As we previously reported, Atreyu and their founding vocalist Alex Varkatzas were having beef for a while, and now the “inventors of metalcore” have announced the departure of Varkatzas from the band after twenty-plus years. The band broke the news via a Facebook post. Alex Varkatzas has also made a statement, you can see below. Continue reading
UPDATE: Alex took to social media to refute this report, but has since left the band. According to a published report from Lambgoat, Alex Varkatzas and Atreyu have parted ways. Varkatzas helped found the band in 1998 as Retribution when he was just 14, and the band was one of the leading acts of the American metalcore revolution. Continue reading
Tough news as Atreyu’s Alex Varkatzas has announced he won’t be taking part due to critical back pain issues and other health concerns. Alex long statement explaining the situation, the frontman has reassured fans that the rest of the band will still be playing the shows as planned, and that he should be making his return in time for their Rockstar Energy Disrupt Festival run starting on June 21. Continue reading
When Atreyu’s Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses (Victory) was released in 2002, the band was entering a sonic journey in the prime time of the Orange County Metalcore scene. They have stayed relevant by releasing six strong full-lengths since. This year, they celebrate their 20-year anniversary with the release of their seventh album In Our Wake (Spinefarm). Continue reading
Since coming off of their hiatus, Orange County metalcore stalwarts Atreyu have released their latest album Long Live. They had just completed a string of European festival appearances and an array of one off shows, testing the waters of where they stood as a band.
Guitarist Dan Jacobs spoke about the band’s return, and figuring out the band’s relevance in the current scene. What they discovered was a lot more than what they expected.
“We knew people wanted it. To an extent we weren’t really sure, but we were seeing it via social networking and what not. People kept hitting us up ‘when are you guys coming back’ the entire time we were gone. So let’s see what this is like. So we went and came back and the first show we sold it out literally within seconds. We’ve never done that before. That alone was the catalyst of ‘we need to keep going.’ “
He admitted that he was the one who got things in motion, in terms of restarting Atreyu and getting the wheels in motion.
“I was knocking on everyone’s door the entire time we were on and ended up waiting until everybody was on the same page at the same time. We eventually got back.”
Nearly a year ago was their big return at Knotfest 2014 in Devore, CA and fans greeted them with a huge welcome. Expecting the unexpected, Jacobs said that things had surpassed his expectations.
“The whole thing is very surreal. It feels like time travel and it’s like snap my fingers and the band’s on hiatus; and snapping my fingers again and we’re back all of a sudden. Snap my fingers again and a year and a half later we have an album out, and the response has been incredible. It’s just crazy to be sitting here at a sold out show at the Troubadour. The whole thing is very surreal. I don’t think however long I ever do this I will ever be able to wrap my head around how I ever made it to this point.”
He also spoke about their rabid fan base helping them selling out a number of their return shows on several stops. Unlike before their hiatus, Atreyu appears to have gained more popularity than before and Jacobs had a different approach at seeing where they stood in the present.
“In a way I think there’s a different level of respect for our band that wasn’t there before. People appreciated it but I feel us taking this time off and people getting to ingest what’s out there. I hate to say this but a lot of what’s out there isn’t very good these days, especially in our genre of music in particular. So I think it’s refreshing for people to hear a band like us to come back and go ‘oh wow…this is what this kind of music is supposed to sound like. This is it done right.’ “
He explained on Long Live, they went back to the basics and took the best parts of their career, making it into the highlights of each era. Working with Fred Archambault (Avenged Sevenfold, Alice Cooper, Device), he helped get the best performances on each song and show what they have learned about themselves and their sound. The album took a huge step up and it shows why their fans were eagerly awaiting their return.
“With Atreyu, especially on our first few albums, we sounded a certain way. There’s an evolution there but we sound a certain way. We took a left turn on Lead Sails Paper Anchor, and even on Congregation [of the Damned] we were still on that weird path. Finally we got that out of our system. So let’s go back to what we love doing, or originally were doing and what we do best. That’s what we’re most confident with. It took us doing all of these other things to own that.”
“So now that we’re going into writing it, it came out very naturally and it sounds way bigger and better. You can hear the confidence in it. The response we’re getting on is incredible. It’s working which is awesome.”
The last song on Long Live, “Reckless,” took a left turn and returned to their earlier, more abrasive sounds. Letting their guard down, Atreyu threw down some meatier sounds that have been left off of some of their recent recordings.
“It was just let everybody loose. A lot of our songs we put to a typical song structure – verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, chorus… – we wanted to have one song kind of like some of our earlier records where it wasn’t as structured. We didn’t want to go down too much. When you have too much structure, it gets weird. It’ll lose that vibe and flows in there. We wanted to have at least one song that has that. It’s something that is where we came from. So that is what ‘Reckless’ is.”
Following their last two albums (2007’s Lead Sails Paper Anchor and 2009’s Congregation of the Damned), they experienced being on a major label (Hollywood Records) and entering the world of rock radio. They quickly learned where their strengths and weaknesses lay and they did not fit into that world the way many had envisioned them at the time.
“The radio aspect of it really pushing the singles was a little frustrating for us. For us, writing singles was not something we aim for. It’s just that we have certain songs that shine more than others and those were the singles. We preferred to write that way so we’re not trying so hard to get that single.”
“I think we also learned a lot over the years with all of the record labels we’ve been on, all of the records we’ve put out, all of the producers we’ve worked with, and all of the tours we’ve done. We know who we are. We know what we like. We know what works for us and what doesn’t work. This album is a collective effort of that.”
One positive from that era was working with producer John Feldmann (Black Veil Brides, The Used) and how the band learned how to be aware of capturing certain sounds and how to arrange songs.
“Because of our experience with him, we don’t need to work with producers any more. In a sense, if someone needs to arrange our songs, we learned so much from him we know how to do now. We get it. We already kind of got to before working with him, but he solidified it and he put a spotlight on things we didn’t realize we were already doing and were very important. From there, we’re into it and it’s a whole another beast because of it.”
He spoke about what each member had been consumed with during their hiatus. Drummer Brandon Saller had been busy as the frontman in Hell Or Highwater, but the other members kept themselves busy with music as well as other ventures.
“Our singer Alex [Varkatzas] had a project called I Am War that he was doing with Brendan Schieppati from Bleeding Through. He also has a gym called Planet Crossfit. He’s also a tattoo artist now. He’s doing pretty well with that.”
“Our bass player Marc [McKnight] – he’s the one that designed all of our album artwork. He’s a very talented artist. He does stuff with web design, design t-shirts, albums cover art…anything to do with art.”
“Our other guitarist Travis [Miguel] played in Trapt. He toured with them for a little while. Myself I have a merchandising company called Rockworld Merch. We make merch for Monster Energy Drink, Rockstar Energy , Kat Von D and people like that. I also have a company called PlugInz Chains, which is these little mini amp keychain holders. It looks like a little amp peg but it’s a keychain holder.”
“We’ve been running our own business with this band since we were out of high school and even when we were in high school. We’ve always had an entrepreneurial mindset. This is doing this with other things associated with this going hand and hand.”
While Atreyu were away for five years, Jacobs said that the band realized what they had accomplished over the year and found more appreciation towards what they had.
“I think just our knowledge of how this whole process works, as well as our appreciation for it. We appreciate it a lot more now. Before we were jaded to everything, and now we know what we need to be doing or shouldn’t be doing. We know who we are as people, inside and outside of the band. The collective effort of all of that is what makes the album and makes us do what we’re doing and do what matters. That’s what makes it feel and sound the way it does.”
He also said the band’s outlook onto the future of Atreyu has also changed, and the appreciation of what they have factors greatly into their decisions.
“I think I appreciate and understand the value a lot more than I did before. I think all of us do. I think that’s what we’ve all been humbled over our time off. A lot of the things we get it. We understand it a lot more. We can see a lot more clearly now. I think that’s what makes it a lot more enjoyable and we know what to do with it, instead of flaying our way through our career.”
Lastly he shares his thoughts on the Orange County metalcore scene Atreyu was part of in the early 2000s. “It was incredible. It was a tough time in itself. It was a very definitive time for us to shine and make our mark. The time was special and even now nostalgic to an extent because of how much went back to the scene. It’s cool and it’s a shame the scene’s got so watered down unfortunately but it’s cool to see it’s still going. It’s become its own beast.”
Does he think Atreyu will inspire some of their recently defunct peers to give it another go? “Hopefully – if that’s what they love doing – that’s what we’re here because we love doing it and that’s why we’re back. If they love doing it too, hopefully they take note and do it as well. Treat themselves to themselves.”
If you were into any form of alternative music during the early 2000s, there is a high chance that Atreyu were a part of your adolescence. Whether it was rocking out to their infamous Bon Jovi cover, putting ‘Bleeding Mascara’ lyrics in your MSN name or listening to ‘The Theft’ when you were feeling blue, it’s true to say that the metalcore quintet hold a special place in many former-emo kids’ hearts. Over a year after they announced their return, Atreyu are back with Long Live (Spinefarm), an incredible fourteen track comeback album.
From the first track alone it is easy to hear exactly how excited Atreyu are to be back. ‘Long Live’ is full of energy from the get-go due to its fast-paced riffs and hard-hitting vocals. Alex Varkatzas is renowned for his unique vocal style and it is fantastic to hear that he has not strayed too far from his previous material. Despite sticking to their roots, Atreyu have been able to kick up the pace and create an album which will appeal to both old and new fans.
One of the best parts of this album is the guitar work. The guitar solo in ‘Live To Labor’ is particularly mosh-worthy, as well as the opening riff for ‘Heartbeats And Flatlines’. It is often hard for bands to convey their energy and enthusiasm through recorded music, however, Atreyu have managed to create music which is almost impossible to sit still for.
Long Live takes a darker turn for the forth track ‘Cut Off The Head’. The sinister-sounding opening merges well with Alex’s heavy vocals and it would not sound out of place in a horror movie. Despite being one of Atreyu’s heavier songs, the chorus is melodic and extremely catchy.
‘Brass Balls’ is a definite contender for the best song on the album due to its aggressive and dynamic nature and it is hard to ignore the rage-filled lyrics: “Lay yourself down on the tracks, be crucified by your own words. You’re no cross-bearer, you’re not a fucking martyr.” Atreyu are not afraid to speak their mind, and that is one of the main reasons that they have such a huge fanbase.
More often than when bands release comeback albums, it is apparent that they only care about the money or fifteen more minutes of fame. However, Atreyu have taken their time to carefully craft each song and to create an album which is as good as their previous material, if not better.
Welcome back Atreyu, you have been sorely missed.
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.