As the metal scene’s fanbase continues to grow exponentially, it’s easy to give some of the credit to hardcore band staples like August Burns Red. With a rigorous tour schedule that has taken them around the world for over a decade, and a Facebook page clocking in over 1 million fans, it comes as no surprise that they’ve maintained their place as one of metal’s most popular and progressive bands on the scene. Throughout every album they’ve released, the confidence and precision in their sound is present and evolving, captivating their already die-hard audience while simultaneously making room for new fans to be born.
Their performance at South By So What this year exemplified just that, as the band played a 70 minute thrashing set, refusing to let up until time slots became dangerously close to overlapping. Leaving the stage, each band member was soaked through with sweat, yet all had similar grins plastered on their faces, happily waving goodbye to fans, and even speaking to those outside of the gates at length. These guys simply love what they do.
Settling in on the band’s bus, we were stoked to have the opportunity to speak with August Burns Red’s bassist, Dustin Davidson, about tour life, his new side project and Travis Barker shout outs.
CYM: August Burns Red started with most of the original lineup meeting in high school. How late did you come into the group?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: It’s a funny story, I joined in 2006, ironically right around August. No pun intended. So I was 18 years old and working for my dad – I had just graduated high school. I was painting a car, a Ford Mustang, because I used to be a mechanic, but I was painting a car at the time. I had my flip phone in my pocket, since we’re talking old school, you know. It’s ringing over and over, and I’m like ‘Who the fuck keeps calling me?’ I had ignored every call because I was so focused on painting that car, you know. So all of a sudden, my friend who had been blowing my phone up comes walking up out of nowhere, saying ‘Dude, August Burns Red just posted on their Myspace that they need a guitar player, or a bass player, you do both, whatever, you should try out!’ I actually knew the dudes in ABR before they were signed, because I had played drums in another band, and they remembered meeting me at a couple of local shows.
CYM: It’s amazing where that little seed can take you.
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Yeah! Man, definitely. I tried out, they liked it, we did two tours – one was so short it doesn’t really count, it was with Bleeding Through, who actually just broke up. It was a Canadian tour, we did like a week and that was it. Then we did a Solid State Young Bloods tour. I became official after that one.
CYM: Was it easy to mold into their entire vision of where they were going with the band’s direction and everything? Did everyone get along easily?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Yeah it really was, and nothing against the guy before me, but he didn’t work out because he just didn’t get along with them. The personalities in the band at that time weren’t meshing very well. We’re all amazing friends.
CYM: Chemistry is everything.
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: It really is. Especially when you’re not in a bus; you’re in a tiny van. Because when you’re in a van, you’re the ones driving; it’s more personal in a van, you have to sleep on floors sometimes. Shit like that. You see everyone all the time, it’s a ton more personal. So bottom line, end of the day, you’ve got to get along with one another.
CYM: If you could go back and tell your 18 year old self anything, what would it be?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Damn. There’s a lot, especially at that age because I had just joined the band. I’d say. ‘Get out of the dressing room and go walk around’. Because when I was 18 to about 23, I would just kind of sit in the green room and hang out. Just sitting on my computer with my headphones, not talking to anyone. It could’ve been because I wasn’t 21 yet, I’m always the youngest, I’m 25 now, so I couldn’t go out and do stuff, but when I turned 23 I started getting really into fitness, so that’s what finally got me out and about. I got to see things by going out and finding new gyms, or when I’d go on two or three mile runs. So that’s what I would tell my 18 year old self. Go out and see some shit.
CYM: What band would you say was your first major influence for wanting to create music?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Blink 182, hands down [laughs]. Did I say that too fast?
CYM: Not at all, who doesn’t like Blink? Which album is your favorite, if you can even narrow it down? I’m not sure it’s possible to have one favorite Blink album.
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: You know what, it’s really not! It’s all so good. If you would’ve asked me back in the day, I’d probably say ‘Take Off Your Pants And Jacket’, which I really do love, I still remember the first day it came out, when I was in 7th grade [laughs]. But then again, their self-titled is really mature, so I’d say a toss up between those two.
CYM: Was your family supportive when you decided to make music your career?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Absolutely. At first it was a little rough, my dad didn’t approve initially. When I was like 15, 16, he started saying I needed something to fall back on. The whole spill where you know what they actually want to say. He’d be like ‘You need to learn something else so that if it doesn’t work, you can do this.’ My dad and I have a great relationship, but he’d never really say he was proud of me or anything like that. But most recently, he was like, ‘I gotta tell you, when you were trying out for the band, after work you’d come home and play guitar just to practice – you made me proud.’ That was when he finally told me. He was like, ‘I see your work ethic and it’s great, I’m glad you can actually play in a band and do this.’ Because he always wanted me to be the guy that takes over the business, he works on cars and has his own business, so that’s what he wanted me to do, you know. But now he sees it and he’s happy. I had no money when I started touring, before Messengers came out we had nothing.
So my grandparents would have to buy me shit. I remember meeting my grandma before leaving for our first tour, I met up with her at Walmart so she could buy me toiletries and a suitcase and stuff. I had just gotten a tattoo, and she was like ‘Let me see it!’ She didn’t like that I was getting it on my forearm, and then she ended up gushing over it, like ‘It’s beautiful.’ [laughs] I actually saw her the other day, she took me to the airport. Her name is Plain Old Grandma. That’s what I called her as a young child, because I had so many grandparents. I had to be able to tell them apart. I had like great great grandparents, my family was huge.
CYM: Growing up in a big family is always interesting. Do you have any musically inclined siblings?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Yes. I have a younger brother named Paul, whose a drummer. We were living together recently but he just moved out and got his own place, so props to him. He plays drums in a band called Black Materia, they’re heavy, but sing as well, they’re really space-y and out there. There’s some really heavy driving parts as well; they’re cool.
CYM: Did you teach him drums?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: No, growing up my parents bought a drum kit for him, but it was mine as well. So since he got the drum set for Christmas, we agreed to use my Christmas money to buy the cymbals. From there, we based them around Travis Barkers’ cymbal set up [laughs]. It was an orange Pearl Export Select.
CYM: Aww, that’s rad!
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Shout out to Travis Barker! Hashtag, Travis Barker.
CYM: How do you feel about artists taking different approaches to their sound, with transitioning from one genre to the next? Like with ‘Internal Cannon’.
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: That was our first song we really did to try and step outside of the lines. It’s like Mexican soul samba. Just to try something different, you know? But I definitely respect it, you don’t wanna release the same thing five times in a row. You have to grow as a band, find what works and doesn’t work, and you go from there. If you release something that doesn’t work for you, then you just go back. I would hope a band wouldn’t just flip a switch and change completely. Do a couple more songs and see if it works, you know? We’ve done that and they’ve ended up being some of our most popular songs to play.
CYM: Can you give us the low-down on your solo project?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: The plan is to actually finish it up after this tour. It’s a project where I basically do everything, I’m playing drums, vocals, and a few other instruments I’m planning to incorporate into songs. Some are from when I was a kid, back when I was influenced by New Found Glory, Blink 182, The Starting Line, Dashboard Confessional. I started getting into heavier music with Thrice and Finch, and from there I started getting into super heavy stuff, like Death. They were a big enough influence to me to start picking up guitar.
CYM: Is the band supportive of your solo conquests?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Absolutely, I showed them some stuff because I wasn’t sure if I was gonna be able to sing. I tuned the record down half a step, not really anything, but just so I could leave the option to sing on it because I have a really low voice anyways. The style of my vocal range is like, I try to hit those high notes, but I can’t, so I let my voice break. It’s not screaming, but it just cracks. I’m excited to finish the project up because I have stories to tell; I’m a lyricist. But they’re sappy love songs that I can’t put with August Burns Red so I’m doing this [laughs]. There’s one song I have, that musically, roots back to when I was thirteen years old. The working title is ‘Vintage’, since it’s old as shit right now.
CYM: I read an article that JB [Brubaker, lead vocalist in August Burns Red] had mentioned, that you guys wanted to push the edges of the genres like you had never done before with this new album. Do you believe that your music is being received by the scene in the way you had intended it to be?
Dustin Davidson of August Burns Red: Definitely. That’s because when we first started touring with Rescue and Restore, we did that headlining tour, and we were playing the song ‘Creative Captivity’. which is where the title, ‘rescue and restore’, comes from. It’s the most diverse song on the record, and our fans loved it. I think we played it for half the tour or a full tour, I can’t remember right now, but we stopped playing it for a while and kids would still call for it, and when we’d ask what some of their favorite songs were, ‘Creative Captivity’ is always named among the top three on the record. That song really helped push the genre in my opinion, like JB was saying in the interview you mentioned. So it being so well received by our fans shows us that we did something right. I don’t want to write a bunch of fast metal songs all the time. I like having that one song that’s different, or songs that have themes. That’s what keeps our fans paying attention.