August Burns Red is by far one of my favorite bands; I haven't missed a show since 2006, when they played direct support to Project 86 on their "Hammers and Blades" U.S. headliner at a small venue in a rough part of town called "Rock n' Roll Pizza". Over the years, i've had the pleasure of seeing this band go from small crowds to rocking out on main stage last summer on Warped Tour. I sat down with vocalist Jake Luhrs and caught up on what the band was up to, how the tour was going, among other things. Be sure and check out their current album, "Leveler", in stores and online everywhere.
First off, welcome back to Portland, OR -- how are you today?
Good man, doing really well.
Jumping into things, you guys played the mainstage at last summer's Warped Tour, played A Day To Remember's U.K. headliner with The Ghost Inside and Living With Lions near the end of the year. You're currently on a U.S. headliner on your own; what are your thoughts on your summer on the Warped Tour and ADTR's tour?
Warped Tour was alot of fun, it definitely was stoked to be a part of that. Warped Tour is always a vacation in a sense for bands, but it's always alot of hard work; we met a lot of fans, and made a lot of new fans as well.
We just got back a few months ago from the tour with A Day to Remember, we were main support for them, and that was a really good tour. Europe can be up and down, sometimes for me personally; I like the kids there, but i'm not completely into the environment so much, sometimes the culture. But the tour was great, the kids came out; I love A Day To Remember, I love touring with those guys.
Headlining now is pretty exciting; sometimes lots more kids coming out to our shows than I had previously anticipated. The bands on this tour -- Silverstein, Texas In July, and I, The Breather; they're all good friends of ours, so it's sortof like a family reunion of sorts.
Speaking of A Day To Remember, you've toured with that band quite a bit over the years -- Warped, a couple of their headliners, etc. Some people might call their authenticity into play, as they continue getting larger; being someone who has lots and lots of exposure to the band, what would you say to someone who might accuse that band of being unauthentic?
You know, I definitely think they're original, I think they're catchy; their songwriting is definitely more I guess formulaic than alot of the other bands in the genre. And I think because of that, alot of other bands or critics go "Oh, you ripped those guys off" or "You sound like this", but I don't necessarily see that; because when I listen to A Day To Remember, I'll be singing along, or there's a catchy chorus stuck in my head, it's A Day To Remember to me -- i'm not singing something that A Day To Remember is singing and thinking "oh, that sounds alot like this". I guess at the end of the day it's personal opinions, but I don't think they're unauthentic. If they were unauthentic, I don't think they'd be where they are today.
And I don't think it's absolutely terrible to be formulaic, but you don't want to reinvent the wheel completely all the time and alienate fans...
Well yeah, I don't think they're the type of band to go completely off the wall with something that's not them. They are who they are, and they mixed two genres together in my opinion, and birthed this sub-genre of music; and my belief, they're the only ones who are in it. And they've made it for themselves, and they're killer.
Rewinding back to 2006 and looking back to Project 86's headlining tour, in which August Burns Red was in a supporting spot, how surreal is it that it's now 2012 and August Burns Red is on their 4th, maybe 5th full U.S. headliner?
Well this headliner is definitely the best one that we've ever done, and definitely the most work as far as headliners. We're doing 15 songs a night on this tour, which pans out to be about an hour and 15 minutes a night, which vocally is a little stressful and challenging -- it's been great though.
Coming from March of 2006 when I first started touring and opening for Project 86 to now, where we're headlining all across the States and into Canada for 7 and a half weeks, it's a pretty big difference. You know, it took us 6 years; we just didn't wake up and all of a sudden become at the caliber of band that we're at now. It's not so much surreal to me, because I worked for it; because I had to spend 6 years of my life going slowly but surely uphill, working diligently towards this goal where we are now present day. But it is a blessing, I am thankful, there's nothing else in this world that I would rather be doing, but be where I am right now; I feel this is where God wants me, I feel like that our music is making a positive impact on the world -- so I don't know what else I could ask for.
Speaking of diligence and hard work, you've been in this band for 6 years -- there's definitely been some hard times along the way; have you ever considered quitting the band, and if so, what things encouraged you to stick with it?
Never wanted to quit, definitely had to make some sacrifices to continue and move forward though. Finding a balance is important; I think if you don't have a balance between your personal life and your tour life. There's never been any time I've wanted to quit, but there's definitely been some tough times; through those tough times I've learned to grow and mature not only as a man, but as a touring musician -- to understand "OK, don't do this", you know what I mean? It's just a work in progress. My faith in Christ, my family...and just inner strength that I know this is where God wants me to be and that I need to hang tough, it's a season in my life, and that i'll come out of it.
You've mentioned earlier that all the bands on this tour are all good friends. Where there other reasons for bringing out Silverstein, Texas In July, and I, The Breather and also Letlive, who was on the first leg of this tour?
Yeah, Letlive are great dudes, but we really didn't know on a personal level before this tour; we just heard about their music, heard some great things about their live show, and thought they'd be a great opening band on this tour. However, when we formed this package, we thought about this being a headliner of our own; we kindof thought to ourselves "alright, let's not make this tour package full of bands that we don't know, or bands just to draw big numbers...but let's bring our friends out and have a good time".
Looking through the setlist on this tour, you have a great mix of new and old material; that being said, how hard was it picking the setlist from four full-length albums?
Wasn't hard at all, haha. We thought to ourselves "Alright, what do we want to play?"; obviously we kept our fans in mind when we decided what songs we were going to pick. We want to play the songs that our fans want to hear, and we want to honor them with that; but we wanted to play some new songs that we haven't played before, and that we thought would go well live, and ones that we personally enjoy playing. "Carpe Diem" is always a fun song for us, and I know alot of the guys like "Meridian" so we through that in there; me personally, the song "Leveler" means alot, I really enjoy playing that song. We just sat down and asked ourselves what we wanted to play, and then what do our fans want to hear; and that's how we decided.
Looking back on your current album Leveler as a whole, the lyrical content tends to be darker and more honest than past material. How hard was it writing songs like "Divisions"?
Well, Matt Greiner [Drums] wrote most of the lyrics for "Divisions", and it definitely was a very personal song to him; there's definitely lyrics on this record that are very close to my heart as well. When I was in Florida, I wrote lyrics for this record, and I was praying beforehand about it and I asked "God, what do you want me to write about?" and he gave me this thought about something from my own personal life, and to be honest, I didn't want to write it -- it was deep, and something that I think I hadn't even healed from or whatever. But I felt like God wanted me to write it, and that I should write it, because it's going to impact alot of people and could relate to it and I ended up writing alot of things that were personal as a result.
Dark? I don't necessarily want to say that the lyrics are darker; one of them has to do with the death from these kids from our hometown, but that's sad, that's tragic, but I wouldn't say it's dark. Alot of the songs what we try to do is make the ending a positive ending, a positive ending -- a light at the end of the tunnel; so there's alot of that formula in our writing. Lyrically, I think we did a good job collaborating, and overall they're pretty solid messages.
The album was your fourth on Solid State Records. With that in mind, has August Burns Red fulfilled their contract with Solid State, or can we expect to keep seeing the band release material with them in the years to come?
I can't give you a concrete answer of anything other than we love Solid State. Yeah, our contracts going to [eventually] be up, and who knows what's going to happen. I personally love Solid State, I love how they've treated us, I love working with those guys, I think we're at home with them. Everyone likes to talk about family when it comes to this music industry, and honestly the music industry is a cutthroat business. If I were to say we have family in this business, it's Solid State and Good Fight Entertainment.
And I think that says alot -- Underoath's been on the label for such a long time, Mychildren Mybride has been on the label for almost five years, etc. They must be doing something right, particularly with Brandon Ebel and how he interacts with artists; is there a certain way that he just sees your band that keeps you going?
I think he's just a real person, I think he's genuine. I think he does not skirt issues, or beat around the bush; and I think that's really attractive to bands, because they want a business man...because that's what he is. They want someone that's going to keep their promises, that's going to fight for them, as much as they're going to fight for him -- and that's a relationship you don't see very often in the music industry. I know of bands that are signed to labels that are treated like trash, and if they don't stick to the wall, then they're shelved. We have a real relationship with Brandon Ebel, he knows us all by name, and he spent some time with us when were down recording the album; and I think that genuineness is why bands stick with Solid State over time.
Right about the time that Constellations came out, J.B. mentioned in an interview that you guys would ideally like to come out with a new album every 18 months. Is it really that realistic to expect you guys to release another new album in 10 months?Or could we expect something like an EP or something?
Yeah, we like to put out an album every 2 years; so right about this time next year, January or February, we'll want to put out another record, and that's what we've kindof been doing, so I don't see that changing.
I guess if you were to look forward to the next album, what's something that you'd like to do or haven't touched on previously on other albums that you'd like to do on this album?
I mean, I'm a vocalist -- so naturally my first thought is...vocals. Just trying to re-create things, and making sure that with the vocals, that the emotion is there, you know what I mean? Sounding more powerful, more bold. There's tons of tiny things that I like to do that would amount to a wall of change for August Burns Red vocally, but I don't generally dive into that until about 2-3 months before we start writing for an album.
It's been 7 years since Thrill Seeker, and you know, The Devil Wears Prada did a tour called "Back To The Roots" where they played "Dear Love" from front to back; lots of sold out shows, etc. Have you guys entertained the idea of possibly doing a similar tour like this with Thrill Seeker?
That's never really crossed our minds. But something that I thought would be cool is that since i'm not the vocalist on Thrill Seeker, to record my voice over the Thrill Seeker tracks into something special for those long time fans; just the other night I was talking to someone the other night who mentioned "Hey, I'm an old school fan, i've been around since 07' and I love Thrill Seeker", so it'd be something nice for fans like that. As for doing a tour like that, I don't see that on our radar anytime soon, we've got this year pretty much mapped out; if we do end up doing this sort of thing, it wouldn't be this year.
What artists have you been listening to that you'd recommend to anyone that listens to August Burns Red?
Well, I listen to alot of music that's isn't metal; I play metal every day, so it's the last thing i'd like to listen to. I really like the new Bon Iver album, the song "Perth" is great -- I put that on repeat quite often. I don't really get the chance to listen to alot of music, I haven't had the time to sit down and listen to it.
I did however listen to some older albums that really inspire me: The Get Up Kids -- Four Minute Mile, Hopesfall -- No Wings To Speak Of , and then Operation Ivy -- Energy. These are some older bands, If you don't know them, maybe you'd be interested in them; they're dated to an extent, and you might have to have some nostalgic memory to really enjoy them. But yeah, check out Bon Iver's song "Perth", and the new Coldplay album.
*I normally ask for one book suggestion, but I noticed a couple tweets from your twitter about a particular book, so I’d like to ask you about it. You’ve recently spoke in favor of the book Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll, a popular pastor from Seattle, whom artists such as Dustin Kensrue of Thrice and Aaron Gillespie of The Almost have connected with. Driscoll’s book has had a lot of mixed reviews and created some controversy; what are your thoughts on this book, and would you or would you not recommend it to somebody?
Yeah, i'd totally would recommend this to people that have been married for 50 years, or people that have been married for a day. It's really just kindof eye opening, everyone says "Oh, are you ready to get married?" and I just got married on September 16th last year, and everyone asks that question. I don't think there's really a stage where you're like "Ok, i'm ready to get married.", because marriage to me is an ongoing and growing process, and Mark and Grace Driscoll explain just that in the book, that there are certain things going on in their relationship prior to their marriage and after they got married, and just some heavy issues that marriages are confronted with and how to bring them to God.
I think it's a very genuine and real book, Pastor Mark and his wife Grace definitely let their guard down to show you the reality of their relationship, using even using the hurt and times of vulnerability to in all reality, encourage others in their marriage. I think that's brave and courageous to do that, and I'm having a great time reading the book; I actually bought two copies, one for myself and my wife, since she's not on tour we can both read chapters and talk about them. It's been really good, and an eye opener for me and my wife, so i'd definitely recommend that book.
I noticed a quote on twitter by a guy we both follow, Dr. Mike Brown that you had previously retweeted; “Inspiration has the power to eliminate frustration”. That being said, what inspires you?
What inspires me? This might sound generic and corny....but God, and knowing that he's in control inspires me and motivates me. Because of that i'm not intimated by anything; I don't fear failure, I don't fear not having the strength to make it -- because I know God has his hand in it, because if it's supposed to work, it's going to and I'll know...and if it's not supposed to work out, I'll know. Either way, i'm going to be good, i'm going to be OK. I just get inspired by knowing that my life isn't mine, and God is in control, and that as long as I pursue him and I'm working diligently towards what it is I should do; i'll find peace in my heart knowing through all of it God will make things clear to me on what I should or shouldn't do.
What's next for August Burns Red in 2012?
A lot of touring, 8 months of touring. I can't really mention the nitty gritty of things because i'm not sure all of it is confirmed. But we're touring alot overseas, and places we've never been before. It's going to be adventurous, and it's going to be neat to be able to play to people that we've never played to in the 6 to 7 years we've been together as a band.
Anything else you'd like to add?
Not really, just the fact that I get to play in front of a sold out crowd tonight is awesome. For all the fans that read this interview, we appreciate you guys, and you're one of the big reasons we're able to do this, and why we're doing it. Hopefully we'll be able to see all of you soon.