August Burns Red were recently touring Europe for the 10th Anniversary of their breakthrough album “Messengers”. We had the chance to sit down and talk to Jake Luhrs, lead vocalist from ABR at Brutal Assault, and talk about their upcoming album “Phantom Anthem”, which is due to release October 6th through Fearless Records
How are you doing today Jake?
Yeah, I am doing very well thank you.
To any of our readers out there who may not be familiar with your music, How would you describe it?
Oh boy, Americanized metal, we are from Pennsylvania and we started in 2006 and it’s more of a tech, progressive metal band.
So you are currently on tour for the 10th anniversary of “Messengers”. How does it feel 10 years later to still be doing this?
I think it’s really cool to be able to get on a stage say “hey, this is a celebration of a record that we put out 10 years ago”, and the fact that we are still touring. I feel like a lot of bands don’t have the longevity that we’ve had, and having sustained so that tell me that our fan base is very loyal and that we are good at what our job. That makes me feel very happy! (chuckles) It’s a nice feeling to be able to see how we have grown as a band and to be able to go back to those songs and play them. That is the moment you are like “wow, this is the start of something that became so much greater than we would have imagined”. It’s a cool experience.
Your new album “Phantom Anthem” is set to release October 6th, what can you tell us about this album?
So the way that we have been describing it with interviews and just among ourselves is that its a very dense album. This is a very mature record for us, because we have grown a lot through the 10 years from “Messengers” as artists. So I feel like there is a lot that is involved, there is a lot of, man, there is so much to the songs. You have to kind of unpack it through listening to it multiple times. You can’t just listen to it once and be like “Oh, I got it all”, because there is a lot there. I feel like the vocal patterns are a little more simplistic so that they kind of fall as the backbone of the music, rather than the drumming being the backbone. I actually think that is cool, because I never really have done that before. I did a lot of research on studying pop artists, because 80 % of your listeners listen to the vocals. So I wanted to see how I can really put my vocals to good use not just with lyrics but with using my voice as an instrument as something that is really solid and secure for the entire album. So that was a cool and fun adventure that took a little that was extremely stressful and scary. Overall I think the record is this really aggressive really dense and most mature album we have put out there and progressive for ABR.
Can you tell me what is the story behind the album title, “Phantom Anthem”?
Yes, usually what we see a lot of times is people who look like they are not built for the job, you know. Kind of rising up because of what they have faith in, or what they have hope in. A lot of times we can see this in where those people came from nothing and then they became this like they built an empire. So it’s really talking to the people group who aren’t appreciated from the world or looked down upon for the way they look or maybe the fact they didn’t go to college or get an education or whatever that is. That is the “Phantom”, it is unseen, not recognized, not appreciated and not visible. Now the “Anthem” is their hope, their dreams, their desires, their ambition, yes their passion. The passion that is within them that is going to make them rise, so that is kind of the grand scheme of the “Phantom Anthem”.
Can you briefly describe what the recording process was like when you were making this album?
Yes, it’s been the same since like day 1, only because its such a great formula for us, and we all understand our positions. I think that being in a band it’s important for you to understand what your job is, what your gifts are, and what your weaknesses are. From that being able to distribute according too, so the process for the resorting has been the same, basically JP, our lead guitarist, is our main song-writer and then he will send us the songs that he has constructed and then we will listen to them. We polish them up and say like “hey this is great”, “maybe we should take away from this” etc. Everyone understands the songs so everyone knows how to play them. Then we go into the studio and we record the songs. But while we are doing that, I’m upstairs recording vocal patterns. And what we do is, we have everyone who wants to write lyrics, they can write lyrics. Then we go over them, like for this album we had over 40 different lyrics. Then we all just read them according to what we like most, then those basically are the lyrics, unless I can’t edit them, or I can’t feel them, or if I don’t agree with them. But if I really don’t feel anything strong from them we will go to another one, but we have 40 so its not like I am running out anytime soon of lyrics (laughs) and if I do, then that’s a real problem.
What do you feel is the “glue” that has kept ABR for so many years?
I feel that our desire to be the best, not saying that we are the best, but it’s that desire is instilled in this band. It’s something really important to us. We are never really going to be the best, but that’s what makes it good for us, we are always going to be somewhere. It’s like a stairwell, you’re going to go up one step. So you have gone a couple of steps, but there is plenty more steps to go, right? So that is kind of the mentally. You know, one of our slogans is “we don’t want to be the followers of a genre, we want to be a genre”. With that being said, there is a lot of pressure on us, that we put on ourselves because we don’t want to let our fans down, we don’t want to let ourselves down. We are put in a very powerful position, as musicians and artists, and we have a voice and we want to make sure that the time we spend doing this… because it will run out… that it’s spend on doing something good, positive, loving and encouraging. So that is a lot of what has kept the band going and then also the understanding that we are all humans, I am not going to change my band mates, and we will disagree. But we have been doing this for so long that we are all practically married. I say that because I know how he will react to this or I know that I should give him some room etc. So being able to understand each others habits, personalities, characteristics, attributes and being able to come to each other in love and grace in those times, has saved this band from moments that we all could have just jumped ship. So basically we are not willing to divorce. (laughs)
Who were some major influences when the band was being formed, and to you personally?
When the band was being formed Norma Jean, Beloved, Hopesfall, Lamb of God, a lot of those bands, Meshuggah was huge too. American, Swedish, a little bit of everything. At that time we were all kids, in America it was more hardcore, death metal, but then we started to creep into the metal and it was like “woah, what is this?!”, so we kind of said “let’s try to put these both together and see what happens”, and that’s kind of what happened, I think.
Do you prefer to play Open Air festivals or smaller venues?
To me they are all unique and different, I like the intimate where “it’s sweaty and I am just going to die” (laughs) and “I am going to touch the singer’s hand one last time”, you know what I mean? (laughs) Like on this tour we have gone to some pretty crazy places like Latvia, Estonia and we have never been there so, some of these venues are really small for bands coming in, so it’s really cool to play those places and do sweaty shows like that. Then you know its fun to play a bigger stage, a bigger crowd, and to see how the crows interacts. Then there are pro’s and cons to both of those. For me I think, I am more of a spiritual person and more of like a vibe person. So I want to like “bleed” on stage and its art. I believe there is great power and authority in music to the crowd we are playing for, for those kids who know us, it’s going to be… I hope and I pray that it’s an emotional experience for them that is good and positive. For the new crowd I hope that it’s something they start to see it’s something that they have never seen before. I do not want to be like the other band on stage that they just saw.
Any last words to our readers and your fans?
Thanks for checking out this interview and I appreciate your time. Check out our new alum, its coming out October 6th. It has a lot of emotions and feelings and I think its a really good piece and I hope you guys enjoy it!