GRAMMY nominated, RIAA Certified Gold-selling rock band RED will release its seventh studio album, Declaration, on April 10. This upcoming collection, which includes the recently released track "Sever," will be the first album to be released by RED Entertainment. Comprised of Michael Barnes (vocals), identical twin brothers Anthony (guitars) and Randy Armstrong (Bass), and Dan Johnson (drums), RED is taking their new music and a bevy of its No. 1 hits and fan favorites on the road. The band is currently featured on the Winter Jam 2020 Tour and has an upcoming European run planned as well. We recently caught up with RED's Anthony Armstrong backstage at the Winter Jam stop in Pittsburgh, where he previewed what to expect from the upcoming album and talked openly about the role of fan support in keeping the RED ministry possible.
Around this time a year ago, the band announced the launch of RED Entertainment and with it a transition to your own label and management. How has that new opportunity impacted the group over this last year?
Well, it has been a lot of legwork first - the opportunities we don't quite know about yet. Our first record comes out April 10th, so everything we've been doing we will finally start getting some metrics. For right now, we just don't know. It's a good place to be, but also very scary, because we want to continue doing music, but financially it has to make sense. And that's the sad thing because we just want to make music as long as we can. We don't know what the future looks like - our last record on our old label was called 'Gone' because we just didn't know if we were going to be around after that. And we didn't know what our legacy was going to be after we were done with music. But we don't want to be done with music - we feel like there's something we haven't accomplished. So we are branching out and starting our own label to see what that is like and we had to get all of the right support and people in place. We needed to hire all of the people that the label would normally have, so that they are now under the RED Entertainment umbrella, which is expensive. So we're now putting everything we've got into that to see what happens - the record is our moneymaker. We would love to be able to have an account put aside to make another record, and another account put aside for touring. But our fans showed up in a big way when we did a GoFundMe. We had to almost educate [people about] how music works - the label was a bank that gave us the money. We would make the record, and then the fans would buy the record and pay back the bank. Now the band is asking the fans to buy the record upfront, which is tough for people because they want to know they're getting something good. So we need to make promises we can hopefully keep with our music. We really think we did accomplish something great with this record!
In November, your new EP ‘The Evening Hate’ was released. What has the response been like to those new songs?
We keep hearing "they're back". But I guess musically our fans are starting to see the difference when you have a label on your shoulder telling us what they need from us. We had some great experiences with our label, and we had some tough experiences with them. And a lot of the tough experiences were when they told us the kind of song we needed to write to finish off the package. It's tough to be an artist sometimes, because some of the things we were asked to do just weren't our band. So the fans are seeing the difference in the music already, which is good. We didn't go anywhere. But the reaction has been great, and we are pretty confident the record will do well because these new songs are very much like what they will hear on the record.
We also know that preparation is underway for a new RED album titled ‘Declaration’ coming April 10 with the first new song “Sever” being released today. Starting with that new single, can you talk about the story behind this new song?
So "Sever" isn't the first single, but what we are doing is called cascading, where we release songs as you want. So we are going to give the fans a song every month leading up to the release. So "Sever" was just one of the songs we chose to do this with. The first single we think will actually be the one that comes out in March, called "The War We Made". We are excited about that one - it's more of a ballad sound. But it's just a very powerful song. It's always scary because everyone will tell you exactly what they feel about things, but so far it's been great.
How would you describe the sound and messaging of the ‘Declaration’ album overall?
It is very heavy - a righteous anger. We could have been doing this for so long - to give them who we are and what we want. We can't complain - we've had a great career, but our fans just deserve everything we've got. And in order for us to get to this point, we had to go through a lot. It's not angry, as in mad or hate, but it's the defense mechanism like a shield of armor. We're just ready to tackle the music business again in our own way. It's the heaviest record we've ever done by far, but fans have begged us to do something like this. It's just nice to be able to spread our wings. But the songs are as heavy as they are melodic. It's everything RED fans should expect and more!
How will you define success for this new record?
I guess there are different angles you could come from. As a business, it would be selling enough to be able to make another one. As music makers, the stories that fans tell us and hearing their voices. We've always made sure our fans understand that this is a family. It's all about us wanting to make music, but ultimately, we are putting ourselves out there and giving fans something to absorb that's positive. It's important that they know that we love them. It's not a facade that we are putting on - we can't do this without them.
Here we are in Pittsburgh for the second week of this year’s Winter Jam Tour. What has been your standout or favorite moment of the night from Winter Jam 2020 so far?
I think all of the bands do so much planning for Winter Jam. We normally do 1,000 seat type venues, but these places are bigger. And everyone wants to put on a great show, so the most rewarding thing so far is seeing all of the planning pay off. The first night in Jacksonville, we rolled our gigantic riser up there. RED is known for doing theatrical things on Winter Jam that we've actually scaled it back quite a bit. We wanted to see what the reaction would be to just play music. The reactions have been great so far seeing the show come together. We didn't bring any crew with us this time, just a tour manager and a guy doing our merchandising. We are doing all the rest ourselves - driving the bus and guitar work, set up and tear down. It's an exhausting long day, but it's rewarding. We are trying to cut our teeth owning a new label and would like to get to the point where we can sign another artist at some point. And then we can say we were in the trenches and have done what they would be about to do.
What has the vibe been like backstage so far with this year's group of artists?
Well, it's only the second weekend, so everyone is still settling in. But I think everyone will start relaxing soon. There is an entertainment value to this because you do want to put on a good show for everyone, but we've got a lot of old friends on this tour. This is our seventh time on this tour, so we must be doing something right if they keep asking us back. I haven't met everybody yet but by the end of the tour, you don't want this to end.
Of the other artists on this year’s tour, who would you most like to collaborate with?
Well, we've always had people ask us to do something with a rap artist, so probably Andy [Mineo]. Andy's super talented so it would be something cool.
Finally, in addition to this Winter Jam Tour, you guys have been booked for a spring European tour. What is the biggest difference between touring stateside versus internationally?
The crowds are very different. They are fanatical. You feel like The Beatles over there - it's kind of scary. People can get a little bit nuts, but it's wild. I think it's because America is saturated with music, and then over there we've got the stigma that we are an American band. They don't speak our language and they don't quite understand us, but they are singing every word to every song. We'll speak between songs and it's just a cool energy. At the end of the day, one of our favorite places to go is Russia. And maybe it's because we are there as the band, but we just see people that are just like us - they want to have a happy life and love and live and just enjoy their time. This year we're playing a few places we haven't gone before - Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. It's going to be epic!