The second single from August Burns Red’s Guardians features a guitar lead that resembles the theme from Spider-Man: The Animated Series. However, the parallel was a mere coincidence according to the man who wrote the music for “Bones,” guitarist JB Brubaker, while lyric writer Brent Rambler hears A Perfect Circle in the instruments’ effects. The latter axman is also the resident comic nerd and admits he can hear the similarities. That wasn’t the album’s first suggestion that perhaps these super musicians had finally transcended mere humanity; the music video for first single “Defender” is an animated comic book that shows exactly that.
The bandmates-as-superheroes are defeated by a robot T-Rex and siphon their powers into Matt Greiner’s cymbal. An ordinary guy absorbs those powers and beats down a litany of baddies: your average gang of street punks, suave yet sinister suits, a giant snake and a gorilla with a fishbowl helmet. The titular character’s streak runs out during the breakdown, when the tables are turned by a mustachioed man with a monocle and mechanical arm. However, he bounces back and uses the cymbal as a Destructo Disc to decapitate the tyrannical pets and destroy their master with a ki blast of energy. Like the “Z” that follows Dragon Ball, it’s the end of the line.
However, it’s just the beginning of our superhero conversation with Rambler, who answered our call (both figurative and literal) to assign a Guardian to each member of August Burns Red.
Dustin Davidson (bass) – Captain Planet
Rambler admits his comic consumption of late has been less about superheroes, citing Y: The Last Man and MIND MGMT as recent reads, so every one of these answers is going to be nostalgic for the lifelong fan, but this one even more so. The first answer goes back to an early childhood favorite: Captain Planet And The Planeteers.
“Our bass player Dustin [Davidson] would be Captain Planet,” Rambler explains. “Dustin loves nature. He loves the earth. When I thought of this [question], first thing, I was like, ‘Yeah, Dustin would totally be Captain Planet, for sure.’”
Rambler defends Captain Planet as “totally a superhero,” despite not coming from Marvel or DC (save for a 12-issue comic put out by Marvel). Who are we to disagree? Besides, the show is built on a similar concept to the “Defender” video. Each Planeteer wields the power of earth, fire, wind, water and heart, which they combine to summon the titular leader when needed. Like a band, this hero is more than the sum of his parts.
Matt Greiner (drums) – Spider-Man
Though his brother in rhythm’s superpowered identity was based on a hero, not an alter ego, drummer Matt Greiner’s had one foot in each side of his likeness’ life. Rambler didn’t choose Spider-Man because his drummer can do tricks like his sticks are bonded to his hands, nor because the webhead’s gesture to shoot web almost resembles the metal horns. No, the reason was more for what Peter Parker is not.
“Peter Parker was like the shy guy that you would never in a million years expect to be a superhero,” he says. “He’s an absolute sweetheart of a guy and no semblance of being a superhero whatsoever, and I think that’s Matt in a nutshell. He’s this super sweetheart of a guy who in the end plays drums like an absolute animal for a heavy-metal band.”
Like Spider-Man, Greiner is flashy—though it’d be hard to hear any quick-witted quips over their thunderous music live—but ultimately keeps his eyes on the prize. It just so happens that for Spidey, that’s beating bad guys, and for Greiner, it’s beating his drums.
Jake Luhrs (vocals) – Batman
Greiner holds down the back of the stage, while upfront is another member whose superhero alter-ego is based on the fictional character’s alter-ego: vocalist Jake Luhrs. A key difference is that Peter Parker received an instant injection of superpower, whereas Bruce Wayne had to work for his not-so-super strength. Luhrs takes after Batman in that regard, hitting the weights hard. Though in terms of high tech equipment, he mostly just wields a microphone.
Rambler points out that Luhrs can “use his muscle and brute force to get through things,” but that’s not always the case. Luhrs is as in tune with his mind as his body, even starting a not-for-profit mental health initiative HeartSupport, which offers community and support for those who need it. It could tie into the other reason Rambler connected Luhrs with this super-human.
“Jake is more of the mysterious member of the band,” he explains. “He’s the kind of guy that maybe has that eerie backstory that you just don’t know about, but then he also can tend to be really resourceful when he needs to be, and that’s how I view Batman. Batman’s this guy who is a little bit broody. He’s a little bit darker. He has more of a story behind him.”
Fortunately, he’s writing his story to ensure others aren’t defined by past darkness.
JB Brubaker (guitar) – Captain America
“For our guitar player JB, I’m picking Captain America, and that’s just because he’s really a pretty all-around good guy,” Rambler explains, with the “good” referring to both temperament and the tasks he undertakes.
It’s obvious the August Burns Red guitarist is good at music. He wrote both the Spider-Man-nodding song that inspired this article and the one with the superhero video that cemented it, splitting the composition of Guardians with August Burns Red bassist Davidson. However, Rambler also highlights his athletic bandmate’s propensity for sports and success in schooling.
“He’s the kind of guy that excels at most things and is good at most things,” he says. “He’s a good critical thinker, good at solving problems and things like that, but then he’s not afraid to get his hands dirty a little bit, and if he has to upset some people, he can do that.”
We’re sure that, like his heroic other, anytime he has to do the latter, it comes with the type of justice one associates with the all-American values Cap encompasses—even if those values perpetually seem less in line with the country whose colors he wears.
Brent Rambler (guitar) – Star-Lord
Rambler admits he hadn’t thought about himself much before being put on the spot here. He explains why friends have called him Bane since high school. Longtime friend Josh Bowman (now August Burns Red’s tour manager) would refer to Rambler by the band on the shirt he wore, with the nickname sticking for varying lengths of time. Though Bane stuck, the guitarist won’t lay claim to the DC character who’s more supervillain than anything resembling a hero.
He thinks aloud some more before ultimately settling on one of the Guardians Of The Galaxy. How apt given the album title.
“I know he’s not like an old superhero or anything like that, but when you think of him, he’s witty, and I hope that I am—I like to think that I am. He does things that sometimes are a bit unconventional and a bit strange, and he relies on his friends to help him get through a lot of his problems. Sometimes he gets himself into the problems and then needs other people to help him get out of those problems.”
That’s more or less the plot of the first Guardians Of The Galaxy film, with the Orb being the problem he got himself into and the friends who would help him out including Groot, Rocket Raccoon, Gamora and Drax The Destroyer.
“In the end, he’s a pretty good guy.”
Calling Star-Lord “a pretty good guy” suggests, by proxy, that Rambler is too. The musician’s modesty was already hinted through his demeanor during the conversation. He laughed plentily and heartily, even suggesting he’d have picked a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle for each of his Adult Metalcore Musician Bandmates—if only there were four of them. His solution would have been to assign one as Casey Jones and admits his copy of the character’s first appearance took him “a freaking eternity to find.”
These days, he gets to enjoy TMNT and other superheroes all over again through the eyes of his 6-year-old son. The father comically recalls his kid’s fixation on whether toys are “original” or not, which came to a head when they visited a retro toy shop and the questions, errr, question (over and over), came as quickly as Michelangelo’s nunchucks.
That’s three generations of August Burns Red family tied into superheroes. Remember the ordinary guy who became so much more in the “Defender” video? He’s based on Greiner’s dad, who was there for the drummer during a difficult divorce. It’s a visual representation of the album’s recurring theme of a good Samaritan helping others in their time of need.
Indeed, August Burns Red did just that when they and Fearless Records released Guardians on its scheduled date of April 3, COVID-19 be damned. Sure, they slipped a few chart positions due to the public’s general lack of disposable income and inability to walk into a store and snag a physical copy if one wanted, but they wanted to brighten the days of fans. Like a true exemplar, Rambler extends that selfless energy by ending the interview highlighting healthcare workers as real-life superheroes.