August Burns Red’s Brent Rambler chats new album and the current state of metal music

Two time grammy nominated metal band August Burns Red is on tour this month in celebration of their new studio album, Phantom Anthem. The album was released this past fall with Fearless Records and was met with wide popularity across the scene. 

The tour kicked off on January 5th in Montreal, and will continue through February. In support of August Burns Red is Born of Osiris, Erra and Ocean Grove. 

Guitarist Brent Rambler took a moment to chat with us before their show at The Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac, Michigan last week. We dive in-depth about the new album, touring, and the current state of the metal music scene. 

Check out the complete interview below!


Kailey Howell: How has the tour been so far for you?

Brent Rambler: It’s been great. We’re kinda just getting started, this is the fifth show. So far so good, we played some really great shows in Canada. We’ll wrap around the Great Lakes and then head back up there. 

KH: Is there a certain stop on the tour you’re looking forward to?

BR: The first show of the tour was Montreal, which is one of our biggest markets in the world. That’s always interesting when it’s the first show of the tour and you’re supposed to be getting the jitters out but it’s also one of the biggest shows of the tour. That was great, I was really looking forward to that. I’m definitely looking forward to places like Seattle, Dallas and Colorado which are places we just do really well in. 

KH: You guys are celebrating the release of the new album, Phantom Anthem. The sound carries the progressive metal sound that you have started with from the beginning. How was writing this album? Did any dynamics change?

BR: Not necessarily any dynamics changed. For us, the songs we write take a long time to write, there’s a lot of intriciacees to them. We’re constantly writing. There’s a couple months off after the record is done where we take a break and everybody needs to learn the songs in order to perform them well live. Usually, what gets written  gets put on the record. We don’t have time to create 15-20 songs and then cut them down because of how long they take to write. However that song sounds is how it sounds, there’s no focus to be like ‘well this record is more aggressive or this record needs to sound like this’. It’s just we write what we want to hear and that’s what ends up making the record. 

KH: Was there any different inspiration when writing this album?

BR: I know JB, who writes the majority of the music was listening to a lot of Animals As Leaders which is why there’s a good amount of tapping on this record as far as the guitar work goes. Dustin wrote a handful of songs on this record as well, and he listens to John Mayor constantly [laughs]- I don’t know if you can feel that in the song or not. He loves John Mayer and Intervals, so he’s channeling that in his songs. As far as lyrics go, it’s just life experiences. I have some lyrics that I wrote years ago that are now on this record that I’ve been able to finish. I don’t know if anybody’s sitting down looking for inspiration, I think it’s just when it hits you. 

KH: What was your favorite song to write on this album?

BR: For me lyrically, my favorite song is ‘The Frost’. I loved working on that song, it was a work in progress for a long time. I literally wrote that song when we were finishing Found in Far Away places. I had the meat of it done at that point and then I just set it off to the side. The song is pretty much about me riding my bike in the cold [laughs]. Then it draws the inspiration from ‘why do I ride my bike?’ and it’s all just about clearing up your head and freeing up your thoughts to be able to focus on certain things in life. It got to a point where I was working on the song and I didn’t have anything more until a year and a half later I was able to read it again and make it into what it is now so that was great. 

KH: How was filming the music video for that song?

BR: [laughs] I don’t want to say it was terrible, because the people working with us were great- but it was terrible. They covered us in pretty much road salt to make us look frozen. They needed a mix of make-up, glue, salt and hair gel. After every take it would fall off, so we’d be constantly covered in it. It was a pretty brutal music video to make. We actually just worked with that same team to make a music video for another song and it was much easier [laughs]. Everyone was a lot happier about that.

KH: You’d think everything after that would be much easier [laughs]. So, you guys received your second Grammy nomination for ‘Best Metal Performance’. That’s awesome, congratulations!

With that nomination, it kind of reflects the trend in the rock genre right now with metal and aggressive music coming into light, and I hate to use the word ‘mainstream’ over the classics and what’s known as ‘dad rock’. For example, harsh vocals being played more on the radio. Where do you see the rock genre going? Do you think it’s going to follow that trend?

BR: It really depends, and it sounds strange to say this, I think it really depends a lot on the success of Sirius Radio. Sirius has obviously been the torch carrier as far as playing this kind of music to meet a bigger audience. For us, we’re never going to be a radio band, we’ve accepted that long ago. Obviously, there’s specialized stations that play our music but for us we don’t sing a lot, and I cant see us ever singing a lot and that’s what you need. Parkway Drive is a good example; they get a lot more radio play than us but there’s a lot of people who are like ‘they’re similar bands’ but they definitely push for a more accessible rock radio sound and that’s helped. But, I don’t want to say that’s not for us, it’s just I don’t think we will get that attention. At least definitely not on this record [laughs]. I do think it really depends on the success of Sirius with stations like Octane where metal music like this gets played. If Sirius doesn’t do well or it goes away, it could really drastically affect this style of music. Either that or these other FM stations are going to have to carry the torch, but for someone with not much experience in radio it’s hard for me to say how that’s going to go. 

KH: As a progressive metal band, August Burns Red has all harsh vocals but not many other bands do. How does that resonate with you guys?

BR: I think it’s just what we’ve always done. We definitely tracked stuff on this record with more melodic vocals but we went back and listened to it and said ‘that’s not right, not that’s not us’. I’m not saying it’s not going to happen in the future but for what we have on this record it didn’t fit. Obviously there’s some melodic screams and all that stuff but I think we all just accepted that nobody in this band is a great singer.  We have a vocalist who has a great scream so that’s what we use. We’re not going to force ourselves to do something that we can’t perform live – you see a lot of bands where everything is now a background track. I’m not going to say we don’t have any in our set, you need it to fill out and we obviously don’t have a full orchestra with us when we have violins on the record. I think for us it’s just not our thing yet. 

KH: You guys release Christmas covers, which is so cool. Where did that idea come from? Would you record any other covers?

BR: I dont know why we did it, but we had a cover of Carol of the Bells that JB wrote a while ago that was recorded during Messengers sessions. It did really well, it got put in a movie and a bunch of other things, it got picked up by American Dad. It found a lot of success, so we thought ‘maybe we should make more of these’, and then it turned into a Christmas record. We’ve done some other covers; the Brittany Spears and Miley Cyrus covers, and we hate them [laughs]. We do like doing stuff like that, it’s fun, it’s in the moment. The Punk Goes Pop is a fun comp to be on but we look back now and we’re like ‘are these our best songs? No, no they’re not.’ but we’ll probably do more covers in the future. We have this NOFX cover that got tracked a long time ago and sometimes we just play it live for fun depending on how we feel and what we’re doing. 

KH: With you guys being one of the leading bands in the rock and especially metal scene, are there any up and coming bands that have caught your attention?

BR: It’s really tough to say, for me personally I don’t listen to a ton of metal. The new Veil of Maya record is great, it’s a really awesome record. There’s a band called Somos that’s on Hopeless that I used to listen to. Movement’s new record is really really  good. As far as metal goes, it’s tough. I like that Knocked Loose record. The new Converge record is good too. Those would be who I’m listening to the most right now. 

KH: How do you feel about Warped Tour ending this year?

BR: I mean everything’s up to Kevin, and if he thought it was getting to the point where he didn’t want it to be, he can choose to do with it as he pleases. I totally understand where he’s coming from. He had a design and a plan of what he wanted Warped Tour to be and in order to continue to make it a tour that wouldn’t lose money and hopefully make a profit he had to maybe do some things that he didn’t want to do in the original format of it. It may have turned into something he didn’t want it to be. 

It was still a  great thing, it helped a lot of bands get their start. What it does that I think is important is that it helped a lot of bands cut their teeth. You go on Warped Tour and everyone is treated the same. You still wait in line at catering just like the rest of the bands. If you’re a band on your first Warped ever, you’re on of the small bass, you get treated the same as one of the headlining bands. It helps a lot of bands realize it’s hard work, but it also puts you in front of a lot of people. It was a great thing for a ton of years, but like I said it’s what Kevin wants to do.

We’re thankful to have been on the tour for so many years, we did it in ’08, ’11, ’13, ’15. We were lucky enough to be on the main stage most of those times, it was summers we loved and will never forget. It is a grueling tour, I will say that. If your not in a bus, you’re not having the best times [laughs]. It’s hot and there’s nowhere to go. I think one of the best quotes is from JB, someone asked him how he deals with the heat and he said ‘Well, I just sit in my bus and watch baseball all summer’ [laughs]. For us it was always decently nice. 

KH: What can we see in store for August Burns Red in 2018?

BR: We have a lot of stuff coming up that sadly much we can’t talk about yet [laughs].  After this tour that ends Feb 18, we go to Europe for a month with Heaven Shall Burn, Whitechapel and In Hearts Wake. It’s a short, three and a half week tour in Europe.  Heaven Shall Burn is an older metal band, so they want to go, get their shows in, and be done. I totally get it, I love it. We met them this summer, they seem like really nice guys so we’re really excited for that. Then we’re taking a lot of time off; the beginning of the year is so busy for us, we pretty much go through April 5. We’ll be back in the fall with some things that we’ve haven’t announced yet. 

Phantom Anthem is available for purchase and streaming through all major distributors. You can keep up with August Burns Red through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

A complete list of August Burns Red’s tour dates can be found here, so check out when you can catch them near you!

Kailey Howell can found on Twitter @kailey_howell, and for continuing music coverage, make sure to follow The Pit on Twitter at @ThePit_SE