A metalcore band from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, August Burns Red formed in 2003. Nominated for a Grammy last year for “Best Metal Performance”, the group’s 2015 album Found In Far Away Places was its highest charting, reaching the Top 10 within a variety of formats. 2017 brings the eighth full-length from August Burns Red — and its second for Fearless Records — Phantom Anthem, which hits stores on Friday, October 6th.
To learn more about Phantom Anthem, I had the pleasure of doing Q&A with August Burns Red frontman Jake Luhrs. As it turns out, Luhrs is a health-conscious and driven individual, making him perfect for a Pumping Metal feature. August Burns Red — which also includes lead guitarist John Benjamin “JB” Brubaker, rhythm guitarist Brent Rambler, drummer Matt Greiner and bassist/keyboardist Dustin Davidson — will be playing at Sacramento’s Aftershock Festival on October 21st. Proper touring in support of the new album for Fearless gets underway in early January 2018!
Your new album Phantom Anthem will be out in early October. Do you have a favorite song on the new album?
Jake Luhrs: Honestly, I’m not sure that I have a particular favorite as I feel they all have their own worthy-to-remember “moments.” However, one that I’ve been listening to a lot lately is “Lifeline.” I love the chaotic feel, the intricate time signatures and the overall flow and direction of the song.
Watch the guys’ clip for the song “Invisible Enemy”
Phantom Anthem really showcases your vocal power and diverse range, can you talk about the new types of vocal patterns you introduced on this album, were you influenced by any other genres? How did you prepare?
Luhrs: Yeah, I’ve actually taken a different direction this time around when preparing to create vocal patterns. One thing that isn’t very seen within metal is the pop genre. As we all know, there is a “formula” to the pop music culture. Many pop artists follow a particular tempo, and structure to their vocal patterns. So I chose to really study and take notes on big pop artists, such as Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Adele, Dierks Bentley, Carrie Underwood, Bastille, and some hip-hop artists as well. Just trying to catch how they deliver their vocals, backing vocals, textural vocals, layers, delays, repetition in words or melody, etc., so that my voice can stand out more on the album.
August Burns Red musically is quite intricate and at times can be very chaotic and feel very out of control. At times it feels as though every instrument is performing their own solos at once. (laughs) So I felt that the vocals needed to be the foundation and ground at times. I went with the “simple is better” route on this album. Really being clear on the patterns, paying close attention to detail and fullness. That way even if a particular section of a song is chaotic, off-time and everyone is off ripping in their own sections, the vocals keep the part together. This, of course, is the way I wanted to look at certain parts. However, this wasn’t the case for every section of every song. I also really focused a lot on my high screams as they have been my weakest of vocal sounds. I was able to produce a high, fuller scream on this album than on any other previous record. I’m personally happy with this accomplishment.
Having done this so long, how has your voice held up, have you ever taken voice lessons?
Luhrs: I haven’t really taken any vocal lessons, I taught myself how to scream when I was 16 years old. However, I would recommend Melissa Cross as she helped me a lot with visualizing my vocals and how to imagine in my mind how to paint a picture with my voice. Pretty interesting and useful information and she is a huge encourager. Half of what I do is mental; being on stage, being the frontman, an entertainer, and a vocalist. It takes a lot to be in the right mental place, and to use and visualize your voice definitely is helpful. She also has a DVD set that has a lot of great pre-show warm-up techniques.
On the road, do you do vocal warm-ups before hitting the stage? Do you have any pre-show rituals? Tea?
Luhrs: Yes, I like having two cups of tea and honey on-stage, and I have some routine stretches to physically feel prepared. I pray asking God to use me on the stage, for Him to be seen and for a sense of love and spiritual connection exist. Also that my voice keep during the entirety of the set. I do some buzzing to warm up my voice — Melissa Cross warm-ups — and then I just like to look at the crowd from side stage to see them, feel the vibe of the stage and visualize and get “acquainted” with the presence of the show.
Is exercise important for taking care of your voice?
Luhrs: I think it’s different for everyone. For me personally, I think cardio is a big deal. It helps me with the ability to run around on-stage so that I can entertain the crowd while still having enough breath and energy to scream my parts correctly. So cardio is a big deal and I also love working out at the gym. I feel that if I go a couple hours before set, it puts my body in the right place and wakes me up.
What sort of exercise do you favor? Are you a yoga guy? A runner?
Luhrs: I’m a fan of lifting. I like lifting and feel it’s therapeutic to me personally. Just a little me time, getting away from the band and show environment. There I get to work on my mental and physical side. Reassuring me that I’m taking care of my body, preparing myself for “work” and having time to think about things I need to work on or change about my life.
I’ve heard that you use Nutrichef for your meals. How do they compare to similar services?
Luhrs: Well, I’ve never used any other service because once I started with them, I had no reason to leave. I love Nutrichef, first off the owner drove from New York City to meet me. I was extremely impressed with that and the way he spoke about the quality of his food, the desire to be the best meal service out there. I was just pretty blown away by how much the guy truly wants to make a solid product. You can always tell the difference between a businessman and a dreamer. Businessmen care about the numbers, dreamers care about the product. He’s a dreamer and because of that, his food is top notch. It’s pretty great for my lifestyle. I’m always running around, never really having a lot of time to cook. As I get older and am focusing on my health, it’s nice to have healthy, fresh meals to eat that haven’t been frozen and have the amount of carbs, calories and protein that pertains to my personal custom-fitted program. It’s a huge help for me, to say the least.
When did you start taking great care of yourself? Were you inspired by someone or a specific event?
Luhrs: Great care? (laughs) I wouldn’t go that far, but I started really looking at what I was consuming, the fact that I was out of shape and I had done that after my divorce. It took a huge toll on me mentally, spiritually and physically. So I first had to get my head in a healthy place and part of that was getting my body in a healthier place. You start loving yourself, you’ll be amazed at what comes from it. It was my attempt at loving myself, it paid off, and I continue to do so. Plus, August Burns Red’s fans deserve a good show and I don’t want to let them down because I lack exercise or taking care of my body.
What does the next six months look like for you? Anything going on behind relentless touring in support of Phantom Anthem?
Luhrs: Well, I run a non-profit called Heart Support which is a priority in my life. I’m also going to Gordon Conwell, which is a seminary school in Boston. Taking online courses for my Masters in Christian Ministry. I haven’t been to school in many years, and when I was in school, I didn’t get the best education. So with that being said, you can imagine it isn’t the most exciting or fun thing to devote many hours a week into learning from textbooks and writing papers. (laughs) But if it’s something you truly want, you’ll do what it takes. So here I am…
When not busy with music, how do you like to spend your free time?
Luhrs: I am a fairly big fan of hockey. My favorite NHL hockey team is the Boston Bruins. I’m a huge fan of power forwards, as I too am a power forward in two different leagues here in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I play for a team called the Skateful Dead and another one called the True Stars. Hockey has become a great release for me. A way to decompress and it is my very own little community. The hockey locker room is truly like no other place. I would spend hours in there with my team talking life, hockey, etc. if i could. The challenge on the ice stirs me up. The fast pace of the game, the ability to get physical and battling for the puck. The risk of getting injured but for the sake of winning the game or helping out the teammate beside you. All of those things draw me to the game.
With that being said, if I’m not playing hockey, I’m probably watching hockey on TV. Studying great power forwards like Patrick Maroon, David Backes, Wayne Simmonds, and Milan Lucic. To focus on my position and see the game in as many ways as I can. I also love hanging out with my French bulldog Winston Finnagain Luhrs. I would say those are my two escapes and joys of my life outside of the band, my non-profit, the gym.
Finally, Jake, any last words for the kids?
Luhrs: Just that I’m thankful and appreciative to all of those who have stuck along August Burns Red’s side. Those who have come out to shows, those who have bought records, those who have told me their story or stories of how they connected with our music. To those who’ve spread our music to their friends and family and to those who believe in me personally. I wouldn’t be able to live my dream without you. Thanks and God Bless.
The band get chilly in their music video for “The Frost”