Atreyu are synonymous with the rise and fall (and now return?) of metalcore. From being one of the genre leaders when the style broke, and broke big, in the early 2000’s to putting the band on ice in 2011 when the scene had burned to the ground, if you think “metalcore”, the chances are Atreyu aren’t too far behind that thought. Four years have passed and they’re back with a new album Long Live, a new label (Spinefarm) and a new level of professionalism. Drummer, clean vocalist and one of the band’s leading song-writers Brandon Saller was only too happy to speak to Ghost Cult about the last four years and putting the band back together.
“We had been touring for so long, and our whole life had been Atreyu for so long” begins Saller, a most open, friendly and professional interviewee. “It started getting to a point where we were burned and didn’t want to be going through the motions for a pay check; this is our job, but we do feel we should enjoy it. We wanted to take a break, though we didn’t know if it was going to be permanent, or a year, or what, but we felt we had to stop for a while.”
“A few of us would talk here and there, but honestly it was quite a separation” concludes the sticksman.
After an intense decade that had seen five albums of continued success with Atreyu on a conveyor belt of album, tour, festivals (repeat ad infinitum) and with the members each giving the best part of their twenties to the band, the need to see life away from the same other four faces became pressing. “I think me and Alex (Varkatzas – vocals) probably went the longest (without speaking), I don’t think I talked to Alex more than a handful of times in that four years but not for any other reason than we were doing our own thing.
“We really did just need to live our own lives for a bit. A band is not a business; it’s like a marriage but with five people instead of two! When we separated it was – cool, we’ve seen enough of each other in the last 15 years, so let’s go do our own things.”
Slowly but surely as time went by, the itch began to return. Three years after they announced the hiatus came time to think about dusting off the war horse and riding out again…
“The question of when we would come back started to raise itself about a year ago. Everyone was asking if we were going to do a Curse (Victory) (ten year) thing, but we’ve always been a band that likes to try and move forward. Our first step was to get together to write and in the first batch of songs was ‘So Others May Live’ (which appears on Long Live) and it was “Oh, this feels good”, so we stepped it up to do a couple of shows.”
Dusting off a war horse and getting back in the saddle to take that first gallop are two very different things… “We were a bit scared we wouldn’t remember some of the songs!” laughs Saller. “It had been a long time, but it felt good getting back into it, honestly. It felt exciting.”
And (switching metaphors) once the wheels had started turning, the juggernaut was on the move. Considering the size and success of the band prior to their time away there was a lot of interest in what the band were doing. “We purposely tried to shut out everything out and pay attention to writing” states Saller. “The record label hadn’t heard a lick of music before they signed us, they just signed us due to our history and that was important to us because there were some labels saying “Yeah, we want to hear some demos”, but we were like “Fuck you, there’s five albums of demos you can listen to on itunes!””
The backdrop to Atreyu’s return was a changed scene that had seen their peers progress to previously unchartered heights – Avenged Sevenfold had hit number one (“I support them. I love that they’re one of the biggest bands in the world. Avenged… are some of my great friends, and they’re killing it”), Trivium continue to be in the ascendancy (#sorrynotsorry) and have begun to headline festivals, Killswitch Engage reunited with Jesse Leach to produce the storming Disarm The Decent (Roadrunner)… Just coming back wasn’t enough. Atreyu had to up their game.
“We do all take a lot more pride in it now” is Saller’s response. “We want it more now. We want to be great now. We rehearse more than we ever did, and really enjoy it.
“I don’t feel competition, it’s more important to be positive about each other. You have to build up and hold up your peers. We’re all playing to the same kids and if we don’t support each other there will be no scene. You look at a band like Bullet For My Valentine, who have their new album out and had a great first week and they’re killing it, and I’m really happy for them. I’ve been commenting on social media a lot about the new Trivium, and every new song that comes out from them is fucking awesome.”
“There’s a weird thing at the moment where bands come back and get together for a tour to rake in some money, but we’re more interested in moving forward with the band. continues Saller on being asked if calling the album Long Live was for the obvious reason. “We wanted the title to represent that we’re back, yes.
“We took a needed rest, but now we can get back to the game, and that’s a big part of the album title. We’re doing things on our own terms now, so there will be another Atreyu album, but it might not be for a year and half, it might be sooner, we might stop for another year; it’ll be what we feel like and what feels right. At the end of the day, we’re not going to go away.
“Atreyu will always be around.”
And so to Long Live, an album that starts off with a quadruple volley of thrashing intent, before kicking back, picking things up with some rocking fare and taking things home with a closing set of full on aggressive metalcore anthems. “It is an Atreyu fans record” affirms the proud songwriter. “It’s an abrasive, energetic, heavy record that hints back to more of our youthful writing, but still using all the things we’ve learned along the way.
“If you like any moment of our history there’s something for you on this album.”
Live Long is released on September 18 via Spinefarm Records.