Our chat was scheduled for 11.45am on a beautiful Friday morning. At 11.58am, I’m anxious if those two missed calls from an hour ago might have been something important. By 12.08, my phone rings. Brandon Saller, drummer and clean vocalist for seminal metalcore outfit Atreyu welcomes me in his warm Californian accent. There is a weariness to his voice. It betrays a lack of respite from demanding preparations for the band’s first live shows in almost four years.
Band practice and endless interviews seem to be life for the Californian five-piece these days, but Brandon isn’t complaining. “The guys in charge draw the proverbial straws on who gets to handle the interviews, but i don’t mind at all. There are definitely interviews and questions that are obviously really really boring, but most of the time they’re not. You already sound like you’re going to be glorious to speak to.”
The big questions are the whys and hows of Atreyu ending their four year hiatus, but i was more interested in the challenges Atreyu faced in coming back to this life after the long extended break. “I think that getting back into the mindset of this particular band is very different. Everyone’s lives have drastically changed for the better over the last four years. Getting back into the zone of being in Atreyu, something that was our entire lives for 12 or 13 years, is very challenging. Obviously it was a big part of our lives and it is now again, but we all have new things as well that have become great things in our lives. So we just have to make sure that every step we take coming back as a band, is taken slow, basing every decision on the fact that it feels right rather than we are forcing it.”
It’s at this point I remind Brandon of the irony in saying Atreyu are taking things slow. Since the announcement of their reformation, their first show back in Orange County at Chain Reaction sold out in 30 seconds. They were then booked to play Knotfest in October alongside some of the biggest metal bands in the world before making their way back to Australia for Soundwave in 2015. But Brandon validates his point. “If you think about old Atreyu, we used to tour 10 months out of the year, for us to start off just with a few shows in California and then working towards a nice two week holiday in Australia that we just happen to play some shows in, we are happy.”
“I don’t think we’ve ever heard anyone having a single qualm with touring Australia. Any band with any sort of brain has to love touring there.”
Reflecting on past visits to Australian shows, he’s reminded about a tour they did with Unearthed & Norma Jean around 10 years ago. I was curious how the band felt about the difference between the international touring scene then and how it is today. Back then, Australia would host one or two international bands a month. “I think we’ve always had such awesome fans in Australia that we always felt we couldn’t get out there enough. It’s one of furthest places in the world for us to travel, but we’d always do our best to get out there at least once an album cycle. So the demand from the fans for more tours is a very welcome thing i think for all bands. I don’t think we’ve ever heard anyone having a single qualm with touring Australia. Any band with any sort of brain has to love touring there.”
Atreyu’s got brains. Throwing themselves back into tour this year also playing Knotfest last month. Playing the main stage with Slipknot, Volbeat, Five Finger Death Punch, and US rapper Tech N9ne. Brandon is always excited for these kind of shows, saying varied line ups, of which Atreyu are absolutely no strangers, are some of his favourites to play. “I personally love playing those kind of shows. We’ve been really lucky in our touring that we’ve gone on tour with everyone from Slipknot to Taking Back Sunday, and everyone in between. We’ve played Warped Tour, and we’ve played OzzFest, something very few bands get to do. That’s the best way to do it, at a show like Knotfest there are Slipknot fans, there are Atreyu fans, there are Volbeat fans, but all those fans are going to be exposed to different types of music that they may not have heard before.”
There was a major backlash against the more recent albums Atreyu has produced, a vibe that the band has accepted and is trying to make amends for. In a post on their Facebook, lead singer Alex Varkatzas said the band was thinking about writing new music, something for the fans. He ended the post with “PS. Yes there will be tons (sic) of screaming and shredding ala (sic) the curse etc. none of that major label BS.”
Brandon’s theory on the situation is quite a hopeful one. “For us, there was never a situation of too many cooks in the kitchen when we moved to the major label. We have always been a band that experimented with new sounds and new styles, trying to expand on what we have already done. What Alex is saying with that no major label bullshit is the new music we’ve been toying with is unapologetically abrasive. There’s nothing very radio about it. There’s nothing pop about it. We’re trying to get back to where we were when we first started the band, all we wanted to do was fucken destroy a 300 person capacity club. We just want to go back to fast and heavy. We’ve written and recorded a few songs, and it’s coming up awesome, but we are trying to keep our mouths shut on this. I’ll say this much, it’s very heavy, and a punch in the face for heavy metal fans.”
Here’s hoping we won’t have to wait too long to hear their new tracks. Asked about setlists for upcoming shows, Brandon promises this: “There’ll be a treat or two in there”.
Atreyu will play Soundwave Festival 2015.
Saturday, February 21 – Bonython Park, Adelaide (Day 1)
Saturday, February 21 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (Day 2)
Sunday, February 22 – Bonython Park, Adelaide (Day 2)
Sunday, February 22 – Flemington Racecourse, Melbourne (Day 1)
Saturday, February 28 – Olympic Park, Sydney (Day 1)
Saturday, February 28 – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (Day 2)
Sunday, March 1 – Olympic Park, Sydney (Day 2)
Sunday, March 1 – RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane (Day 1)