Pennsylvania’s August Burns Red have a solid claim on being one of the most important bands who brought the genre of metalcore to the masses in the first few years of last decade. Almost ten years on and the band is still at it, having released their fourth studio album "Leveler" via Solid State Records in June last year. With their debut Australian tour alongside Blessthefall and Sydney’s Northlane kicking off this week, we caught up with the band’s bassist Dustin Davidson to talk heavy music, bible references and making a dick of yourself in front of NOFX.
So Dustin you weren’t part of the original August Burns Red line up, instead joining a few years after they got together. How’d you originally get involved with the band?
To make a long story short I was working for my dad at a mechanics shop and my friend honestly kept calling me. I was getting ready to paint a car and I was like “what are you doing? I’m busy painting a car”. So anyway, he shows up like knocking on the door and I’m like “what do you want?” He’s like “hey man there’s this band I like, August Burns Red” and I’d heard of them too because I played in a local band… I’m from Maryland. Where I’m from in Maryland is about an hour and a half from where August Burns Red are located up here in Pennsylvania. He said “you should try out for them, they need a bass player, guitar player or something”. So I emailed the band and Brent got a hold of me, went up for a try out, tried out. They’d already at this point told somebody that he could come out with them so they were like “hey man, we really liked you but we already told this guy he could come on the tour. If it doesn’t work out we’ll call you”. Two weeks later they called me (laughs). They just weren’t getting along with the guy they had and they knew he wasn’t a fit for the band.
They were on a tour with Haste The Day and Scary Kids Scaring Kids at the time, and the only reason that I couldn’t join up with that tour was because I didn’t have my passport at the time and I needed it that get into Canada so I couldn’t join that tour, I had to wait. I waited my turn and, ironically I tried out in August by the way (laughs), and September was my first tour. We did a short run into Canada with Bleeding Through and then my second tour directly after that was a full US tour with The Chariot, Destroy The Runner? And a couple of older bands. It was a Solid State bands tour. So I did that tour and the tour got over and we played a home show in Lancaster. I had no idea that they were going to ask me to be in the band because they hadn’t told me anything at this point – and they announced me onstage as the new bass player. Later on JB was paying me for the tour and was like, “I guess I should have asked you first. Wanna be in the band?” and I was like “sure man I’ll be in the band!”
Speaking of US tours, you’ve just wrapped up your “Leveler” headlining tour with Silverstein, Letlive, Texas In July and some other bands. How did you feel the tour went all up?
That tour was awesome man. It was a very long tour, it started like January 13 and didn’t end until March 4 or something like that. So it was seven, seven and a half weeks but like I said to somebody earlier, this tour was incredible man because Silverstein we’d toured with before, I think that was on the “Homesick” tour with A Day To Remember. Silverstein were on with them as well and we became really close friends with them on that tour, so when we were thinking of bands to support on a headlining tour they were one of the first bands that came to mind. I hang out with each and every one of them, we all just get along so well. Then Texas In July are from Lancaster as well so we already know all of those dudes. I, The Breather I used to play in a band with, actually while I was trying out for August Burns Red I was in a band with two of those guys so they are two of my closest friends ever, they’re from where I live in Maryland. Letlive was the only band we didn’t really know. Letlive did the first two weeks and then I, The Breather did the rest so that tour was just awesome. The shows were great and everybody was so close, everybody already knew each other you know because we all live in the same area. It’s like taking your best friends on tour and touring with your best friends.
Well coming up is your Australian headlining tour with Blessthefall. Are you good friends with those guys as well?
Yeah we’re great with them too! They’re some of our best friends as well, we’ve actually toured the US and Canada and Europe. We’ve been everywhere together so we’re really close with them too.
Your last time down here was for No Sleep Til with bands like the Descendents, NOFX and Parkway Drive in 2010. Do you have any standout memories of that tour?
Yeah one of my standout memories – it’s funny you should ask – I can’t remember what city it was in because every day was like frickin’ fly here, fly there. I want to say it was Perth, but anyway that’s irrelevant. Not all of us, but a bunch of us are fans of NOFX and we had noticed that one of the dudes was watching us play, and also the tour manager, the sound guy – we just knew it was the guys from NOFX. Well this was after the fact that I tried to throw my bass guitar around my neck okay, which usually works, but my strap broke, went flying, landed on JB’s pedal board, muted JB’s guitar. So my bass was broken, JB’s guitar was muted, I thought I’d broken his pedal board cause I couldn’t figure out why he was muted, and Jake couldn’t hear guitars at that point because Brent was the only one working. No bass, no lead guitar, this is in our song “Backburner”, so he gets off with Brent and Matt, it was a mess. Look up and who do I see watching? Part of Alkaline Trio and part of NOFX. That sucks right?
Oh yeah. Now speaking of festivals, you were one of the headliners for Warped Tour in the States last year. Would you say that you prefer festivals or more intimate club shows like the ones you’ll be doing pretty soon?
You know what? They’re both very different. It’s hard to say which one I like more because the club shows are awesome, like you said they’re very intimate. You can stuff kids in there, it feels more personal. But then you play a festival and you play in front of over a thousand people and you know, you’ve got a bigger stage. I love playing outside for some reason. Outside might not sound as good, I don’t really know because I’m onstage not upfront but it’s hard to say. For me personally – as long as it’s a big stage and I have plenty of room to run around back and forth and move around a lot then I’m gonna have a memorable show. I’m gonna have a really good show. Even a tight club, like we played in Jacksonville, Florida, to six hundred people and it was sold out and it was packed and it was sweaty, I didn’t have a lot of room to move around on stage but I still had a lot of fun. It’s so hard to say which I prefer more… probably a huge festival just because I love playing in front of a lot of people and knowing that I’m going to have a lot of room to move around.
This tour will be on the back of “Leveler” which the band released in June last year has very well received by critics. Now you’ve had, what, eight months to tour since then, how have you found fans have responded to the new material?
Honestly, better than I had thought they would you know. I thought that as a whole “Leveler” was very different from “Constellations”, “Messengers”, “Thrill Seeker”. Very different than anything we’d done before. We’d experimented with songs like “Internal Cannon”, “Carpe Diem” is just like a slower song with a huge clean part in the middle, “Salt & Light” is another different song for us. So we had this record recorded and me personally, I liked it, but I was like “I don’t know how kids are going to take this”. It’s very different – not every song is different, we still have ABR in the songs that are out there and more obscure – but I wasn’t sure what to expect. We came out on this tour and kids are calling out for those songs that I just named that are the different songs. Kids really wanted to hear “Carpe Diem” and I was surprised. It’s a slower song and I didn’t expect kids to want to hear that song but they really did and “Salt & Light”. Like, “please play Salt & Light” I’d hear every night as well, so honestly I feel like the album was received very well by our fans and I’m very pleased for that.
Yeah because obviously it’s your most ambitious album to date, I’m glad it’s paid off. Now in terms of the title, I’ve heard that “Leveler” has a biblical significance. Like a lot of ABR titles though it seems somewhat open to interpretation. What does it mean for you?
I’m just like you too – with everything in my band, with the lyrics, with everything, I like leaving things out there for interpretation because the song might mean more to somebody if they can take it in their head and put it to a situation that they’ve been through. Like I wrote “Carpe Diem” for the record and I wrote it about something that I was going through, somebody telling me that I couldn’t do this, you know. Other kids are taking it and saying, “my dad said I couldn’t be in the military, I proved him wrong”. So I like leaving things open to interpretation. The title is for interpretation as well. Matt came up with the title … the last line of the record is “leveler, make level the road for the righteous”. He wanted to call the album that and we all thought “that’s way too long, hold on a second let’s call it Leveler”. Because it sounds heavy right? You know? (laughs) We thought it was a heavy album, it had some really heavy parts so we were like “alright, how about Leveler?” Then he had to go do his thing where he’s like – you know he’s really into the biblical meaning of it so to him it means something way more out there. I don’t really how to explain it. To me it’s just a heavy title, it’s suitable for what the album is. I think the album’s heavy and it’s just a great title. It’s short and it’s sweet and you’re going to remember it.
Okay man well I’ll just quickly ask you, what are you expecting from the dates on your upcoming headlining tour?
I’m expecting a lot of fun actually! I’m not sure what to expect show-wise because we haven’t been to Australia a lot, and like you pointed out it’s our first time headlining. We’re with friends, we’re going to have a lot of fun no matter what. I love Australia, it’s my favourite place to come play and I’m just really excited to see what we can do. I really hope that our shows are better than what’s expected because I don’t know what to expect, but I know it’s going to be a great tour. I’m really excited to come back and play Australia.
Thanks for your time Dustin, all the best and we’ll see you very soon.