Soundwave Special – Atreyu

Kris Peters continues his series of interviews with bands playing Soundwave 2015. This time he catches up with Atreyu.

It takes a lot of bravery, or some would say stupidity, to work on a project for over a decade of your life then walk away from it, unsure if or when you would ever return to it.

Even more so when the fruits of that toil are reaping enormous benefits and popularity and finally has you at the point you have always dreamed of being.

To do so in the music world is almost akin to professional suicide but at the time the members of Orange County’s Atreyu neither cared nor considered the consequences.

To them it was a break they needed to have if they were to survive and prolong their career, a decision which seems to have worked in their favour with the arrival of new song “So Other’s May Live” and the selling out of their comeback concert in less than one minute.

“Yeah it’s been a little bit of time coming,” guitarist Dan Jacobs laughed at their comeback after a self imposed “hiatus” in 2011.
“It’s amazing to be back, it feels good. It’s kind of like riding a bike in a way. We haven’t worked together for a while and we got back in and started writing again and it was very natural. We just went back in and it was exactly how we’d always done things and it feels good and exciting. We kinda zoned out there for a while so it’s good to be back.”

Since bursting onto the scene with debut album Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses in 2002 (they released their first independent 7 track E.P, Visions, in 1998), Atreyu grew to be one of the leading forces in metal music, but for reasons then unknown to their fans they pulled stumps on recording albums after 2009’s Congregation of the Damned.

“With anything, if you start getting burnt out on something or tired or whatever, your energy goes as well as your excitement but right now both of those things are higher than they’ve ever been,” Dan explained.

“It just got very tiring towards the end. We started playing and touring when we were in our late teens and we toured and made records and travelled non – stop. It was like being in Never Never Land, we never really got a chance to grow up. We were these kids going for it and I think everybody really wanted to take a break to where we could establish ourselves outside of the band and see what we were made of as people – as individuals – and by doing that I think it was refreshing for ourselves. And also by doing that we unintentionally starved the market of our music so now a lot of people are excited again and we’re excited again and it feels a lot better than it did four years ago. I think it’s the perfect situation to be in right now.”

“I think the excitement around when you’re writing music goes when you start to feel burnt out and it’s hard to get inspired and really pump out something that you’re proud of but right now the chemistry is so good that everything we’re writing is coming out bigger and we’ve learnt so much in that time and had that many more experiences that it is allowing us to come back into this knowing exactly what to do and how to approach things. I guess we’re just a lot more confident than we’ve ever been.”

That learning and growth Dan talks about came in the form of some of the members of Atreyu going off and doing their own projects in the time apart. Vocalist Alex Varkatzes joined with Bleeding Through vocalist Brandan Schieppati to form I Am War, drummer and vocalist Brandon Saller formed Hell or High Water and guitarist Travis Miguel played in Fake Figures and then Trapt, and Dan believes these side ventures have helped the current sound and direction of Atreyu. “It definitely helps strengthen your main band,” he said. “Just because that to be the best musician and songwriter you can be you have to take influences from everything. You have to be open to all kinds of music. You have to try to write and listen to all kinds of music and by doing that it widens your musical vocabulary, so when it comes time to writing you have a better understanding of every note and every way it can be presented. It makes it easier and more interesting when it comes time to writing I think because everyone is going out and getting in different bands and doing different things so you spend a lot of time in new situations and it takes you outside of your usual writing environment and the way you normally think and write in Atreyu. You kind of have to stretch your brain creatively a little bit so when you come back to Atreyu everybody has a more rounded way of writing.”

Throughout their album cycle, Atreyu’s music went through subtle changes, with things like vocal harmonies becoming more prominent and the earlier full metal assault morphing into a more accessible style of heavy music, and Dan agrees that evolution is an important and necessary aspect of music.

“I think the evolution process is more like a growing process,” he said. “With us we felt the need to keep evolving and getting better and after going through five full length albums I think we’ve finally found ourselves and know what we’re good at and what we’re comfortable playing and we can really hit the nail on the head with what we feel our ideal sound is. Every band has to evolve and I feel like when bands do that part of the revolution is coming full circle and almost going back to where you started but at the same time you come back to that starting point much more educated and much more experienced so it’s like having a grander, more glorified version of your original form.”

One thing Atreyu has learned from and used to harness their sound is the ability to distance themselves from other people’s opinions and expectations.

“We used to feel pressure from fans and stuff,” Dan stated. “It was something we were really aware of: the fans, the press, all kinds of forms of anybody being able to judge us and putting it out to where we have access to it, but as you get older you realize you just can’t please all of the people all of the time and it’s more important to please yourself because when you’re happy and genuinely stoked for what it is you’re creating your fans will feel and they’ll appreciate that and when you’re second guessing what you’re doing and you’re doing it to appease fans and to appease your label then the fans can feel that too and it doesn’t feel right and that can only affect your music and your career. I think it’s really important to just be yourself and do what you love and what feels good to you and the rest will follow.”

With a new single, the aforementioned “So Other’s May Live”, a few concerts penciled in and a date with Soundwave next year, what else do Atreyu have planned after so long away?
“Well a new album isn’t on the immediate agenda just yet,” Dan almost appologised. “Initially we were just working on this song but in working on that we wrote a few other songs and from there the feeling is that now we’ve got a couple of songs why not just keep going? Hopefully by the time we come out to Australia next year we’ll have something. There’s nothing fortified in stone but it (an album) is definitely something we’re talking about and working towards. Other than that we’re just letting people know we’re back and giving you a taste of what direction we’re going in. Old Atreyu fans, I’m really excited for them to hear the new stuff because it is really for them. I know that anyone that has stuck by us over these 15 years appreciates the old Atreyu as well as the later stuff, but especially the older music where we were really a lot more aggressive and that feels comfortable for us. The new stuff is coming out like (album) The Curse on steroids so it’s pretty exciting!”

Kris Peters

Atreyu play the Soundwave Festival next February and March. For tickets and more details visit the Soundwave website.
“So Other’s May Live” is available for free download from the bands website.

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