy stuff. But I definitely still enjoy the heavy stuff, I just think…the bands in this genre, I love. There’s a lot of bands I could do without. Oh yeah?

(laughs) I’m not gonna mention any names. I can’t think of anyone in particular, to be honest with you. (laughs) Right on, I wasn’t gonna put you on the spot or anything.

Awesome. So what’s in your CD player right now?

Well, I guess “what’s on your iPod?’ would be more relevant right now.I was just listening to Sufjan Stevens, actually, when you called me. You were listening to who?

Sufjan Stevens. Yeah?

(awkward silence) Yeaahhhhhh. (laughs) Nice. Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I don’t think so. I guess check out Messengers,” if you haven’t already, and come out and see us on the road. Well thank you so, so much for this JB, I really appreciate it.

Yeah, no problem, man. Look forward to seeing you guys live soon.Nice, we’ll see you in Corona, man.

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