American Standards Interview

American Standards is an American hardcore punk band from Phoenix, Arizona, formed in 2011. The band consists of members Brandon Kellum (vocals), Corey Skowronski (lead guitar), Steven Mandell (bass), and Mitch Hosier (drums). Their musical style is rooted in technical hardcore with strong elements of punk and metal. They've captured the attention of metal rock fans everywhere, as their high energy, and intense live shows bleed a raw sound. Lead vocalist and songwriter Kellum is also duly noted to created socio-politically charged lyrics which have included topics such corporate satire, materialism, personal struggle and urban alienation. To date, the group has released four albums, five music videos, and multiple demos.

Interview with Brandon Kellum of American Standards

Jane Porter: Where are you all from originally?      

Brandon Kellum: We're pretty evenly scattered throughout the U.S. Corey's from Chicago, Steven's from New York then both Mitch and I were born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona.

JP: Your musical influences are wide and varied. Tom Waits to Led Zeppelin... Rob Zombie. How have you taken these variations and applied them to American Standards sound?

Brandon Kellum: I think it keeps things interesting. A lot of bands stick to a few influences and in doing so may limit their potential for creating something new and unique. We all grew up on a pretty eclectic mix so each seems to find their way in our writing in some form or another. Whether it be the lyrical genius of Tom Waits or the larger than life stage presence of Rob Zombie.

JP: Your debut full-length album, Still Life, was released in 2012, listening to the progression of your music to your last album in 2014, Hungry Hands, there is a definite lyrical social structure.
Brandon Kellum: Yeah, I think a lot of the lyrical content comes innately. I've never been one to sit down and say that I need to write a song. When I write, it comes more organically. It's like the words are already there and I just need to put them to paper. When it comes time to record I like to sit back and take in the mood and dynamics of the song and then match them to the lyrics and ideas that compliment it best.

JP: Since AS is labeled a metalcore band... yet, the lyrics scream punk... where do you yourselves define your responsibility as artists to the sound creations and your fans?

Brandon Kellum: That's a good question. You know, I don't think we're held to being anything more than honest. Giving the people that come to see us a show that's rooted in a genuine passion for what we're doing and the message we're putting out there. Whether it gets labeled as punk, metal or otherwise, it doesn't really get much attention in our writing process.

JP:: Digging around you and listening to your lyrics you can find some pretty heavy reflections on America. Where do you see us heading as a country? Do you find hope in any aspects?
"We’re overwhelmed with the underwhelming
Overfed and starving for more
Buying all the pitch is selling​..."

Brandon Kellum: Absolutely. I think now more than ever America's youth is starting to actively engage in the political discussion. We're in a click and share culture that allows us to share our thoughts to a larger audience quicker than ever. That's something that should be encouraged and in itself is a reason to be optimistic. With millennial now making up the largest portion of the population, though, this new found interest brings responsibility. I think where we have opportunity is in how we consume and react to the media that ultimately shapes our beliefs. Although technology allows us to filter down to exactly who or what we want to see, it also allows us to blind ourselves to those with a different perspective. That effect further separates people into an "us vs them" tribe mentality where one side is automatically the "good" guys and the other, the "bad."
We can't fight hate with hate. It only polarizers further.
I think what we need to do is start on the other side and slowly work our way back until we have a true understanding of where they're coming from and why. That common ground will go further than any act of protest or misdirected passion.

JP: Can you give me a complete timeline of your discography?

Brandon Kellum: 2011  American Standards, 2012 Still Life, 2013 The Death Of Rhythm & Blues, and 2014 Hungry Hands.

JP: Over the past ten years as you reflect on each album created, what do you feel has been your greatest asset in developing as musicians?

Brandon Kellum: As simple as it sounds, age and the experience that come with it. I think when you're younger, you're far more impressionable to the latest trend. It's easier to follow rather than lead. At least for me, that put me in a spot where I felt I was competing to be the fastest, heaviest or most technical. As I've grown, though, I've really found an appreciation for dynamics, the contrast between parts and good structure. I think a good song is rooted in interesting ideas- not the complexity of playing them. With that realization though is also the understanding that not everyone will like or appreciate what you're doing and that's okay.

JP: 2014 came, you managed a Kickstarter for your last album, Hungry Hands, then took a unique direction in distribution. How did you find the route you took to work overall and are you considering doing something similar again?

Brandon Kellum: It was a blessing and a curse. American Standards has always had a DIY mindset at its very core. I think much of our message coincides with the idea that you can take control of your life and be the change that you want to see in the world. So self-releasing the album was liberating in a sense that we were working on our own timeline and completely responsible for the end product. It was also awesome to connect with fans in a new way and really have this overwhelming sense of community and support.
It was a LOT of work, though. We spent several sleepless nights creating all the perks packages, mailing out and trying to really show people how much we appreciated their vote of confidence. In the end, it was all worth it though and we learned a lot from the experience.

JP: When might we expect a new album? Full-length possibly? Any working title?

Brandon Kellum: Soon! We'll actually be back in California through June and much of July recording at Kingsize Soundlabs (The Mars Volta, LetLive, OFF!). The goal is to have a full length out by the end of 2016.

JP: You and Corey Skowronski, guitarist, are the two original founding members of AS. How did the two of you meet?

Brandon Kellum: It's funny story. Initially, Corey had responded to a Craigslist ad we had up for a bassist. We already had some local shows lined up and the day of his audition we had a photographer lined up to take some promo shots. What we did was take one set with him and one set without just in case of things didn't work out.
Fast forward 5 years and I stumble across an email even prior to American Standards in which apparently the two of us had traded some emails back and forth about starting a band years before we had met. Didn't work out at the time but glad it all came full circle.

JP: Where do you find your traction? This industry is tough... but something inside a musician needs to create. What keeps the momentum going forward?

Brandon Kellum: I think we just have the right group of guys that respect each other and share the same vision and values. A lot of people think you need money or fame to be happy. I think we're proof that neither holds weight. We also don't have the looks and our talent is debatable. What we have is a passion that we're not afraid to follow as far as it'll take us.
Anyone with the same drive can do the same and should. Following our dreams pushes us forward. The experiences we have along the way is the payoff.

JP: How challenging is it to get everyone on board and focused on the same dream?

Brandon Kellum: It's tough. I've got, to be honest. Anyone that's started a band knows that finding people with the same drive that aren't already up to their neck in other projects is nearly impossible. When you do, though, it comes easy.

JP: You'll be sharing the stage soon with the band '68.  What else and where else are you planning on taking AS fans 2016-2017?

Brandon Kellum: We're already planning a west coast and Midwest run for 2016. Early 2017 we'll be doing the east coast in support of the new album and if everything works out, the U.K. won't be far behind.
Catch American Standards as they plan to head out across the U.S. in support of their new album. Technically a metal rock sound that brings a punk'd tude with it addressing modern times issues, societal degradation, cultural movements altogether showcasing a sound undeniably American Standards searing screams of hardcore licks.

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