Wednesday 6th December 2017
Following the release of their 4th studio album “Anti-Melody” I chat with with lead vocalist, Brandon Kellum about the history of his band and the challenges they’ve faced. American Standards are a hardcore 4-piece from Phoenix AZ, with the mantra “Don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.” and after loosing a band member to suicide and a family member to cancer, keeping focused has been the main priority. Using music as an outlet to channel their emotions has helped to produce their most raw and powerful album yet, and they’ve become more focused than ever. Brandon talks to me about their process, how the band have continued to develop, and what they’ve got planned for the year ahead.
For those of us just discovering you in the UK, please could you tell me more about yourselves and how American Standards formed?
Around 2010 our previous bands fell apart and American Standards came together. We were a bit older and little more mature about our goals for the band and how we wanted to go about reaching them. We wanted to do something loud and aggressive but still maintain good song structures with dynamics. We also wanted a strong focus on the message and building a community to influence positive change. All this with no egos or tough guy machismo that can commonly be found in heavy music.
What bands were you in previously and what made you decide to pursue music as a career?
Before American Standards I was in The Hostage Situation which was more of a southern rock influenced metal band. At its core, music for me is all about having genuine connections. It’s a community of people with similar interests connecting in ways that you might not otherwise. Those experiences are everything.
You initially signed to a label in 2011, but then a couple of years later decided to go back to being independent. What were the reasons for this at the time, and what differences do you feel it made to the band?
As generic as it sounds, we really just didn’t have the same core values. We didn’t go into it trying to be rockstars, playing sold out shows 300 days out of the year. We just wanted to play the kind of music that we love at shows that we would be stoked to go to ourselves. Being on the label sometimes felt counterproductive to that; being on someone else’s schedule who’s vision sometimes felt like it valued quantity over quality. Now as an independent band we know that everything we achieve is a direct result of the work that we put into it. We don’t have to compromise for less.
How do you feel that platforms such as Kickstarter and BandCamp help independent bands like yourselves with getting your music out there and connecting with fans?
I think they’re really a necessity for DIY bands. Services like Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play are great for discovering new music but they really don’t help smaller bands too much in terms of funding the touring and recording that’s vital to get to the next level. When you get our music or buy merch through our bandcamp, you know that the money is going direct to the artist.
You’ve got quite a lot of material behind you, and released your 4th album earlier this year. How does it compare to your previous material, and how have you found the reaction so far?
Anti-Melody really continues on our path of progression as a band. I think we wrote some of our most diverse songs and really focused on telling the story of the album.
How did you find the process of putting the album together, as it followed quite a distressing time for the band; and how did it feel hearing the finished album?
It was a little hectic and we really didn’t know the future of the band. We parted ways with our drummer shortly after we released Hungry Hands. We then spent some time bringing Mitch up to speed all while balancing shows and other commitments. Finally we committed some time to the writing process and during so found out about both the suicide of one of our founding members and shortly after the passing of my father to cancer. All this made us re-evaluate the direction of the album and due to some complications we also had to take the tracks which we had recorded at Kingsize Soundlabs back home to self mix as produce. It’s raw and gritty but maybe adds a little to the honesty in the music.
What’s your writing process, and what drives you to write as a political band?
It’s pretty old school. We all get in a room and jam till we have something that we’re proud of. If it doesn’t come organically, we don’t force it. We just want to be excited about anything we put time into. As for the political aspect, I think it varies. I write about what’s important to me and what evoked an emotion. It’s almost to my detriment as sometimes I fear that I may be alienating others that aren’t quite at that point in their life. Either way, it’s true to me and I couldn’t do it any other way.
Who are your biggest musical influences, and how have they encouraged you and helped you to develop your sound?
Growing up it was bands like System Of A Down, Rage Against The Machine And Refused. Any band that had something important to say and did so with passion and tact. Coming into American Standards we all connected on the late 90s, early 2000s post hardcore and metalcore. Bands like; Every Time I Die, Norma Jean, The Chariot, Converge, Botch, Fear Before The March Of Flames and The Dillinger Escape Plan.
How do you feel that you’ve developed as a band over the years?
We’ve definitely come to a better understanding of our sound and what it is that we have to offer people. We’ve paid more attention to song writing and dynamics. Really focused on giving people an experience at the live shows.
What are your plans for 2018, and will we get to see you this side of the pond?
Hopefully! Playing the UK has always been a dream but it’s really just a matter of logistics. If all lines up from a transportation and gear perspective, we’d be there in a heartbeat. Think it’s just a matter of partnering with the right people to make it happen. Until then, we’re already working on new music and are about to announce our first US tour of 2018 here shortly. Follow us on our socials, bandcamp or by using the free bandsintown app to keep up.