I recently chatted with All That Remains vocalist Phil Labonte about the band's newest record A War You Cannot Win, their current run with Dethklok and the political side that he shows on his Twitter.
You guys are out on tour with Dethklok, Machinehead and The Black Dahlia Murder. What’s the atmosphere of those shows been like for you guys?
It’s cool. We fortunate as a band now that we can play to multiple different audiences and be able to build our set accordingly. We’re playing some of our heavier stuff, and it’s a good time.
How are you working the material from the new record into the setlist?
We’re just working in two new songs on this run. We’ll obviously be adding more as people get more familiar with the new stuff. Really, a lot of people are coming to hear certain songs and you only have so much time.
A War You Cannot Win came out Tuesday. You guys are kind of creatures of habit as a band, this again following the two year cycle and being recorded with Adam D. Would you consider it a case of ‘if it’s not broke, don’t fix it’?
We’re comfortable with Adam. We work with him because we’ve been comfortable with him for a long time and because he has great ears. It is a little bit of ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, but at the same time the situation is we intentionally stay with him because we like to ourselves.
In particular, what do you think you guys have brought to the table to keep things fresh without going way off on a tangent in terms of the music here?
We genuinely don’t worry about those things. We probably have the most variety in our music. There’s not a lot of bands that can write songs like “What If I Was Nothing” and “You Can’t Fill My Shadow” and have them both make sense on the same record. They’re very different songs. But we don’t worry about that stuff. All we worry about is ‘Is this song good?’ We feel like these songs are something we would want to listen to and if they don’t meet those criteria, then everything else is inconsequential.
The acoustic instrumental “Calculating Loneliness” is a particularly interesting touch. Did you feel fairly comfortable making that a part of the album?
Yeah. We’ve had instrumentals before on other records. With this one in terms of musicality, we just wanted to write something a little on the progressive side with the acoustic instrumental theme. Oli gets on that stuff a lot from where he comes from in progressive music, you know he’s got a degree and he’s a teacher and stuff, so the music that is complex he’s got a hand in it.
With this being the third album for this lineup, do you think this is the best example of the chemistry this particular group of musicians has?
Sure, I think so. I like to think we try to get better and better with every record.
Lyrically there seems to be some hints at commentary on political and social issues. How much of what goes on in the world has had an affect on the output of this record?
Whatever is going on in my world, the media or whatever is happening this year. With the election, that was one of the big things I was paying attention to. I’m in a really good place in my relationship with girls so there’s not a lot of sappy love songs on this one. What is going on in our world with lyrics, it’s always what is going on in my world, like what affects me personally. I can’t write lyrics that aspirate about experiences or stuff like that.
As a musician, to what point do you feel it is necessary to express an opinion or shed light on issues with the outreach ability you have on stage and on record?
I won’t get preachy on stage, but when it comes to the political side of me personally, All That Remains as a band has no political affiliation. Whereas I, personally, and people in the band have different opinions on things and we’re not all the same person. We don’t have a solidified opinion. That’s why you’ll never see any political remarks on the All That Remains Facebook or Twitter, but you’ll see it on my page. I think that it’s, a lot of people don’t pay attention to politics. Which, cool, that’s their business. But for people that do and are interested in that stuff, I have a different perspective than most people. I have the perspective that both sides are wrong, neither side has got it right. Both sides are full of idiots and both sides use the government to steal from the people. Both sides use the government to do favors for their friends. You don’t hear that a lot. You’re going to government schools, you’re getting government curriculum. It’s not very critical of the government. You need to be critical of your government.
After this touring run, you’ll play a couple holiday shows to round out the year. When can we expect to hear about your 2013 plans in terms of touring and the like?
We don’t have anything booked, so I can’t even tell you. As soon as we know, we’ll let everyone know.
I know there's a lot of hate for this band now, since they've "sold out" but I think they still make consistently good records... the new one's a bit softer at times than some of their older stuff, but I for one still enjoy them