SW FEATURE: Backstage with – August Burns Red

“My favourite part of being on tour is playing shows.”

August Burns Red guitarist JB Brubaker is matter of fact. The polished music that is mature beyond both the band’s professional and individual age becomes immediately understandable when talking to the musician post-show.

An idiom wisely suggests to have a good head on your shoulders indicates you make the sensible choice. For Pennsylvania metallers August Burns Red it is a point that doesn’t need reinforcing. However, a quick chat with Brubaker in the media tent at Melbourne’s Soundwave nevertheless underlines this.

It’s rock ‘n’ roll summer camp for the band. Enjoying their first (and long overdue) stint on Soundwave, Brubaker is relaxed and positive when taking in the enormity of artists on the bill.

“We’re bumping into old friends that we toured with years ago and there’s rock stars walking around that I wouldn’t get to see otherwise. It’s like a rock summer camp.”

“I’m a fan of a lot of people playing on this festival. I can be a dude in the crowd instead of [just] a guy on stage. [Sometimes] you kind of forget what’s it like to take in a show,” Brubaker says.

Touring on the back of another impressive addition to the catalogue, 2013’s ‘Rescue & Restore’, ABR are refreshed after a solid show in the expansive tent surrounds of stage 6b.

Brubaker is quick to reflect on his time in Australia.

“We went to the beach and took a ferry to Manly beach – that was really cool. Unfortunately, I got my phone wet and it’s broken. But those things happen,” the guitarist laughs.

“We [also] went out to Brazilian steakhouse in Melbourne with a whole bunch of other bands on the tour and had a great time,” Brubaker adds.

However, it’s not all playtime for the group. Music is always at the fore and creativity does not have an off switch.

“The first day in Sydney I kind of shacked up in the [hotel] room and worked on a new song.”

While studio time can be more structured, more defined, touring life is the unpredictable. It’s a balance and duality between keeping a sense of humour and remaining professional the often opens up to interesting experiences.

Brubaker, when considering touring life, leads us to an intriguing game created on the road.

“We’re bros on tour, so there’s very little that is uncomfortable for us between each other. We have this game we play called ‘Duels’. It’s when you have to take a piss into the same toilet bowl – it’s called a duel,” Brubaker offers as an introduction.

Curiosity is created as the guitarist further elaborates. This is no spur of the moment creation but rather a game that’s taken on a life of its own.

“We have levels of it. If there’s three [people] it’s a triangle, four is a quad, five is a quin and so on…”

“…Our record is seven,” Brubaker laughs.

However, it’s not confined exclusively to isolated instances. The game is more extensive than mere juvenile concern.

“There’s also the amount of times you can do it in a day. If you do it three times in a day you’re ‘Duels on Parade’ with that person. If you do it four times, it’s ‘Duels Gone Wild’. Five times it’s called ‘Joined at the Dick’.”

The guitarist is quick to draw the conversation back to the story and its relevance to Australia when continuing with the anecdote.

“We were in Adelaide in 2012 and we had a day off there, and [were] hanging out at a bar eating dinner and having drinks. We set lots of records for duels that day.”

“Our guitar tech Kevin and Jade, our front of house guy claimed they did 14 duels that day, which Josh, our tour manager and I called BS on.”

While the literal elements of the narrative are light-hearted perhaps crude, it’s these tales that become humanising in a certain context. Whether right or wrong, there seems to be a divide between professional musician and fan. Musicians are put on a pedestal. Idolised, almost revered. However, it’s always a refreshing and timely reminder to see bands are just ordinary people full of relatable personalities.

Brubaker concludes the game’s summary putting it down to a fundamental reason.

“We have a lot of time on tour…”

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