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.”