August Burns Red: “We don’t want to alienate anybody, it’s not right”

An interview with bassist Dustin Davidson

August Burns Red: “We don’t want to alienate anybody, it’s not right”

By Ashwin Bhandari

Aug 8, 2017 14:42

Having formed in high school 14 years ago August Burns Red have been ravenous with their touring cycles and have rarely taken time off between albums. Before their second show in London of playing 'Messengers' in full, we sat down with veteran member Dustin Davidson about what their sophomore album means to him 10 years later.

“It’s fun revisiting ‘Messengers’, relearning the stuff to see how much we’ve progressed from the last 10 years, because the fan perceptions are very different to our own. I spoke with some fans who said oh that was when Matt was in his prime and I’m like, ‘No sir Matt is a much better drummer now’. I like that record a lot more than others and I like everything we’ve done but to say we were in our prime is just not true. It is cool to revisit that and see how we’ve progressed over the last 10 years.”

Whilst not wanting to give too much away, Davidson explains how their upcoming record ‘Phantom Anthem’ is different to what they achieved with ‘Messengers’. “The material is very shreddy, from when people first listen to it they’re gonna have to sit down and relisten to it again, because really there’s a lot of material. Compared with the weird interlude stuff we’ve done recently, there isn’t much of that this time.”

Given August Burns Red’s infamously hectic touring cycle, Davidson reflects on their busiest time as a band, an 18-month tour in support of their 2011 breakout record ‘Leveller’. “Once we got into Asia, it got to a point of “we’re gonna play here today, play here tonight and then fly in the morning”, there were nights where I had gotten two hours of sleep from six days in a row. We were pale, bags under our eyes, it’s weird go back and watch that as a reminder of how hellish it was.”

Unlike other Christian metalcore bands who use their platform to spread their beliefs, August Burns Red have always tried their best to be inclusive as possible with their fans. “We don’t want to alienate anybody, it’s not right, not all of us are Christian, but really it’s just about positivity. I was wandering down the street earlier today and bought a bike and the people there were asking what music are you into and I said heavy metal. Screaming, no singing, but it’s all positive stuff. The main thing is, we’re all positive dudes and Christian message or not we just want to be all positive influences in other peoples’ lives.”

In our day and age, a strong internet presence is one of the most important factors for musicians, to stay relevant and reach out to new fans. For August Burns Red however, their video collaborations with YouTuber Jarrod Alonge have been an amusing change of pace from typical viral marketing. “We met Jarrod on Warped Tour years ago and he became a really good friend of ours, whenever we want to do video stuff he’s the first guy we approach. So he came out with us on a few dates of that tour and then eventually that’s how the Family Feud thing came about. I love how that turned out. He’s just a naturally funny guy, he did the announcement for the ‘Messengers’ tour, we put something together for that. I keep forgetting he was the end of that.”

Due to how much they love Family Feud, Davidson says that they’ve been trying to push their promotional video as much as possible. Unfortunately for them, the show’s network ABC only allows blood-related families to participate in the standard version. “My friend suggested we try and push for the celebrity version but we’re clearly not celebrities. A band that I’d love to play against on Family Feud is Silverstein, they love the show and they’re some of our best friends.”

For a lot of young musicians, the balance between education and pursuing their dreams can be daunting. For Davidson however, joining August Burns Red after riding the success of their debut record ‘Thrillseekers’ meant that everything happened at the right time. “When I joined I knew it was gonna be a full-time job. I didn’t realize how little money I would make. During the ’07 ‘Messengers’ tour I overdrew my bank account. So when we started out we weren’t making money, until the second record and things started to pick up. I can’t speak for the other guys but for myself, I always knew it was gonna be my thing. Before that I was just playing with local bands and I was just getting ready to apply to college for recording music. I wanted to do something and my local band wasn’t getting anywhere, but everything with August Burns Red worked out smoothly.

The best advice Davidson can give to fans who want to follow in the band’s footsteps is to practice as often as possible. He says he’s proud to be self-taught, but lessons are more rewarding in the long run. On the 2015 edition of Warped Tour, drummer Matt Greiner even participated in music workshops to fans for the duration of their shows. “If I hadn’t started taking lessons I would not be capable of playing the things that I was able to bring to the table and I’m proud of how it all turned out”, concludes Davidson.

‘Phantom Anthem’ is released on October 6 via Fearless Records.