By Jeremy Vane-Tempest
Metalcore’s stagnant. Everyone knows it. The problem is that fixing it is really hard and so bands have instead started to go for a ‘message’ to individualise themselves. Some bands do with to a greater effect than others (In Hearts Wake vs Capture the Crown, for example), though. Metalcore veteran of thirteen years and deadest shredder Brent Rambler of August Burns Red was on hand to answer some of Jeremy Vane-Tempest’s questions regarding the pros and cons of bands fixating on a message, regardless of how meaningless or generally awful.
August Burns Red are five dudes that melt faces with their righteous chops. After we got the most important question out of the way to start with (they’re planning an Australian tour some time this year), we hit the crux of the issue: because of their Christian faith, people often try to find hidden meanings in ABR’s songs that simply aren’t there.
“If people want to find a message in the lyrics that isn’t there, then they’re welcome to go ahead and try. I can tell you right now, though, that most of our lyrics aren’t even remotely spiritual”, Brent confirmed. “Take The Wake, for example. I get a lot of kids trying to turn it into a spiritual thing and I’m sitting here going ‘Guys, guys, chill. This has nothing to do with spirituality’. The Wake is about the overall indifference towards the environment that a lot of people have. The ‘environment’ isn’t just the woods or a beach; it’s everything. Don’t you want your kids to grow up and have a nice place to live, a world that isn’t, y’know, ruined?.”
The fervour with which their fans apparently try to dissect their music isn’t surprising. Bands have been promoting messages for as long as bands have existed. The rise of the Internet has only made this more prevalent, as it enables bands to proselytise to a willingly captive audience on and off the stage.
“It seems to be going that way, yeah”, Brent agrees. “We’ve never had one message, unless you consider an overarching trend of positivity a message, but it can help. If you have a message and people really relate to it, then you get a built-in fan base. It can hurt bands too, though, because people go ‘oh, I don’t wanna listen to them or see them live anymore because that’s all they talk about’. When you’re in a band of any substantial size, you have a platform that you can utilise to spark something in peoples’ heads, some idea that can lead to a movement and a significant change.”
With all this talk of messages being used as marketing tools and their ability to backfire, surely being known as religiously aligned in an increasingly secularised world must be a hindrance.
“Being labelled a Christian band has actually had a neutral effect on us, for the most part. The only place where it’s felt a little strange has been the UK. The UK has been, by far, our hardest market to get into, and I know that any band that has been dubbed a Christian band just doesn’t do well in the UK. As I Lay Dying never did well there, and neither did Underoath. I don’t know why that is, but that’s the only place that it seems to have hindered us. For us, as a band, we’ve never been overtly Christian as a band. Jake (Luhrs, vocals) and Matt (Greiner, drums) are very outspoken about it in relation to their own lives, but as a band, we let the music speak for itself. We don’t preach on stage because we don’t want to isolate any fans that we owe our success to.”
With metalcore being in the formulaic state that it’s in, August Burns Red are one of the few groups actively trying to progress and develop the genre as best they can. Their new record, Found In Faraway Places, is out June 30 and it’s about as far from generic as you could find. When I brought this up, though, Brent got kinda side-tracked and, eventually, more than a little upset.
“We don’t want to be a band that do verse-chorus songs with some high-pitched singer and stupid electronics all over it”, he began, before launching into what can only be described as a tirade. “Like we were taking about earlier, it feels like bands have to have a ‘message’. I think a big problem in metalcore is that people are getting up on stage and saying the most ridiculous crap you’ve ever heard. Now, before the internet, that’s as far as it would have gone, but now that makes their band big because a bunch of kids with teenage angst are all ‘Yeah, I totally agree with this guy. He hates everything and so do I’. Of course you do, you’re thirteen! And the bands who do that freaking suck, but because they’ll say these horrible things, they get big, and people copy them because they want their band to be big too, and it’s become this tidal wave of ass gravy. Congratulations, your gimmick has worked and now you’re popular.”
He paused, composing himself, before finishing with a more neutral response. “It is what it is. I’ll just quote something Jake always says: “I love those dudes, I respect those dudes, but I don’t have to love or respect everything they say”.
Found In Faraway Places is out June 30 through Fearless Records/UNFD. Preorders available at 24hundred.net