August Burns Red’s JB Brubaker on How to ‘Rescue & Restore’ Metalcore + Survive Warped Tour
August Burns Red are in the midst of a busy summer. Not only did they release their sixth full length album, 'Rescue & Restore,' but they are also a part of this year’s Warped Tour lineup.
We caught up with ABR guitarist JB Brubaker, who talked all about the new album, as well as the lead single ‘Spirit Breaker.’ And if you're in an up-and-coming band, listen up, because Brubaker also gives some excellent advice in case you have any dreams of playing one of the stages at Warped Tour in the future.
Talk about the title of the new album ‘Rescue & Restore’ and what it means to you personally.
I guess the idea behind the title for me is that our genre of metalcore is watered down from how it used to be – the genre has gotten pretty popular and as a result it’s also gotten pretty cookie cutter. The idea behind the title, for me as a person who came up with the title - as a band we wanted to kind of rescue the genre and make it exciting like how it used to be and restore it to the glory days when it was still new and exciting.
Being part of this industry, how do you feel it has been watered down and why do you think bands are buying into the 'cookie cutter' mold, as you put it?
It’s simple, I think - you go on tour and you have these bands who are huge. When you’re a younger band, the easy route is to say, “Oh cool, this current formula is really popular, let’s do this,” instead of keeping the original vision of your band in mind and set out what you meant to do in the first place. I think it’s simply a matter of trying to get popular quickly and taking the easy route. The sad thing is if you’re copying another band chances are it’s never going to be as good as the thing that made it as popular in the first place so it gets watered down over and over.
For you, who are some bands that really broke the mold and inspired creativity within you?
Bands that I thought that broke the mold for me personally, is the band Between the Buried and Me - they’re one of the most forward-thinking, outside of the box metal bands going currently. I really respect them for going out and doing whatever they want to do. I think the band Architects, from England, are more cutting edge and they’re continuing to push themselves and try new things. Those are the two that come to mind right off the top of my head.
Talk about the new album's lead single ‘Spirit Breaker’ both musically and lyrically.
‘Spirit Breaker’ is one of the softer songs on the album, not to say it’s exactly soft but it’s one of the more melodic tracks I should say. Lyrically we talked about being in a really dark place obviously depression is a very common thing and it talks about someone who’s just in this really depressed, dark place and they’re trying to find something to try to pull them out.
I won’t go into too many details, I personally don’t like explaining lyrics too much. I feel like that kind of takes away from what someone might get from the song, if they arrive at a meaning on their own. We tend to see a lot of that when we read comments of when kids listen to the lyrics and it’s like, “Oh that’s actually not what the song’s about at all but cool if that’s what you get out of it.” I actually like that.
Members of the band have stated that with this new disc that you guys have “push the boundaries of our genre more than we ever have before” and that it’s your “most ambitious album yet.” With ‘Rescue & Restore’ being your sixth studio record, what was behind the motivation for you at this point in your career to create such an album?
We always want to raise the bar for ourselves and especially at this point – we’re not like the new band by any means. It was important that we tried to separate ourselves from the pack of metalcore bands especially with all the talk about how we think the genre is kind of getting boring and stuff. Our goal was to write something different enough from everything that’s been coming out. We say that a lot and I guess time will tell how different this album really is, it’s not really our call to make.
We can say that all day long but if critics and fans are like, “This really isn’t that different,” then we’ve failed with what we’ve set out to try and do but the album is different from the previous August Burns Red albums. I think it’s a step forward musically and I think our singer Jake [Luhrs] expands on his delivery on this album. He did a lot more voices ... [Laughs] I don’t know how to describe it, he pushed himself more than he has in the past and I’m really proud of what he did on ‘Rescue & Restore’ – even on the singing stuff which we’ve done very little of in the past. That’s a new element for us.
Have you grown both as a guitarist and a person since the band’s first album?
Wow, since our first record I think I’ve grown a lot as a guitarist. I was a pretty awful player back in 2005 when we recorded ‘Thrill Seeker.’ I think I probably get more credit than I should for my technical abilities on the guitar, I think I’m better at writing songs. I’ll admit there’s stuff that we write that’s hard for me to play from a few albums ago.
I think I’ve grown more as a songwriter than an actual skilled guitar player but that’s also in my priorities. I’ve always been more interested in writing great songs than sitting down and being able to do a ridiculous guitar part.
How has Warped Tour been going for you so far?
We’re on the whole shebang – the shows are cool. I think we’ve been off for a long time because of writing and recording so I don’t think we’re quite as good as we’re going to be. I think a week from now we’re going to be playing better than we did the last couple days. The crowds are great they seem to be enjoying the show even if we’re critical and find that we’d like to do some things better. I’m excited to do the whole Warped Tour. It’s a great tour to release a record on – there’s a lot of people, the shows are big. It should be a good summer for us.
How do you feel fans have been reacting to any new material you’ve been playing in a live setting?
I feel like with the two new songs we’ve been playing live, I’ve been staring at my fret board the whole time trying not to mess up. [Laughs] One song we’re playing we haven’t released yet and it’s not widely known. When a band plays a new song that the crowd’s never heard before it’s hard to get a great reaction out of the crowd because they’re just looking and they don’t know what’s coming. I think when everyone has a chance to hear the song, it’ll change.
The other song we’re playing is called ‘Fault Line’ and that was the first song we released when previewing the new album and people seem to know that song, they sing along and move around. As the summer progresses and people get to spend time with these new songs I think the crowd reaction will hopefully get better and better.
What advice do you give to bands who are playing Warped Tour for the first time?
This is advice I would give to a band in any situation but especially with Warped Tour – it’s a long summer and it’s pretty grueling with the travel especially if you don’t do it on a bus. I recommend you save your money up so you can do the tour on a bus or an RV of some sort. You leave early everyday and drive all night and arrive early in the morning and do the whole thing all over again.
If you’re going to try to do it in a van or something – I honestly think it’s kind of dangerous to do that because of how exhausted everyone is going to be. Plan ahead and try to save up your money so you can do it properly and get to the lunch line early because the line is very long. [Laughs] Lunch is at noon if you wait until 12:15 you’re going to wait for an hour.
Check Out August Burns Red's New Single 'Spirit Breaker'