Interview: Brent Rambler of August Burns Red
Interview/Words by Jake Patton
“It’s always important to have something to look forward to” — this is the sentiment shared by August Burns Red ahead of the launch of their new album Guardians at a time where there is a great deal of uncertainty in the world. It might seem like a strange idea for bands to be pondering album releases at a time where many countries around the world are going through self-isolation measures, but it’s ultimately one that August Burns Red feels will help bring some form of normality to their fans in this trying time. Insert Review Here was lucky enough to chat with guitarist Brent Rambler about the new album Guardians, including its themes and concepts, the importance of quality production on a finished record, the current touring and industry climate for acts amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and what it takes to make a band successful now, and into the future.
“We’re extremely excited for everyone to hear the record. I think they’ll be very happy, hopefully they’ll be a little bit surprised, and we hope they like it.” Rambler starts with when asked about the band’s excitement around releasing a new album. “We’ve been working on this record for a good bit now and every time you finish a record you want people to hear it immediately but realistically that’s not how things work”.
In the lead up to Guardians' release, August Burns Red has already dropped a film clip for track Defender. It’s a comic book stylised clip that brings the track to life through vibrant colours and raw visuals and is definitely a key talking point when discussing Guardians. “As far as Defender, we tried to explore the idea of actually having a comic book come out alongside that, but that just definitely wasn’t financially feasible. We actually looked into it and were like 'how much would this cost?’ And a guy gave us a hook up price and we were just ‘Look, we are not here to insult you or anything but, we know this is a lot of, well it would take a huge amount of work and is no way in our realm of affordability”, Rambler states when reflecting on the film clip and the possibility of expanding that story further to a print medium.
Diversity in sound is a very important aspect of an artist’s ability to create meaningful music, and August Burns Red has always been a band which has injected a great degree of diversity into their tracks. This is no exception on Guardians with the band cultivating a raft of tracks with differing stylistic approaches, all with the end goal of keeping the listener attentively engaged from start to finish. When pressed on whether this approach to their song writing was something that the band strived to achieve, Rambler spoke openly about the band’s desire to create engaging music and to keep their music outside the realm of predictability by stating “We love doing that. We don’t want to be a predictable band where you can know what’s going to happen every single song. With a song like Ties the Bind obviously the song starts off super melodic and then you have you know a whole minute section that is just brutal and devastating, that whole big build up, and then the part that follows, it’s just a dynamic song, and that’s something that we’ve always tried to do, have dynamics in each song and across the album”.
Production is an important aspect of any album. With Guardian, August Burns Red has struck a delicate balance where harmonies are adjusted effectively against some absolutely crushing rhythm sections, with the end result being an emotional catharsis that fluctuates between melody and breakdown instantaneously. It’s an incredibly fine line that the band has treaded, but an ultimately rewarding one, and one which wouldn’t be possible without the impeccable production on the album. “When you do that (tonal balance), you obviously have to have guitar tones that are cutting through where you can hear the chords and hear the notes, so it takes a ton of time to find the right guitar tone that will provide that. We spent a ton of time getting that tone so that if we had a chord that had, say five strings in it that you were going to hear each of those strings” Rambler reflects when asked about how difficult it was to get that balance right, before adding “In terms of the melody, a lot of that was done in an overdub track, so your making another guitar tone out of that which can hopefully sit well over the really heavy rhythm tone that you have made”.
When you consider the current landscape of successful musical acts, it seems like longevity in career, and stability in line-up are key traits amongst those who experience enduring success. August Burns Red has been in a very fortunate position where over the past fifteen years they have maintained a fairly stable line-up, a notion which isn’t lost on Rambler at all. When asked about what makes a successful band, and whether he had any advice to pass onto newer and upcoming bands, Rambler responded “I think a lot of it is learning what buttons to push. You have to learn how much people can take. A lot of it is also picking your battles. I mean obviously we have had our fights, we’ve had our discussions, we’ve had our arguments, but I think a lot of it is ‘you know that kind of upset me’ but is that something you can get over or something you need to bring up? I think we’ve done a pretty good job in dealing with that”, before closing off by stating “Luckily we have a group of guys who learnt early on that if we are going to stay together for a long time we need to learn what makes other people tick and swallow your pride sometimes”.
Receiving a Grammy nomination is a massive feat for any act. August Burns Red luckily received their second Grammy nomination for the track Invisible Enemy off 2017’s Phantom Anthem, so it seemed appropriate to determine if that nomination brought with it any pressure when recording Guardian. When pressed on the subject, Rambler stated that “We just try and live up to our expectations that we hold our fans at. We’re more beholden to our very loyal fanbase than we are to expecting to get a Grammy nomination. It’s hard to say that you want to write for another Grammy nomination, but for us we want to write to make our fans happy and also write material that we are happy with”, expressing how the band makes music for their fans first and foremost, and any accolades that they receive peripheral to that.
The conversation then shifted to current global effects surrounding COVID-19, its impact on artists, and how certain band’s like Code Orange are adapting their fan engagement during this trying time. While August Burns Red have already had to postpone their current tour with Killswitch Engage, Rambler affirmed that the band wanted to get release their record on time, even opting not to delay its release in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “We all kind of agreed that we didn’t want to delay the release of the record. You know it’s just kind of a bummed out time right now and if people are looking forward to something and you take that away from them—that just makes it worse. Obviously in a lot of places people aren’t going to be able to go out and buy a physical copy. I don’t expect many stores that carry records to be open at that points, and for our label it obviously hurts our chances of having a good Billboard chart. If all things had probably gone as planned it would be our sixth Billboard top 25 album. That would be obviously a great thing to achieve but I just don’t think it’s realistic right now. It’s more important to us that we put out a record that people can listen to and it hopefully puts a smile on their face when they are sitting at home and have nothing else to do.”
Finally, Brent was asked about whether the band would ever investigate live streaming performances, Rambler had some very strong views about the necessity of bands needing to perform to a live audience, stating “We at this point don’t have any plans to do a live stream. We have some people in our lives that are immuno-compromised so we can’t get together to do that because we can’t guarantee that every single person involved hasn’t been in contact with others for fourteen days. So for us right now that’s probably not going to happen, but I think in the future it’s something we could look into. What I will say is that live shows and live touring is how the music industry makes money. So while I think it’s great that these bands are p providing some respite from the current situation, it’s awesome that these bands are doing that, and we are going to continue making as much content as we possibly can for our fans throughout this time period, but my hope is that it doesn’t evolve into that because we want people to come to the live shows, to come to the concerts. While I think that it’s a great thing for this time period, it’s absolutely wonderful for this time period, my hope is that we can get back to normal, because as I said, artists need that. They need to be able to go on tour and sell T-shirts. It’s good for now but I hope we can get past this.”
August Burns Red's eighth full length, Guardians, is out Friday April 3 on Fearless Records/Caroline Australia. The album is available for pre-order/pre-save here.
The third single "Paramount", is available now on all platforms. Watch video here:
GUARDIANS TRACK LISTING
1. "The Narrative"
6. "Dismembered Memory"
7. "Ties That Bind"
9. "Extinct by Instinct"
10. "Empty Heaven"
11. "Three Fountains"