2017 marks the 10 year anniversary of the release of August Burns Red’s album Messengers. We had a chat to drummer Matthew Greiner about the tour. Greiner explains the genesis of the idea to put together an anniversary tour; “Our breakthrough record was Messengers, and as 2017 grew closer, it was on our minds. We were still playing a lot of songs off of it like ‘Backburner’, ‘Composure’ and ‘Redemption’ every now and then, so 8 or 9 years in your thinking “wow, everyone’s still responding to these songs”. That was a big moment in our touring history, so maybe we should do an anniversary tour. We talked to a few people about it and they thought it was a good idea. We started putting it together and talking to local promoters about it across the country and it garnered a bit of excitement, so we put together a package and hit the road.” Greiner sounded surprised that something like this would happen to them, “Here’s what was surprising about it for me: people who were in their upper 20’s and lower 30’s, even upper 30’s coming out to see us play, many of them would tell me that “I haven’t been to a metal show since you guys put out Messengers 10 years ago. I got a babysitter and my wife and I came out tonight”. To see people who aren’t really fans coming out to experience some nostalgia, that’s what was surprising to me.”
August Burns Red are about to release their seventh studio album, Phantom Anthem. Seven albums deep you don’t really expect much of a change in sound, however this album does have a more developed sound than their previous releases. Greiner explains: “Creatively, you never want to re-create something unless that is what you intend to do from the start. When you put out a new record your goal is to attain a higher standard of musicianship, of creativity and just better songwriting. Phantom Anthem is a more serious record, it doesn’t have as much of the wonky parts that the previous albums had. Its more serious and straight ahead and has some darker, progressive sounds and that’s the sound I fell in love with 12 years ago, you hear a lot of those linear parts. ”He continues, “We’re able to play harder music, faster music, more technically proficient music because that’s just the nature of the beast; the longer you play something the better you are at it.” Seems obvious, but that’s still great advice.
Somehow in the midst of putting together the anniversary tour, ABR made the time to write the new album. “We’ve had a lot of time off this year because of the new record. I had most of the songs written before we went on tour and thankfully I recorded all my drum parts on my iPhone, and when we go back off tour, I had to remind myself of what I had written. We went into the studio March 1st, we’d got back from the 10 year tour two weeks before that. I had a couple of songs to write yet on drums, I had a bunch of lyrics I wanted to refine but I ended up getting food poisoning two days before I was going into the studio. I went out to celebrate the end of writing drums with my wife and two hours later I was sick as a dog. I was out of it for six days so we actually started with guitars on this record and the drums came 2 weeks or 3 weeks later and we’ve never done that, we always start with drums. It was a really different experience and I think we all liked it better”.
On metalcore drummers it seems the genre is saturated with similarity and it’s the proficiency and vision of drummers like Greiner that keep the genre current and relevant. “I spend a lot of time writing what I write and I know a lot of other drummers do too. I think some of the best players on the world are in metal core or at least in a similar vein, some names would be: Blake Richardson from Between The Buried And Me, Alex Rüdinger from Good Tiger, two of the best drummers I can name. And so my goal for each record is to take influences from those guys but also try to create some new sounds on my own at the same time. I think anybody who’s trying to do something great on the kit, at least in metalcore, has to dedicate time to it because there are so many intricacies and so many parts to remember. I compare it to a good game of Sudoku, it’s like working your brain (laughs)”.
The next topic of discussion had to be the fantastic film clip for their single ‘Invisible Enemy’, featuring the band as marionettes. You can watch it below, but here’s what Greiner had to say about it: “It was a creative and I think somewhat original idea that our label came up with. They came up with this idea to not have us in the video at all but to have a representation of us. Really, all we had to do was take pictures of ourselves and re-create our looks in a much smaller fashion. In that sense it was a very easy video to shoot for us, but it was very difficult for the creators of the marionettes”. It sounds ominous to imagine a metal clip with puppets in it, but it really works. Marionette Greiner receives a lot of attention in the mid-section of the song, “I wrote that entire drum section there, it was pretty cool.”
Aside from producing phenomenal music, August Burns Red are associated with a foundation called Heart Support, the motto of which is ‘…a raw and authentic community where no music fan has to struggle alone’. Issues like mental health, depression and suicide are rampant in today’s society so this is a very admirable task for a notable band to be involved with.
Greiner elucidates: “I’m glad we’re covering this because it is a major issue. One of my favourite things about being in the band is interacting with our fans and I actually really mean that. Onstage, I’m just a drummer, I’m at the back of the stage, it’s kind of hard for me to interact with the fans at all during the show and so afterwards it’s awesome to be able to switch gears and that’s when I have the payoff, for me personally. Just shaking hands and talking to people and just hearing from certain individuals about how they’ve gotten a lot of help from our band or our lyrics. So, Jake (Luhrs), the vocalist for August burns Red, years ago he started to put some action, sort of a response to what he saw as a need for these people. It seemed like something he was fully equipped to do; he’s a very compassionate person, he’s a good leader so he took on Heart Support from a friend of his and now he has a whole team who really are the workhorses behind it. They also just came out with a book, which I haven’t had a chance to read but it’s been received really well, not just in the music community but also in the Christian, sort of the ‘seeking’ category as well. We are here to listen and someone wants to tell us about how they really had a great time with our music, or our music got them through some stuff, what greater honour is there than that? The fact that we’re associated with Heart Support kind of opens the door for that conversation, so that part is really cool”.
The interview concluded with Greiner offering some sage advice for upcoming bands: “I’m standing right outside the room, on the farm, where I spent what would equate to weeks if you put the hours back-to-back, it would equate to thousands of hours. It just reminds me that it’s really just about the hard work fueled by your passion. If I was sitting with a young band today and I was to say “You’re going to be so much better if you do this”, my advice would be: put away your phone, put away your computer and sit down behind your kit or pick up your instrument and start playing. Don’t think about how it’s going to look on video or how it’s going to sound on Protools or what somebody else is doing, you have to come up with what only you can create. That is only going to come about with time dedicated to that instrument. The best way to do that is to just do it. Lock yourself in the room. Sweat. Stay up late and focus on it. There was no recipe for us; it was just a lot of hard work. If we decided “hey, we need money” we’d go sell pizzas, if we need money we’ll go have a yard sale. It’s a full blown effort but you have to start with the music and you have to start with a dedication for your craft”.
Greiner closes with a teaser, “I hope to be there late 2018 or early 2019 but we will be there to play Phantom Anthem”.
‘Phantom Anthem’ drops on 6th October and pre-orders get you in a competition to win a pair of ABR drumsticks.
Watch new clips here:
Invisible Enemy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0sWKKKNRV90
The Frost: https: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKlP2rKtAGQ