Brandon Kellum of AMERICAN STANDARDS Interrogated.
Sometimes strong emotions can make you lose focus. That’s not the case for Phoenix, AZ based chaotic hardcore band American Standards. After losing their founding guitarist to suicide, then shortly after the vocalist Brandon Kellum’s father to cancer, the four-piece founded in 2011 released their most emotionally and socially poignant album to date.
How did you first get in to music? Who turned you onto rock/metal?
I grew up listening to the stuff that my older brother was into like Beastie Boys, Pantera and Rage Against The Machine. I never really put much thought into actually playing music though until my dad bought me a guitar my freshman year of high school. It took a while till I put an effort into playing it but once I learned a few chords I think I quickly became overly eager to start a band.
How did you become a vocalist? Are you proficient in any other instruments?
I love playing guitar and bass but hate having to deal with the equipment and all the technical problems that can arise from it. I guess I’m the stereotypical frontman in that regard. I do really enjoy writing lyrics and finding creative ways to connect with an audience though. I feel there’s more freedom as a vocalist to work the room and feed off the energy of a crowd.
Were you forced to go to church as a youth, if so were you an altar boys, did you sing in the choir or participate in some other ways?
My family was never really religious but at a young age I was really curious about religion. I would commonly go to church with my friends as even into my teens attended a youth group. I think to have an opinion on something, you first have to understand it and much of my time was spent trying to do so. Although I don’t subscribe to a religion now, I respect those that do while still maintaining an open mind and acceptance of people with differing beliefs.
What was the local scene like in the beginning, was there a particular band you aspired to be like, favorite local bands back then, favorite local bands now?
That’s a good question and one that’s hard to answer through rose colored glasses. It’s easy to look back at the past with this sense of nostalgia and I think that it’s that naivety that made things seem so much larger then life. It felt like the shows were bigger, the community was closer and that their were local legends that were untouchable. You’d get an opening slot on one of these shows as a kid and think that the headliners were traveling in tour buses and scroodge mcducking into piles of gold coins. As time goes by though, I don’t think that much has changed outside of my perspective on it. I’m a bit older and perhaps I’m just connected to the scene in a different way then I was in the past.
As for locals, I always loved and had respect for bands like Scary Kids Scaring Kids, Life In Pictures, The Cover Up and Greeley Estates. Nowadays there’s equally as talented bands carrying the torch in AZ like Sundressed, CONS, Lifelink and Woundvac.
How did the band form? How did the band meet and how long did it take to finalize this lineup? How stable is the current lineup?
Ah, that’s a loaded question. In short, we were just 5 guys that had all been in other bands. Each band fell apart around the same time and we were looking to do something new. Cody Conrad contacted me on New Year’s Eve of 2010 and since then we’ve almost entirely recycled the original line up with the exception of Corey Skowronski and I. The line up we have now though is really tight knit and everyone has a great perspective. None of us are trying to be the next big thing and we all just enjoy doing what we’re doing on our own terms. No expectations of anything more then making a few memories. Everything else that comes our way is an added bonus.
You recently put out a full length? Have you released everything you recently recorded What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome to get it out?
We did. Anti-Melody came out earlier this year (2017) but it was one hell of a journey to get there. Unfortunately we lost Cody along the way and my father (to cancer) during the process as well. We also transitioned drummers and had some challenges in recording out of state. All in all, I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish with telling the story of the record though and even more excited for what’s next.
What other bands are you in?
None at the moment, just American Standards. I was playing bass for Your Young during the early years of the band and I had also been in The Hostage Situation and Vera Lynne prior. As for now, our drummer Mitch Hosier is the only one doing side projects and studio stuff. He tours with At My Mercy and records with Moovalya. He’s kind of the talented one in the band.
How would you best describe your sound?
At its core it’s just punk influenced metal. We take a lot of influence from late 90s and early 2000s post hardcore/metalcore. It’s raw, dissonant and spazzy at times. Despite that, we still try to pay attention to song structure and dynamics so that it’s not completely inaccessible.
Is doing ticket pre-sales the same thing as pay to play?
If there’s an incentive to get a ticket in advance, I would say no. Meaning if the fans are getting discount tickets, or a guaranteed spot at a show that’s likely to sell out, why not? If it’s just a promoter trying to make a buck by enforcing ticket minimums or structuring time slots based on sales, that’s the kind of thing that compromises both the integrity of the show and the experience of everyone attending.
What ACDC riffs or songs can you play?
I’m proficient enough on guitar to play the AC/DC songs based on 4 power chords.
What was the first music you bought and what have you bought more than once?
I had a bunch of tapes as a kid. Things like Led Zeppelin and Metallica. I think the first CD that I legit purchased with my own money was the Mission Impossible soundtrack. Had stuff like Rob Zombie and Foo Fighters on it.
Who have been some of your favorite bands you’ve hung out with and shared the stage with?
Every Time I Die, Norma Jean and Emery are all up there both for the respect that we had for them as bands and how down to earth they were as people.
Whats the biggest show you have played so far and do you still get nervous before a gig?
In terms of attendance it would be a close call between one we did with Comeback Kid, Stick To Your Guns and Stray From The Path or a local show we did at The Nile in Mesa which was a memorial for Griffin Kolinski from Knights Of The Abyss. I don’t know that I get nervous for the big ones very often, it’s the small ones where you can see everyone in the room along with their reactions that are a little more intimidating.
Does the current political climate in America scare you or make hopeful? Do you see a possible civil war on the horizon?
Its definitely not a high point for America. I think everything going on has really opened peoples eyes to some of the issues that have always been there but maybe hiding just below the surface. It’s our job to now think critically about it and how we move forward without being overwhelmed by the magnitude of it all. It’s easy to get discouraged but we can’t give up.
What kind of references or influences do you take from other mediums?
I’m a big nerd for philosophy and existentialism in particular.
Could you please explain the title, Anti – Melody?
Anti-Melody is a bit of a inside joke from the first band that I ever recorded with. Our singer was struggling with a harmony and the producer said that he sang a great “Anti-Melody”. Over a decade later that phrase cane to me and I thought it was representative of the music and lyrical themes of separation.
Out of all your songs which one excites you the most when you perform it?
From the new album I love to play “Cancer Eater”. It has a very personal meaning to me and also hits hard in all the right places. I also like to play the old stuff like “The Still Life” which is a much more down tempo, moody song for us.
Are there any political or social issues hidden in American Standards songs?
So many in such that I don’t feel we really try to hide them. I’d like to think that we address each with a sense of tact though so that they can be left up to interpretation and not so overt to those that may not have an interest in that part of music.
Who does the songwriting for the band? Where is inspiration found?
We all share an equal part in the songwriting but I’m primarily the one who writes the lyrics. Most are a process of observation and self reflection.
What is the writing process like and the putting of songs in order?
We’re pretty old school in our song writing approach. It always starts with getting in a room and jamming. As for sequencing, we try to give the albums a good flow taking heed of the dynamics between songs.
Do you still buy cds or mostly use streaming sites? Which sites do you use? What do you like about them?
I loved the feeling of waiting for release day to buy a new album but I think that’s becoming less and less feasible. When I do, it’s more to support the artist even though I may still pull up the songs on Spotify or YouTube. It’s more convenient but the trade off is having that memory of where you were and who you were with when you first got it.
Top 5 albums released this year so far?
Converge – The Dusk In Us
At The Drive In – In • ter a • li • a
Employee To Serve – The Warmth Of A Dying Sun
Zao – Pyrrhic Victory
’68 – Two Parts Viper
Top 5 movies released this year so far?
The Big Sick
It Comes At Night
What endorsements do you have and what endorsements do you still want?
We have a handful through Blackcraft Cult, Degenerate Clothing, NORPA And Fuga Energy. For non music related, it’d be great to get High Brew Coffee and Secret Aardvark since I’m an avid consumer of both. We’d also like to start working with some of the gear companies that we all love but until then, we’re happy to purchase from them and support them all.
Bands you would love to tour with on a dream tour package and musician or artist you would like to meet and interrogate?
A few on the bucket list would be Refused, Poison The Well, Alexisonfire And Cancer Bats. Interrogate seems a bit harsh but it’d be great to share a drink with Tom Waits.
3 albums to take to your grave?
System Of A Down – Toxicity
MewithoutYou – A -> B Life
The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
What does rock n roll mean to you?
Individuality. Imperfection. Emotion over skill.
Final thoughts, shout outs, dirty jokes?
Just a big thank you for having me. It’s people like you who have helped this band thrive as an independent act. Also a quick shout out to my long time friend Matt Lopez and his wife that are getting married this week.
ANTI-MELODY which had premiers on Revolver Magazine, Alternative Press and Lambgoat; is available now on iTunes, Google Music, Amazon and Spotify or you can pick it up along with exclusive merchandise through the American Standards Bandcamp page.