Promo photo from ABR Facebook.
At the end of 2011, Lancaster, Pennsylvania based metalcore band August Burns Red was on top of the world. They released their best album to date, Leveler, which peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard 200 charts, and they killed it all summer on the Van’s Warped Tour.
With those accomplishments fresh on their minds, the band is entering 2012 determined to make it an even better year. Their first order of business is a sold-out tour across the nation with support from Silverstein, Texas in July, letlive and I, the Breather.
Before the band’s show at Emo’s East, guitarist Brent Rambler sat down with us to discuss where 2012 is taking them, the story behind one of their most personal songs and why the band believes it’s important to play songs with a positive message.
How will 2011 be remembered for August Burns Red?
Rambler: For us it was our biggest year ever. We put out our latest record, and it was awesome. It did really well, and we were on the summer’s Warped Tour on the main stage, and that was huge for us. There’s just several highlights like that that have been incredible for 2011.
As a band what do you hope to accomplish in 2012?
Rambler: We’re going to a lot of new places next year, which is actually awesome. We’re going to Southeast Asia, which we’re all really excited about. Thailand, and all that stuff, so I think that’s the biggest thing that we wanted to do is just try and hit a bunch of places that we’ve never been. We have a song called “Indonesia.” We’ve never been to Indonesia, but now we’re going, and all those kids are really excited.
Are you going to play that song?
Rambler: Yes, absolutely. We have to I think. So yeah we’re really excited for that, and just trying to hit those places we haven’t been yet, which is I think our biggest goal for the year.
What makes Leveler different than August Burns Red’s previous releases?
Rambler: I think we just kind of stretched our abilities a little bit more. We tried new things. On Constellations we kind of broke some new ground, and I think that let us segue into Leveler, which is great, and I think that’s why that’s the biggest difference. We just added new stuff, which we’ve never done before.
One song on Leveler is titled “1/16/2011.” What is the significance of that day?
Rambler: It’s the date that a bunch of high school kids from Manheim, they were in a car accident, and sadly they all lost their lives. There were four of them all in the car. They were all on the football team, and in Manheim football is like the biggest thing in the world. They go to the state championship every other year, so it was a huge blow. There’s only 4,000 people in our town, so it kind of is a big deal. We just picked that, and then the song after that coincides with that as well.
Why did you decide to include the acoustic version of the song “Internal Cannon” and the other versions of “Pangea,” “Boys of the Fall” and “Empire” on the deluxe edition of Leveler? All four songs are such a departure from your normal sound.
Rambler: We really wanted to put out a deluxe edition and so did the label, and it was us just trying to pick the best things. There was a bunch of different stuff being thrown around as to what to do, and we were just like, “Well, we have a friend, Jon Hershey.” He was the original singer of the band, and he’s in a band called Bells. So we were like, “That’d be cool.” So they did “Pangea,” and our friend Zach’s a classical pianist, so he did “Boys of Fall.” Jason Sucof thought it’d be cool to do an acoustic version of “Internal Cannon,” and it already has the Mexican feel to it, so it just found a place nicely because at first we weren’t going to do it at all because we were like, “If we can’t get four cool, solid things, it’s not really worth it. Otherwise, you’re just charging kids an extra five bucks for random crap. So we just wanted to make it good.
Do you have any idea when you’ll begin thinking about the next album?
Rambler: Probably at the end of this year. We’re pretty much on an 18-month cycle. So we’ll tour throughout this year, and then we’ll start writing and recording again at the end of this year, beginning of next year. It should be out in a year and a half from now pretty much.
Leveler peaked at No. 11 on the Billboard charts. Will that put any pressure on you as you write the next album?
Rambler: Absolutely. It’s hard because no one buys CDs anymore, so as you go it gets more and more hard to actually sell more records, so we’ll see. There’s a ton of pressure but I think in the end if we sell the same amount of records, everyone will still be like, “OK, that’s still good.” But for us we always want to do better and better obviously, and I think everybody who works for us does too.
How do you manage to stand out in a crowded field of metalcore, hardcore, etc?
Rambler: For us I think it was always just, we kind of got our foot in the door at the right moment I think. We came in, people thought we sounded a little bit different, and then it just kind of snowballed from there. For us I think you need to have something that’s just slightly different about your music and about your band to be able to rise above. Otherwise you’re just going to get stuck in the rut. I think when we came out everyone was doing this screaming versus the singing chorus. Everyone was trying to sound like As I Lay Dying, and so we came out, and we were linear and progressive. I think people thought it was cool, that it was actually different. I think that helped us along the way, just that initial start.
Why do you feel it is important to provide fans with songs that have Christian messages?
Rambler: I think if general just for us, it’s important to provide a positive message, whether or not Christian. As long as your not going out there and pounding kids with depressing topics and stuff like that. We want to listen to the record and feel good about it. There are records that I love, but by the end of it, I’m just so drained because I’m like, “This is so depressing.” That’s not exactly what we want to do. We just want to have a positive message because it’s a better way to live life.
This tour ends March 3. What do you have planned after that? You have a break before you go overseas?
Rambler: We have about a month, and then it’s Southeast Asia, Japan and Australia, so it should be good. We’re doing it with Blessthefall, which is awesome because we’re really good friends with those guys. We’re very excited.
Watch ABR’s music video for “Empire” off of Leveler below.