Before their Feb. 1 show at the House of Blues Las Vegas, our very own Mike Law sat down with Matt Greiner, drummer for metal band August Burns Red, to talk about the spontaneous nature of his drumming on Leveler, an upcoming ABR Christmas album, their relationship with Solid State Records and more.
August Burns Red has been with Solid State Records since 2005. Can you talk about your relationship with them and what has made you stay there through the releases of 4 albums?
Solid State is a great label. I grew up listening to them, so when we got the offer to be signed to them, I was ecstatic. They’ve done a great job for us because they understand as well as we do that it takes hard work and touring to stay at the top of the charts. As our career has climbed, they’ve been able to embrace our sound and our personality as a band and realize the demographics where we work, and where we don’t. As an independent label, they’ve been very flexible and aware of what we strive for as a band and promoting that, rather than projecting their agenda over the top of ours. You feel that as a band.
Contractually, we’re actually done with Solid State. We’re going to be negotiating what is next, if we’ll stay with Solid State, or if we go elsewhere. So far, so good for Solid State. We’ll see what happens. I’m looking forward to it.
You guys have a really rigorous touring schedule. What do you miss most about being at home in Pennsylvania?
I have a great family. I’m not married or dating and I don’t have any children, but my family is awesome and I’m really close to them. So it’s difficult for me to be away for a while. It’s like pulling hair every time I hop on the bus or get on a plane to leave. I know my place is out here, I know this is where I belong and I’m very blessed to be out here. But home is where I rest my feet. It’s where I feel comfortable and refreshed. That entails a lot of things. Church, family, familiarity, my own home, my own car. You don’t have that out here on tour. You have a tour bus, or a van and trailer. You get in the routine of doing what you do, and you do it to the best of your ability. But in the back of my head is home and what I have to go back to when this is over.
What do you guys like to do when you have a little free time in the towns that you visit?
I’m in a band with a bunch of great dudes so we always like to plan stuff together. We went to the Grand Canyon last year on a day off. We spent some money and actually did it the right way with a tour guide. At this point I have friendships across the U.S., maybe across the world in some places. So I can call up a buddy and say “hey, let’s go get coffee.” I enjoy that kind of stuff a lot.
I personally like to spend time by myself sometimes to just read my bible. I’m around people all the time and it’s really nice to have some recluse time where I’m like “ok, I need this time so that I can go out there and kill it for 75 minutes on stage.” And sometimes, that’s the best thing. It doesn’t cost anything. I don’t have to go anywhere. I can just sit back and make some tea and relax.
Can you tell us what you guys have planned for after this tour?
Absolutely! We’re currently writing a Christmas record which we’re recording in March. That’s something we’re all very excited for. We’ve released 5 Christmas songs so far and we’re looking forward to this one. I’m not sure when the release is. I’m not even sure it will be this year. But the tentative plan is to finally get these songs down and put a bunch of eclectic metal-ish Christmas songs together on one CD.
After that, I believe we’re going to a bunch of new places in Asia. We’re going international baby!
Will the Christmas album be all originals or a mix of originals and classics?
I think we’re going to be doing both. I presume covers, which we’ve already done some of and maybe some original stuff as well. But the covers are obviously the bigger hits. People know the melodies. Christmas songs are some of the most recognizable, distinguished melodies of all time, so it’s kind of a no-brainer there.
You guys have been around for almost 10 years, and you’ve been successful in your scene. What do you think it is about your band that has allowed you to endure?
I think we’ve experienced longevity because of the consistency of our tours and releases. We’ve always been very aware of how hard you have to tour to make it, and how quickly fans forget that you exist if you don’t show up in their town. It’s interesting. In 2005, we started touring. In 2006 we went international. It’s 2012 and we’re still finding new places to play. I think it’s important to look outside of the country and the continent and try to have a presence in those places and be consistent about showing up there as often as you can.
How does the fact that you’ve been together for so long impact the way you work together?
You grow as musicians, just as you grow as friends and as business partners, in a sense. I’ve been touring with JB and Brent for a long time. Since 2004. 8 years. They’re my best friends. I spend 8 months out of the year with them. So when we go into writing a new record, our friendship is the chemistry that sets the stage for a good working relationship to write the music. I know that JB writes great guitar parts, he knows that hopefully I write great drum parts, and we all contribute to the lyrical content. Our chemistry is very cohesive because we know where we’re strong and where another person is weak, so we can fill in the gaps and make it a very strong unit.
Was there anything that you learned from recording previous records that made you do things a little differently with the recording of Leveler?
I wrote a lot of the drum stuff in the studio. Partly because I’d gone through a tough year in 2010 and when I was looking to write the record, I wasn’t ambitious or excited about it. I had about 2 months, which is average to write drums for a record, and I probably had half the record written before I went into the studio. I wasn’t apathetic, I just didn’t have the creative push that I had on Thrill Seeker, Messengers and Constellations. So when I went in, I worked with Suecof [Jason Suecof from Audio Hammer Studios] in Sanford, Florida, who we worked with before on Constellations. We’ve had good chemistry and he really pushed me to write drum parts on the spot, while recording, not previous to starting the recording process. So he would literally push play and record at the same time and I would go for it.
Maybe if you’re not a drummer, this isn’t a big deal, but as a drummer who has had everything written and mechanically set in stone before the record, it was scary. It really pushed me. But I’m super pumped on what I came up with, because it’s new and fresh for me. And having done this for a long time and having a lot of records under my belt, as a drummer, this is exciting. Tonight we’re playing the House of Blues in Vegas. We’re playing 6 songs off of Leveler, and each song has at least one or two parts that were written on the fly. That’s really rewarding.
Would you say that the experience helped you grow as a drummer?
Totally. I’m more open to being a versatile drummer versus going with what I’ve always gone with before. My friend has this quote, I’m not sure where he got it but it’s “if you do what you’ve always done, then you’ll be who you’ve always been.” I think that’s good. I’m OK at drums, but I’m certainly not where I want to be in 5 years, and if I keep doing what I’ve been doing, I might not progress as much as I want to.
Can you talk about the process you guys go through with conceiving of your music videos?
We don’t personally enjoy making music videos.
You look like you’re having fun!
We do, we smile a lot, but you’d be surprised. They’re a lot of work and to make a video that’s original in this style of music is so difficult. So when we’re brainstorming, we’re certainly conscious of trying to create something that is aesthetically fresh. I don’t know that we’ve been completely successful doing that, but we always aim to do that. We do a lot of outside shots and we’ve done our fair share of dirt roads and abandoned buildings. So the goal is to try and stay away from that. We’ve thought about maybe doing a comical video in the future, but we’re not overly funny people, so we’d need a good director to pull that off.
Are there any bands that have opened for you that you were really impressed with and hope to see big things from?
First and foremost, a band from home called SisterBrother. They haven’t opened for us, but they lead worship at my church. They’re…I wouldn’t even say they’re up-and-coming because they’re not touring, but do yourself a favor and listen to them. They’re on Facebook. They’re just a phenomenal band. It’s a girl named Suzanna and her brother-in-law Nathan, and they play our local club, the Chameleon Club, a lot. They’re a blast to see.
On this tour in particular, I’m just going to shout out I the Breather and Texas in July. They’re bands we’ve played shows with before and they’re incredibly talented. I’m really pumped to have them on the tour.
What’s a band that you’re personally a fan of, that you’d love to have the opportunity to play with?
That’s a really good question. I feel like we’ve toured with a lot of bands. Does it have to make sense or can it be very idealistic?
You could tell me you want to play with Anthrax, KISS and The Doors. Anything goes.
Let’s do a realistic one first. I’d love to tour with Killswitch Engage. I know they’re not doing anything right now, or maybe they’re going to start, but I’ve never toured with them and I’ve always wanted to. I like Adam D a lot. Or maybe even Times of Grace, his new band. I think it would be a blast to tour with them. From what I know, they’re really awesome.
Unrealistically, for the record, probably Muse. I think Muse is sick and I’ve liked that band for years and years. To tour with them would blow my mind, and the idea of Matthew Bellamy hearing my music would probably be the most rewarding thing ever.
How do you think social media has impacted bands?
Social media has changed everything, and for the better. I think it’s a matter of figuring out how you’re going to capitalize on technology and advancements made in social media. There are 2 angles. You can say it sucks and people are stealing music and it should be fought. Or there is the other angle where you accept that maybe it’s just the way things are going and figure out a way to make it as far as possible and still be a band that is relevant and able to utilize some of the pros of social media and the internet in general.
I’ve read that you guys don’t like being compared to other bands, which is understandable. Can you talk a little bit about why you find that so frustrating?
I personally don’t have a problem with it. I think what bothers me are the genre tags. Metal, metalcore, screamo. I think it just gets sort of outlandish. People always ask us “so what are you guys? Metalcore or just metal? Thrash metal?” I don’t know. At this point, I think we’re just metal. Getting compared to other bands works when you like the bands you’re getting compared to. For example, if we get compared to a band that’s sick, like Between the Buried and Me, we’re pretty pumped. If it’s a band that we’re all sort of not privy towards they’re music, sometimes it can be seen as a low blow.
What are you guys listening to on the road?
We just toured with letlive. They played on the first 2 and a half weeks of this tour. I think they took the whole tour by surprise. They’re amazing. I actually haven’t heard their record but I know a lot of the guys in ABR and crew are fanatical about it.
Do you have a favorite song that you look forward to playing every night?
I love playing the title track from Leveler. It’s the last song that we play in the regular rotation of the set. I actually have a drum solo written that comes out of it, hopefully into an encore. Which, tonight’s attendance is slightly lacking, so hopefully the couple hundred people that are in there are pumped for more.
Interview by Mike Law
Transcribed by Ashleigh Thompson
Photo by Tyler Newton
Find out more about August Burns Red at their facebook: facebook.com/augustburnsred