On January 6, 2017, August Burns Red (commonly referred to as ABR for short) performed at Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. I had the pleasure of interviewing lead guitarist John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker a few hours before performing and felt as if I spoke with the entire band, as I learned so much of them in our short conversation. August Burns Red have really made a name for themselves over the past fifteen years with their distinctive style and sounds and, in October of 2017, they recently released their newest album in Phantom Anthem (Fearless Records), which reviewers are saying is one of their heaviest so far. Heavy or not, JB was a fantastic interview and you can read (or hear it above via SoundCloud) our conversation below.
Where do you guys get your name from? John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker: Umm, this is a question that the answer changes depending on how silly I’m feeling.
Okay. Give me any answer, any verdict of it. Brubaker: Yeah, the truth is that we were just kids and came up with a name that sounded cool. Which is the really boring story, I’m mean we’ve told some elaborate lies about where our band name comes from.
But what’s the real story? Brubaker: Our elaborate lie story we tell is way more exciting, and you can write this out however you like. We say that our original vocalist, Jon Hershey’s ex-girlfriend, whose name is August, and he had just broken up with her at the end of high school; she took it very poorly. She locked his childhood dog Red, an Irish Setter, in his doghouse and burned the dog alive.
Oh my god! Brubaker: And…August Burns Red…. But that’s not true.
It’s not true? Brubaker: No, it’s not.
Watch the band’s video for the single “Invisible Enemy” just below.
I’m believing it. Brubaker: *Laughter* I told you before, this was a lie. Yeah, it’s not true but it’s more interesting than “we thought it was cool, we were eighteen and you know...” A lot of people think that’s the story because we told it to be true for many years.
Who does most of the song writing in the band? Brubaker: I do.
*Someone knocks on the door* Brubaker: What?
*Hilariously mumbling happening on the other side of the door.* Brubaker:Yeah, come in.
Where do you get your inspiration when writing a song? Brubaker: I guess it’s just something that is interesting and exciting, and that would be exciting for our fans. Nothing in particular. We just want to sound unique and do our own thing in the metal world. We’ve carved out our own sound at this point because we’ve been a band for a long time. So, I guess the goal when writing a song is just to make the best song as possible, and then being who August Burns Red is, we don’t want to re-invent our song at this point, but we also want to continue to broaden it more if possible.
We’re not trying to re-write the same record over and over, but we’re also not trying to re-invent the wheel for us. I hear a lot of critics and fans say, “oh yeah this record is sweet, I like it… It sounds like an August Burns Red record.” Which after being a band for fifteen years, I think that you have a sound that’s been established. If we wrote a record that didn’t sound like August Burns Red, people would be say, “this sounds like a different band now, I’m bummed on it.” Everyone will complain.
I was reading some reviews, a few people said that this is one of your heaviest, do you agree with that? Brubaker: It’s heavier than the last couple. It took some of the heavier, more aggressive elements from some of our earlier records and fused it with some of the more melodic and technical aspects of what we’ve been doing more recently in the last couple of albums. A hybrid of old and new.
So that fifteen-year progression, this is the outcome of it. Brubaker: Yeah. I think so.
That’s pretty cool. If you had to choose a band to play one of your songs, who would you choose and why? Brubaker: To play one of our songs? Between the Buried and Me because they are really talented musicians and they’d pull it off better than we do.
You really think so? Brubaker: Yeah, I just know, it’s just a fact.
How many more tour dates do you guys have? Brubaker: In this tour?
Brubaker: So many, we’re only on our second show, I think there are 34 more or 35, and then we have two weeks of, then we head into our European tour, which is another 25 shows. So, we’re basically on the road until April 6, which is when we’d get home from Europe. We haven’t toured Phantom Anthem yet so....
You’ll feel all warm and tingly watching the “The Frost” video.
Yeah. So that should be a good show! Brubaker: Yeah, it should be good, we need to go and support the record, we’ve been sitting at home not doing anything since the record came out…so we gotta go and play now.
What do you guys do on the road? Do you guys try and get as much sleep as you can? Or do you practice? Brubaker: We definitely don’t practice on the bus. We’d like to be at a point that when the tour starts that we are practiced-up and ready to go. If we are having to practice a lot on tour, then we weren’t being responsible at home. We warm up and stuff but it’s not a ton of drilling on tour. We sleep probably more on tour that we sleep at home. Because when the bus is moving, we don’t want to be awake. For instance, today, we didn’t get in until noon, and I woke up around 10:15, which is pretty late for me right now. It’s late for anyone. My wife and I just had a kid so I’m on that newborn schedule at home.
Awe that’s Great. Brubaker: Thanks! So, sleeping in until 10 is unusual, but I also went at bed at 1 and I never go to bed that late at home right now.
So, you gave yourself enough time. Brubaker: Well, I could have slept until noon I suppose, but I was like I want to lie here on this foam-pad of a bus bunk, then your back starts to hurt.
Do you have any new year’s resolutions? Brubaker: That’s funny you ask because my wife and I were talking about if we have any resolutions and I said, “I am completely content with every aspect in my life.” I don’t have any new year’s resolution. I don’t feel like I need to go on a diet or start meditating, I’m content where I am.
Upon arrival at the show, it was jam packed and tough to get in. Fans were surrounding the venue, and people were just talking about ABR’s appearance. As we all waited patiently for them to take the stage, System of a Down’s “Chop Suey” triggered the crowd into singing at the top of their lungs in hopes that the Danforth Music hall will play more iconic songs to pass the time. All in all, great night and great music. ABR did not disappoint; they were on fire.