Ahead of the release of their latest metalcore epic, Leveler, we had a chat with drummer Matt Greiner to discuss the release. During the interview, we touched on a number of subjects including the inspiration behind the lyrics, comparisons to Constellations, and his thoughts looking ahead to Warped Tour. Read on!
Shawn@RRR: Could you please introduce yourself and give your role in August Burns Red.
Matt Greiner: My name is Matt, I play drums for August Burns Red.
Shawn@RRR: The band is set to release their follow-up to the 2009 metalcore epic Constellations, titled Leveler, on June 21st. What are your thoughts leading up to the release?
Matt Greiner: We have released 3 songs on the internet thus far and the reactions have been consistently good. It's hard to not project these reviews over my notions for how the record as a whole will be received. I am super excited for everyone to hear "Leveler." It's always somewhat nerve-racking when releasing a new album. We tour hard for 1 1/2 years in-between writing/releasing records and the feeling is always the same!
Shawn@RRR: Guide us through the writing process for the album.
Matt Greiner: JB works on writing guitar riffs all year leading up to the actual 'writing' of the record. When JB is finished with the general structure of the song, we all come together and contribute creative ideas. I love writing breakdowns, syncopated rhythms, and transitions so JB and I usually work those ideas out and then polish them up as a band afterwards. We are definitely not a 'jam band.' We have never written an entire song by just playing our instruments together in practice; that would just be a noisy, frustrating mess.
Shawn@RRR: Is there a central underlying theme lyrically on Leveler?
Matt Greiner: The title "Leveler" is based on the idea of God having the final say and redeeming mankind. What was created for good, we made corrupt and twisted it for our own benefit. In the end, the proverbial 'road' will be made level for the righteous. The lyrics aren't necessarily synonymous with the theme of the record. We all helped contribute lyrics for the record and write from personal experience. One of the songs is about creativity while another song is about tragedy. Whatever the lyrical theme, it's important to us as a band that the words are relatable and genuine, written out of the passion of our hearts to inspire the masses.
Shawn@RRR: How do you feel Leveler compares to Constellations from an instrumental standpoint?
Matt Greiner: "Leveler" sounds like an August Burns Red record. That said, we are confident with our style and weren't scared to explore some of the more experimental aspects of our previous sound. As our musicality advances, our influences vary, and thus the sound of our music naturally changes over time. My worst fear as a band is to become stale. If we create a new record that mimics what we've already done then we've failed to be creative at all. At all costs, it's fundamental to try new things. I believe that "Leveler" is a great representation of fearless creativity.
Shawn@RRR: Just recently, the band released a new song titled “Internal Cannon.” Tell us a little about the song.
Matt Greiner: "Internal Cannon" is a song Jake wrote about guilt and shame. Universal themes are easy to relate to but incredibly hard to write about. Jake did a great job in addressing the need for fellowship and union in fighting off personal insecurities. Instrumentally, JB's musicality was turned up to 11 on "Internal Cannon." I think that the melody of the song lends itself to various 'styles' of music and JB naturally laid those styles out and made them our own.
Shawn@RRR: How do you feel Leveler compares to anything from the band’s discography from a lyrical standpoint?
Matt Greiner: The lyrics on "Leveler" are the strongest set of lyrics we've ever released, in my opinion. I think August Burns Red has always been successful at writing lyrics that are ambiguous enough to be relatable but confident enough to draw lines in the sand. I've already received messages from fans about the lyrics in the song, "Divisions," a song about "putting my feet in the shoes of another man." One of the last lines in the song states, "We are the weak, and pain is the devourer." "Divisions" is my story of feeling like I wronged a friend of mine. I felt the need to assume the burden of someone else, feeling like I had gotten in the way of the 'plan.' Powerful themes like this one are visible all over "Leveler," dig deep and you'll find lots of themes to relate to!
Shawn@RRR: In a previous interview with us, the band had mentioned that, while the music (instrumentals) of August Burns Red is simply music, the lyrics sort of take things to a spiritual level. How do you feel your spirituality shined through lyrically this time around?
Matt Greiner: My faith in Jesus Christ is my consistency, it's my core, my world view. Everything that I write about is written in light of my identity as a Christian. When we write lyrics, we write from personal experience paralleled by our relationships with a God that cares about us and guides us through our every day. Like August Burns Red's previous records, the lyrics on "Leveler" are reflections of our faith. You can't separate what you believe in from what you create, it's impossible.
Shawn@RRR: What are your personal favorite tracks from the album and why?
Matt Greiner: My favorite track is "Divisions." I'm a sucker for new sounds and different tempos. "Divisions" is the song we've never created. Brutal!
Shawn@RRR: Earlier this year, the band shot a video for an unspecified track from the new album. What can you tell us about the music video?
Matt Greiner: The video is for the song, "Internal Cannon." My brother Caleb was cast as one of the 'punk' kids who fight for their youth against the elderly in the town. We just got a rough cut of the video and I'm very excited about the look and feel of the video. It's difficult to convey a story-line in a 4-minute video so we've decided to cut some of the performance shots and include more of the story instead.
Shawn@RRR: The band is set to play the entirety of Warped Tour this year. What are your thoughts leading up to the tour?
Matt Greiner: I’m ecstatic! I'm rehearsing 3 hours per day with my friend Adam, the drummer for Texas In July. I'm feeling ambitious to step up my game and advance my musicianship as a drummer. The opportunity to play main stage on the Vans Warped Tour is huge for us. We are friends with a number of the bands on the tour and are looking forward to the massive BBQs, the parking lot soccer games, and the sunburn that are all very imminent.
Shawn@RRR: Looking back, what have been some of your fondest moments of attending/playing Warped?
Matt Greiner: I enjoy being out and about in the sun. Typically speaking, Warped Tour is thought of as a very difficult tour because of the heat. I would much rather tour in the summer than the winter months. The tour bus is a great escape to the heat when needed but I love soaking up some rays after spending months indoors in Pennsylvania winters.
Shawn@RRR: Seeing as how the band has played Warped Tour previously, what knowledge are you bringing this time around that would have helped you immensely on your first run of the tour?
Matt Greiner: I know to get in good physical shape PRIOR to starting the tour. Because of the high heat index and the relentless travel, it's super important to be in good shape so you can be performing at the top of your game. Bring sun tan lotion!
Shawn@RRR: Ultimately, what do you want people to take away from listening to Leveler?
Matt Greiner: Firstly, I just hope people enjoy the record for what it is. I hope the record will be as new to listeners after 10 listens as it was when they first heard it.
Shawn@RRR: Has there ever been a moment in your career as a musician where you’ve had to take a step back and let everything sink in?
Matt Greiner: Yeah, I have had those moments. I guess it's hard to realize just exactly what August Burns Red is until I get home and crash on my couch and think about the tour that I just returned home from. I am so blessed by what ABR is and the sphere of influence we've had all over the world.
Shawn@RRR: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. Anything to add?
Matt Greiner: I think that's everything, thanks! Pick up "Leveler" on June 21st!
Levelers is in stores now. Our review of the album can be found here.