When it came time to make their eighth full length album ‘Guardians’, August Burns Red had to approach the recording process in an entirely different way. The Pennsylvania metalcore five-piece had a big ‘Constellations’ 10-year anniversary tour set for summer 2019, but they couldn’t shirk their album responsibilities, wanting to get new material out in 2020. A plan was needed. “We realised the only way we were going to be able to fit in recording an album to release it in 2020 was if we separated the process and broke it up into two different sessions,” bassist Dustin Davidson says. “And we hadn’t done that before. That’s new to us. So we went into the studio in April for about a month – JB (Brubaker, lead guitar) and myself – and we recorded all guitars, bass, some auxiliary instruments, random stuff like that, and just had program drums to those eight songs.”
Now that a good chunk of the album was locked away, ABR could focus on touring Constellations for the summer. With the remainder of the writing “done pretty much on the road”, they went back into the studio in autumn and recorded the rest of the album, finishing up with 11 tracks. All up, it was the longest they had been in the studio, meaning higher overheads, but the band wanted things done right. “It’s expensive to be in the studio,” Davidson says. “Bands doing it from home… you save a lot of money because I mean, man, some studios are like $750 a day – more than that – so that adds up pretty quickly. I just started getting into recording at home but I can’t produce the kind of quality that you can in a studio. You get what you pay for and I think that it’s important to spend money on a good representation of your band and make your album sound good.”
While the band has no plans to adopt the DIY aesthetic, Davidson is taking the home studio setup seriously, believing the space will expand his creativity. He moved everything to a bigger room in his house so he could have his drum kit alongside his guitars, amps, mics, speakers and computer. “A lot of ideas are developed in the studio in the moment,” he says. “You’re recording something, maybe the producer you’re working with has an idea they can throw at you. So just recording your music alone, you could write the riff one way and get used to how it sounds but if you listen back to it on the computer after you record it, something else might come, so I think it’s a good tool to invest in. So I’m literally just getting started again with trying to learn how to record and produce demos.”
In addition to approaching the professional studio and home studio angles differently, Davidson stepped up his songwriting, going from two songs on 2017’s ‘Phantom Anthem’ to half the album on Guardians. “Both for lyrics and music, anybody in the band can contribute. Lyrically, it’s typically Brent (Rambler, rhythm guitar) and Matt (Greiner, drums) who write the lyrics and then Jake (Luhrs, vocals) will work with them and add on stuff to it. And then Jake, Brent and our producer Grant will work on patterns and stuff and putting lyrics to songs when we’re actually in the studio and that’s a team we’ve been working with for a while. They work so well together. Brent and Matt wrote most of the lyrics for the album. As far as the music goes – JB and myself – we wrote about half of the album.”
Davidson also spent more time on the heaviness of songs and less time on the technical side. On Phantom Anthem, he wrote his bass parts with big interlude sections and dynamics. When he sat down to write Guardians, he did focus some of his time on dynamics and bringing some of the songs down to “a nice little interlude” or clean section, but primarily he wanted to write songs that were more cohesive and heavy. “I definitely went a different direction in the songs that I wrote. In the past, like on our previous record, ‘Phantom Anthem’, I contributed two songs to the album. Arguably the techiest two on the album, Lifeline and Carbon Copy… instrumentally, they are very big ideas. Carbon Copy doesn’t have any repeating parts and Lifeline is super tech, and so when I sat down to write for Guardians, I sat down with the intention of honestly just writing heavy songs. Relentlessly heavy songs that don’t let up.”
Guardians is out April 3 on Fearless Records/Caroline Australia.