August Burns Red guitarist JB Brubaker was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's recent weekend radio show, checking in to discuss the band's new Guardians Sessions EP, which includes some cool covers, reimagined songs and b-sides.
The set started out with two songs initially recorded during the Guardians album, but were ultimately left off from the release. Once the pandemic hit, the band decided to revisit those tracks and surrounded them with some interesting additions for a full-on EP.
During this chat, Brubaker talks about some of the band's recent pop culture attention, he discusses how they've dealt with the pandemic that hit right as they were releasing a new album and he shares how the added time for introspection has led to some darker material that he feels will lead to some pretty brilliant material for a new album. Check out the chat below.
We're here to celebrate the Guardian Sessions EP, which features b-sides, covers and re-imagine tracks, which were recorded during the sessions for 2020's full-length album Guardians. JB, let's talk about how you covered the Westworld theme and "Bones" from the last album was also heard in an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles. What's most significant to you about your band intersecting with mainstream popular culture?
Well, it's certainly cool. We've been a band for 18 years now and haven't had a lot of these experiences. So whenever it happens it's something exciting that we can tell our friends and family. Being in a metal band, we certainly don't get a lot of mainstream media attention.
It's funny because the NCIS: Los Angeles episode used our song as a torture method in a jail. It was complimentary, but I mean, it was a little weird. it was a cool spot for us regardless of how our music was portrayed, but it gave us a chuckle because it's arguably one of our most quote unquote marketable tracks was used and they used it for torture. So that's funny.
The Westworld thing was just a song that we creatively loved and we're fans of the theme song. Then the pandemic hit. We had some extra time and we said, "Cool, let's do a metal cover of this theme for a TV show we love." So that was kind of more of a "for fun" project.
August Burns Red, "Westworld"
JB, Guardians was released right before right when the pandemic had really escalated. What's been your biggest concern about the album finding its audience in a very abnormal album cycle?
Well, our biggest concern was not being able to be on the road and get it in people's faces. I mean, we had a really great tour lined up, but we had to come home from in the middle of it. We were only three days in and we were supporting Killswitch Engage, which was a great opportunity. We were going to release the record on that tour and now things are really falling into place, but of course the pandemic derails that and so much more.
But we've been fortunate enough to have a great team behind us with Fearless. And I think they did a really great job of marketing the record and getting it to the right people over their screens and stuff so that people were aware that it came out.
Obviously we blasted the hell out of it on our social media, but nothing is quite the same as just being able to be on the road and play it in front of people. And that's the way we definitely prefer to do it. And I'm hoping that we get a chance to do that later this year, as things start to calm down a little bit with COVID.
The isolation of a pandemic can lead to heightened levels of introspection. How has that opportunity to literally sit and think affected your artistic productivity and creativity?
Man, that's a good question. And you're right. There's certainly a lot of time to sit and think and I'm not very good at being an introspective person. That's probably one of the things I learned the most about the pandemic, just that I need to be more aware of my thoughts and feelings as a human being and not just plow forward like I've done my entire life. So the pandemic has definitely opened my eyes to that.
I guess how it's affecting me creatively is that I feel like the kind of music I've been writing hasn't been recorded or released or anything at this point, but we've had time, so I've been writing music and it's definitely darker darker sounding stuff. I think that just goes along with sort of a state of mind that I've been in, especially over the winter.
I mean, this is a dark winter for everyone, and I'm really excited for spring to start cause it's just been such a depressing couple of months and I don't know … we'll see what happens when we bring all the music together that we have for whatever we do next as a band, but I have a feeling there's going to be some pretty brilliant stuff from the next August Burns Red record.
JB, a livestream performance of Thrill Seeker ultimately became a live album. Musically and emotionally, what did revisiting the first album forced you to do?
That's a good question in that it was an eye-opener on how we used to write as a band. Things were a lot more cooperative back then, as far as the writing process went and I can remember shacking up with our drummer and just being in our practice space every single night, just working on breakdown rhythms, and song structures and stuff. We didn't know what we were doing at the time. We were just kids and we were putting together parts and songs that we thought were cool to us at the time.
I understand that material was from where I was at that point in my life, but I also recognize that it would be really impossible for us to try to recreate an album like that today with where we're at, as musicians and songwriters. But it was really fun to give that record another look after being away from it for so long. I certainly don't think it's something we would have done had the pandemic not handed us so much downtime to work on unusual projects.
August Burns Red, "Chop Suey" (System of a Down Cover)
JB, what's most fun about putting together a collection of songs without following any particular structure?
The thing I enjoyed the most about the Guardian Sessions EP was being able to do whatever we wanted and, and taking on songs that we would normally have no business working with. For example we cover 'Chop Suey' by System of a Down, which is something that was a lot of fun for us on a song that we've loved for ages. But I think that we would have never done cover of it had we not had the opportunity to be sitting Idly for so long.
That was something that got put together in May of 2020 when we were just kind of twiddling our thumbs. And that's when the idea came to us. So we, we looked for the silver lining, I guess, of what we went through in this past year. And for us, I think that was being able to do different things project-wise that wouldn't have been possible had we not been grounded for so long.
Thanks to August Burns Red guitarist JB Brubaker for the chat. The band's Guardians Sessions EP is available now at this location. And you can keep up with the group's activities via their website, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.