Respected and enduring, Pennsylvania’s August Burns Red are now young veterans. With a new album on the way and the strong possibility of a return to our shores later in the year, frontman Jake Luhrs took some time out to chat with Killyourstereo.com about the new record, tedious vocal recording processes and working with Jeremy McKinnon.
What’s the band been up to during your off time these last few weeks ?
Pretty much getting ready for Warped Tour and just practising alot. Also, spending some time with family because after Warped Tour we’re going to hit the road quite alot, so hopefully just hanging out with family for the rest of this time.
With Warped coming up, are there any songs off the new album that you’re particularly keen to showcase to audiences?
Yeah, we are definitely really excited about playing ‘The Wake’, which has already been released. It’s one of the more aggressive and heavier songs on the record. There’s a song called ‘Identity’ which we are really excited to play. Warped Tour is kind of a quick set so we’re not going to be able to unveil heaps of new material on Warped. However, after Warped we will be playing quite a lot of the new stuff.
When you’re playing those kind of festivals, especially when you have a new album coming out, how do you find that balance between showcasing stuff from the new album and pleasing the audience with your ‘classics’?
As these festivals are kind of quick, and it’s a really short period of time, I guess we try to pull out the banger, you know? Like the big singles we know were major hits on records. Kids will be like, “Oh you didn’t play this song”, or “You didn’t play my favourite song!” So we try to pick through our whole discography, because we know there’s a song that we can play off each record that people are really going to enjoy.
Are there any tunes that you’re going to maintain for a period of time?
I don’t really know yet. That’s a good question. I think for now when we get to Warped we are going to play some new stuff, and some older ones, and feel out the vibe of the tour to see which songs are going to step up, and which ones are going to have to step down.
‘The Wake’ is sounding really cool. I read an interview in which JB said the lyrics were about the environment and how people were just wasting the world’s resources. What other kind of lyrical themes are you guys going touch on in the new record?
We have some stuff about just your identity as a person, finding who you are and being willing to unveil your heart to people, even if they don’t agree with your morals or beliefs. Just kind of really staying firm in who you are. There’s a song about taking a dive, just closing your eyes and jumping off that edge to pursue your dreams. Finding your purpose in life, you know? Maybe your working a dead beat job and you’re tired of doing it. The pay’s not good and it’s not what you want to do, so just step up and pursue the next thing in your life so that you don’t have to stay in that state. And we have one called ‘Matyr’, which is about telling people what to do and encouraging them. Like, telling people to forgive those in their lives who have hurt them, and then really not doing that in your own life. Being a little bit hypocritical, and being willing to love and serve people to the point where you don’t love or serve yourself. So like, being a Matyr. There is a lot of variety on this album.
Did you write a majority of the lyrics or did the band contribute evenly?
Everybody writes…well JB dosn’t really write lyrics that much, but Matt, Brent and I do. We wrote 30 lyrics collectively. We went through a voting process to get through all the lyrics that we really liked. So, the way we do that is by turning out all the lyrics in the same format and structure and then we all take them home and read them and vote on which ones we like the best. Then we all come together and whatever the top 12 are end up being the top 12 that we will use.
Does the band see eye to eye on all the issues that you sing about? Is there ever a conflict when members don’t agree with certain lyrics? Does that ever happen?
Yeah, it does. The rule for me is that I’m not going to scream anything that I don’t believe in. So if there’s a lyric that everybody likes but I don’t believe it, or stand by it, I’ll end up telling them, “Hey, this isn’t going to work.” Usually they are very understanding of that, they are like “Yeah, we get that, we don’t want you to be screaming it.” And there are always a plethora of other great lyrics. But it’s a rarity. We are pretty much all on the same page because we’ve been living life together for the past 10 years, so we all can see where each other is coming from, all the different point of views you know?
With the recording process, has it changed over the years?
It’s changed a little bit. We’ve just fine tune it as each record is produced. We kind of have a very tightly wrapped procedure and process and we don’t like to really step outside the boundaries of that. Once you start messing with that you might start to veer off in a different direction, and we really like what we have now, and everybody is on the same page. Everybody knows each other’s position and place. It’s very fitting for us, and I don’t think it’s going to change anytime soon. It’s been the same for the past four albums.
With that said, what process do you go through when laying down vocals for an album then?
It’s very tedious and thorough. I have 12 songs and 12 lyrics. I go through each song instrumentally and write down the feelings that each part and each section of the song gives me. Then the overall vibe. So then I’ll go through the lyrics and find the lyric that matches the overall vibe, and emotion and feeling of the song. Then I’ll put those lyrics to the song, piece by ppiece and line by line. Sometimes I have to edit words because some words don’t sound good being screamed, some just don’t fit. Sometimes there is a syllable that dosnt work. There are a lot of variables there to make a lyric fit correctly.
I also come up with vocal patterns along with thinking, ’Ok this sounds like a very emotional section of the song, so I’m going to go ahead and use more of a yell, maybe a bit higher. After you do [that], we call it version 1.0, which is just laying down the basics of the screams, then we do 2.0 which is then perfecting those regular screams. Then 3.0 is when you start to thicken things up, like layering things and making sure everything sounds perfect. That’s the process.
I spent a little over 100 hours in the studio. The worst part is that after I’m done, the band gets all the songs with all the lyrics edited, and then they go home for the weekend. Then they come back on Monday and they sit down, and pull out one song and listen to it. Then we go to JB, and he will have a list of things that he doesn’t like about my vocals. ‘At 32 seconds you said the word death. I don’t like the way it’s screamed or the way death sounds. We should change the word, and I want you to change the scream to a high scream.’ Then he’ll go, ‘Oh, also at 1:14 you say this, or you scream this way and I don’t like the way that it sounds’. Then we all talk about it. Then we hear all of Brent’s [parts], and then we all talk about it again. Then I’ll go into the booth and I’ll correct every single thing that they don’t like about the vocals, if I agree with them of course. Then I’ll re-record all that. It’s a thorough process man. The listeners really listen to the vocals, so I want to make sure that I’m on top of my game and that everything sounds good, as well as us being a unit. Thats’ part of the process that’s brutal for me, but it is what it is.
I noticed on the tune ‘Ghosts’, from the upcoming record, that you guys have Jeremy McKinnon from A Day To Remember featuring. How is it working with him?
It was great. He’s a friend of ours, and we’ve toured with A Day To Remember quite a bit in the past. Basically, I said, ‘Man I don’t know if I really want anyone to sing in our music, unless it was someone like Jeremy McKinnon.’ He’s really the only dude I’m friends with that I really enjoy his singing voice. So the band was like, “Why don’t you just hit him up and ask if he will do it”, and I was like “Ok.” He was like, “Dude I would love to do the part.” The part is sick man. I didn’t think, or know, that it was going to be as good as it was. It’s got some screaming and some singing on that track, and people will remember that specific track because of him, so it’s cool.
Was it strange having someone else fill in your part? Did it feel weird?
Not really. It was fine for me because I knew that it was in good hands. I wasn’t concerned because I didn’t just hand over my art to someone who wasn’t an artist. I wasn’t concerned in that sense. He did the recording (he’s got his own studio) in Florida, so he did the recording and sent it back and forth and that’s how it all worked, and the result is great! We couldn’t be happier with it.
Cool. Finally, is there any chance of seeing the band down under anytime soon?
Yes, most certainly. We love it there. Personally, it’s one of my favourite places to tour. It’s more like a vacation for me than anything. We plan on it this year, but I can’t tell you when because it’s not 100% confirmed. We are really excited though about coming back. We did Soundwave last year and we made tonnes of new friends and fans, and everyone said come back. So we did! We’re looking forward to it.
‘Found In Far Away Places’ is out June 26 via Fearless Records/Unified.