August Burns Red vocalist Jake Luhrs’ life isn’t something you’d define as “charmed,” but it’s filled with teachable moments and personal gratification through sweat equity. And plenty of big laughs, as well.
On this episode of the Backstage podcast, Luhrs regales Mike Shea with stories of growing up as a child of divorce, as well as the series of jobs he had since age 13. In addition to navigating both impoverished and posh school systems, the young Luhrs dealt with annoying bosses at restaurants while pulling off side hustles that included reselling everything from individual pieces of Trident gum (only 25 cents), cheap mall kiosk necklaces and (wait for it) his friend’s father’s porn mags.
“I worked so many jobs,” the vocalist says. “I was starting bands as such; I was working two jobs every summer. I was working at Cicis Pizza. That was a nightmare. They had me working at the oven. So I had to move the pizzas off the oven and cut them up real quick, right? It would be 5 o’clock, 6 o’clock, and people would be coming in for dinner. This oven was shooting out, like, 15 pizzas, and I couldn’t catch them and cut them up fast enough, so all the pizzas are coming out of the oven and falling on the ground. So that didn’t work out,” he says laughing before resigning that “I’m not good at anything other than screaming at people.”
Luhrs did land retail positions at Hot Topic and Journeys stores, which paid off when it came to promoting his band. While working the cash wrap at HT, he would throw in gig flyers for his band in customers’ bags. “There was a five-disc CD changer in there, and I used to put my demos in [the CD player] so people would be listening to my music when they walked into Hot Topic.”
On the more serious tip, Luhrs described ABR’s evolution over the last 12 years up through the release of Phantom Anthem, as being “the same road, we’ve just been on it for a long time. The journey doesn’t have chapters; it has seasons. One of the things we pride ourselves in doing is not trying to be somebody we’re not. We’ve never really jumped on the trend wagon. Being with the same guys for 12 years…we’re basically married without the sex. [Laughter.] We know everything about one another. I’ve said that a few times because it’s true. We’ve been through a lot of pain together, and we’ve seen the world together. The band doesn’t have a lot of conflicts, but when it does, it’s like a volcano.”
During this episode, Luhrs also discusses his scariest moments onstage (a bloody concussion followed by a photo shoot); the politics of compassion; his favorite cities; his decision to enter the seminary; a capsule summary about the new album, as well as the ABR song he never wants to play live again. It truly is one of the most genuinely sincere and inspiring episodes of Backstage yet.