Q&A: All That Remains

Courtesy Photo All That Remains is (from left to right) Jeanne Sagan (bass), Oli Herbert (guitar), Phil Labonte (vocals), Jason Costa (drums), and Mike Martin (guitar).

Courtesy Photo All That Remains is (from left to right) Jeanne Sagan (bass), Oli Herbert (guitar), Phil Labonte (vocals), Jason Costa (drums), and Mike Martin (guitar).

All That Remains happened to pick an excellent band name when they first started out.

The melodic metal band from Springfield, Mass. started as a side project for frontman Phil Labonte in 1998. After making it a full-time gig in 2002, the band went on to last more than a decade in the music scene and span an impressive seven full-length albums, more than 2 million tracks combined sold and four Top 25 Billboard Top Album chart debuts.

The group consists of vocalist Labonte, guitarists Oli Herbert and Mike Martin, bassist Aaron Patrick drummer Jason Costa, with Labonte and Herbert being the two original members. the band’s line-up had remained consistent from the release of 2008’s Overcome until 2015’s The Order of Things, spanning four albums. This line-up changed, however, in September 2015, when long-time bassist Jeanne Sagan left the band.

The band is coming through town next week to George’s Majestic Lounge Wednesday, Dec. 2 at 9 p.m. with Devour the Day and Sons of Texas supporting.

We got the chance to speak with the band’s lead guitarist Oli Herbert while the band was in Albuquerque, N. M. Check out our Q&A:

TFW: Here ya go, a question about your genre. Metal is such a broad genre nowadays, like most all genres. You guys definitely hit it hard though. I’d love to get your two cents on fitting in on such an evolving genre and staying relevant.

HERBERT: I see ourselves as a melodic metal band. We cover a wide array of the genre. We have some heavier songs, we have some lighter songs, fast and slow. If you call us a metal band, I think that covers us pretty well. Anything with the word core in it makes me roll my eyes. There’s rock, and there’s metal. I know there’s other genres that you can pin point, but it’s all music. You either like or you don’t.

When someone says post, like post hardcore, I’m always like what the hell are you talking about? A lot of that stuff drives me nuts [laughs].

TFW: When you pick up a guitar in your practice or free time, how much of what you play could be described as metal? What are some of your favorite styles of guitar? Do you play any other instruments?

HERBERT: I go through phases. One of my favorite non metal things to do is to work on jazz. I work on improv and chord progressions, and furthering my understanding of harmony. I’m just trying to bring a wider vocabulary to my metal playing. Sometimes I’ll open up a violin book, like Mozart or Beethoven to get new ideas. I’m always listening for new things. It could just be a random song and hear three notes of its melody and I go “Oh, what can I do with that?” Everything is fair game.

I started off with piano when I was 9 years old. I can find my way around it okay. I played trombone in high school and a couple different ones in college because I had to in music school. I’m not really proficient in anything besides guitar, bass, banjo and mandolin. Guitar is my main thing. I haven’t fully absorbed bluegrass yet, but from what I’ve heard I’ve enjoyed it.

TFW: I’m interested to learn how you pull influences from different genres of music to put to use for your writing in All That Remains. How does it work for you?

HERBERT: Well, it’s very simple. Music is really just three separate elements. Melody, rhythm and harmony. Anything can be transported into the other. If I hear a catchy pop melody, I can turn that into a really heavy metal song with using a tight rhythm.

You could take half the pop songs on the radio right now, Taylor Swift or whatever, and you could convert them into some serious metal tunes because they’re in minor keys. You mess with the rhythms a little bit and add some evil harmonic texture, and there you go. Metal song. One of my pet peeves is when you take away that whole, “This is too this or too that,” it’s still just notes and rhythm. If you just look at it as notes and rhythm, it makes the enjoyment music much greater if that makes any sense.

I think a lot of younger people especially will write a riff and think, “Oh that’s stupid. That reminds me of this, this and this…” and they edit themselves before really exploring the possibility of what they can do with it. I try to be someone who can transmute anything into anything else as long as it has something compelling about it. It could be a fun little exercise to do.

Your ear is the most important instrument, no matter what you play.

TFW: When you guys are writing, how does the band communicate ideas? Does everyone show up with an abstract feeling or idea or full chord charts?

HERBERT: Phil likes to get to the point as quick as possible with most songs, getting to the point of what’s going to catch the attention. That’s done with having highs and lows with dynamics in intensity or volume. You have to look at the overall event. If everyone is going full bore all the time and competing for that attention space, it becomes messed up. That takes time and arguing. That’s probably the hardest part to decide what’s going to take the foreground and background. You have to alter your parts. You got to be a team player.

TFW: What are some life lessons you’ve learned from traveling and living the life of a musician?

HERBERT: You have to be persistent in your art. You have to not be sensitive sometimes. You’re going to play in front of crowds who will hate you just because you’re not the headliner or they don’t like the buttons on your shirt or something. You got to go up there and do your job and do the best you can. At the end of the day, if your band is progressing and getting bigger that’s great. If not, but you’re still loving it, keep doing it. You basically do it until you succeed or you fail. Unless you absolutely fail and you quit, that’s fine. Then it wasn’t for you in the first place.

We’ve been through that. You just have to keep going. Perseverance is really key. You can have a lot of attachments at home like a wife and kids, and that’s not a good thing to have unfortunately. You have to be prepared to be broke and hungry unless you get lucky. But a lot of people won’t.

People will dismiss you because you’re not getting results. I’ve dealt with that. People will tell you you’re an idiot for not playing cover tunes. They see it as if you spent this much time, you should get this much money. You have to do what you want to do and the way you want to do it. If people bite and they’re into it, that means you won. If you compromise and go back to folding clothes for a living, which I’m not knocking anybody who quits music. If you have the right kind of attitude and you’re in it for the long run, most likely you will succeed at some level. There are different levels of success.

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