Just over two years has passed since All That Remains’ guitarist Oli Herbert’s death. There has since been a pending investigation around the event. Some are calling it an accident; some are saying Herbert had some deep internal demons he was coping with and others have some alternative opinions. But the one thing the surviving band members and fans agree on is justice. For two years, vocalist Phil Labonte has been seeking an answer to the unexpected death of his dear friend. In the interim he has been doing all he can to continue on without him.
“He was 44, and that’s really young. I truly believe he didn’t have to be gone,” Labonte tells American Songwriter.
Herbert died on October 16, 2018 on his property in Connecticut. State Police have an active investigation open on the matter to decipher the means in which he died. He was found at the edge of a shallow pond, face down. Toxicology reports showing anti-depressants in Herbert’s system at time of death uncovered some evidence to potential answers, but Labonte says the inference that Herbert was dealing with some depression or mental health issues was not an accurate portrayal of the friend he knew.
“Oli kind of got to a point in his life where he was really getting out more,” Labonte said. “So the idea of him being depressed just isn’t right to me. He loved touring. He loved playing shows. Most towns that we would roll into, he would be like, ‘yeah, I’ve got some friends that I’m going to meet up with.’ And he started going out and doing stuff like ShipRocked. I’m not a big fan of cruises and stuff, so he went and played by himself.”
Labonte remembers Herbert being kind of an introvert in the early days of the band, but his love for music always shined through any façade he put up to the rest of the world. The last five years Herbert was in the band he was always connecting and reaching out to other artists—one of which he sincerely admired, Jason Richardson of Chelsea Grin and Born of Osiris. Labonte recalled their first tour with Born of Osiris in 2011 and how Herbert was blown away by Richardson’s talent, telling Labonte, ‘you guys need to see this kid play.’ Labonte remembers Herbert feeling a bit discouraged about his own guitar skills after watching Richardson, who had a lasting impact on Herbert from day one, becoming someone Herbert and All That Remains valued as a friend and player.
“It was funny because it was like, Oli was almost a little intimidated, I guess,” adds Labonte.”He was like ‘this kid’s like 17 years old and better than me.’ And so when Oli passed away, we couldn’t think of another person out there that he would have rather had play in that spot.”
After Herbert’s death Richardson was recruited by All That Remains to fill Herbert’s role and also filled a little bit of that piece that was missing from losing a friend, though Herbert could never be completely replaced. Still the band wanted to try to forge on without him and revive the band. In late 2019, All That Remains started teasing fans with potential new music for 2021. But all plans were halted when the pandemic hit the world. During that time, they have partially recorded new material for the next record and are considering some new approaches to their releases, taking some hints from hip-hop practices.
“You know, the hip-hop and r&b industry really got ahead of this years back when they started releasing two or three songs and they go on tour and support those singles,” Labonte said. “And I think that most other genres, probably would do well to follow suit. The heavy rock industry has not caught up to that.”
Some of what will be the next record is already written, but All That Remains has a lot to still complete with Richardson and the remaining members, who are all long-distance, stretched out over one coast to the next.
“There are parts that are written,” Labonte said. “But as it became more and more apparent that no one was going to be sure when we could tour, we didn’t see a reason to rush it.”
As the band readies to complete the next record, potentially this year or next, their attention remains on Herbert’s pending case and remembering the man and musician he was.
“I have been doing everything and anything that I can possibly do to help the state of Connecticut,” Labonte said. “And I will continue to in the future.”
Eagerly wanting to remember Herbert as the friend he was to Labonte, the band along with fans have toyed with the idea of hosting benefits for Herbert and even starting a charity or project in Herbert’s name. “We talked about ideas to do a benefit to raise money for kids in schools, but we can’t do anything that has his name on it,” Labonte said.
The obstacle encountered with those endeavors was because Herbert’s wife Elizabeth had entered into some financial disputes with All That Remains regarding Herbert’s estate and has since made any effort for the band to use Herbert’s name impossible. The band states that they have always paid everything owed to Oli Herbert’s estate and will continue to do so. They are not interested in any hassle or retaining any money owed to Herbert’s estate.
“We’ve made sure that that our accountants and all the people that work with us know any money that is owed to Olli Herbert’s estate must be paid to Oli Herbert’s estate,” Labonte explained. “And we have absolutely no interest in not paying. It’s not worth any kind of hassle for the amount of money.”
The idea of starting a school-music program was a primary project that Herbert always talked about doing and is a venture Labonte intends to whole-heartedly complete one day, as part of Herbert’s living legacy.
“Oli absolutely loved music,” Labonte said. “And I would love to see kids that don’t feel comfortable, the kids that are kind of awkward, or a little weird—I would love to see them look at Oli and be like, ‘I could be a rock star too.’ Because Oli, he was kind of a weird dude too.”
Stretching beyond Herbert’s desire to inspire kids with music, Labonte sees kids’ futures in music influenced more so by the growing age of technology and recording.
“You know with music nowadays, there’s so much that you can do with computers,” Labonte said. “There’s a lot of people that don’t see guitar as such an important thing. And I think that it’s worth telling kids, ‘look if you’re interested in music, learn how to use something like Pro Tools. Because for maybe a thousand bucks you’ve got almost all the instruments you can imagine.”
Taking his own advice, Labonte imagines a good amount of the next All That Remains record will be produced and recorded using a similar DIY approach due to the pandemic.
“We will be taking a significant portion of the production and stuff into our own hands because it’s something that we’re capable of doing now,” Labonte says. “We’ve used the time with COVID to kind of expand our knowledge base throughout the band.”
While All That Remains continues to sketch out what the next record will be, their first with Richardson, they are also considering some promotion for the 15th anniversary of their breakthrough record, The Fall of Ideals. And while you may not be able to see All That Remains live, you can relive their music and some of Herbert’s best solos on that very album.
While All That Remains strives to do everything to seek an outcome for Herbert’s death and case, you can help the band by picking up some nostalgic merch and checking out their last record with Herbert, Victim of the New Disease.