"For the live streams, we were rehearsing for months before and it was strangely exciting"


By Ellie Odurny

Jun 3, 2021 13:58

For any band who have been around for more than two decades, change is inevitable. In 2020, Metalcore outfit Atreyu went through a change of line-up during the production of upcoming album ‘Baptize’, set for release on 4th June through Spinefarm Records. We chatted with vocalist and drummer Brandon Saller about collaborations, the creative process, and the future of touring.

On the day we caught up with Saller, Atreyu had just released a satirical reaction video to accompany the track ‘Catastrophe’, featuring genuine peers’ reactions to the track alongside some more colourful characters played by the band themselves. Saller mentions how Atreyu have always faced criticism from overly opinionated fans and that it’s important to see the funny side, telling us “you’ve gotta just poke fun at the crazy people in this world that need their opinion heard… reaction videos are such a ridiculous part of the internet these days, we all laugh at them all the time”.

Fortunately for Atreyu, one of the genuinely positive reactions on the video came courtesy of Trivium’s Matt Heafy, who features on the album along with Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix and Blink 182’s Travis Barker. Saller talks about how all those collaborations came about, and discusses how he believes collaboration is a positive element that’s making its way into the rock and metal genre more and more in the current climate. He says “it just kind of creates a better situation for every artist involved and for the genre. I’m glad that it’s becoming more of a thing, because I feel like everyone just ends up building each other up and it’s better for rock music as a whole”.

Guitarist Dan Jacobs has previously mentioned that Atreyu have always wanted to work with Travis Barker. Saller cites Barker’s skills at marching drums and describes how the band wanted a big marching drum part, telling us that they were able to arrange a guest appearance from Barker through producer John Feldman. He goes on to explain how they also came to invite long-time friend Jacoby Shaddix to feature on the record, remarking that “the phrasing and the style of the vocal [on “Untouchable”] always reminded us of what Jacoby does, it really had that flavour.” He tells us that it was actually Shaddix who initially asked them if they were looking for any collaborations on the album, commenting “what he ended up doing on the track was something that no-one in our band could have replicated and he really set the whole song on fire”. Finally, Saller describes wanting a unique voice to feature on “Oblivion” to match the theatrical style of the track, so it wasn’t something that people were necessarily used to from Atreyu. One such voice was another friend of the band, Matt Heafy, whose voice Saller describes as ‘signature’ – but he also notes that “…what he ended up doing on the song ended up being something really cool that almost doesn’t even sound like him…it’s like having a guest that sounds like another guest”.

Talking more about the collaborative process, Saller mentions that aside from working with renowned producer John Feldman previously on 2018 release ‘In Our Wake’, this album sees Atreyu bring in new writers for the first time, with the likes of Grandson, Mark Hoppus, and Dave Hodges contributing their song-writing skills. This introduction of new writers into the mix is clearly something the band see as a positive step, with Saller enthusing “’s amazing what you can do when you’ve been in a band for 20 plus years and you just introduce one new thought process into the room – it’s incredible what can happen”.

Despite the addition of new talent, Atreyu still have an arsenal of creative skills within the band. Jacobs has his own merch company, with Saller recounting a day recently when they printed and tie-dyed 100 t shirts themselves for a limited edition merch drop. Further creative input comes from bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight, who designed the album artwork and directed the music videos for 2015 album ‘Long Live’. This combination of internal and external involvement allows Atreyu to continue to grow and evolve as a band, seeking out new elements at the same time as maintaining a sense of self sufficiency.

Moving on from self-sufficiency to sustainability, we talk briefly about the return to international touring and the environmental impact of a global touring schedule. Saller stresses how “it’s important to assess what’s actually in your control”, mentioning that the band would be keen to look at travelling in a more carbon neutral way, when that becomes a more viable option. For now, he expresses how small acts can add up to have an important impact, describing how the band have replaced single use water bottles on tour with refillable containers. “You think about a band touring for ten months out of the year, one band can be responsible for thousands and thousands of water bottles themselves, so it’s like trying to do little things like that, like whatever small thing it can be, we definitely are a band that’s mindful of that”.

From future plans to past albums, Saller discusses the experience of playing 2007 album ‘Lead Sails Paper Anchor’ in full on last year’s live stream. “We’ve never done a play through of that album so we were playing a lot of the songs for the first time, and it felt awesome to really dig into the songs to make it interesting”. Since switching from drums to lead vocals, he assures us that he has every confidence in new drummer Kyle Rosa, saying “I haven’t worried about the drums one bit because our new drummer’s insane, so it just felt good to hear it played the way it’s supposed to be played, and that was super fun for us”. He mentions that the band don’t usually slave over practice rehearsals, but tells us how they were rehearsing for months in preparation for the live stream, describing it as “strangely exciting”.

On the subject of exciting things, the topic shifts back to the imminent release of Atreyu’s eighth studio album, ‘Baptize’, which, at 15 tracks long, is the band’s longest album to date. Saller describes how this was intentional, to enable the band to release a lot of music before the album came out, saying “We knew that there would be quite a bit of time, so we wanted to be able to release a lot of music and keep people satiated but at the same time I don’t want to only have four songs left by the time the album comes”. He tells us how the band were absolutely in love with all 15 tracks, and that they all have an important position on the album. Prior to the album’s official release date, they will have already dropped at least four tracks, but Saller remarks that there will still be “a full album of songs for people to enjoy”.

With a new album, new line-up, and the prospect of a return to touring becoming more tangible every day, the future certainly looks bright for Atreyu. ‘Baptize’ represents a time of rebirth and reinvention for the band, who continue to exude confidence, humour, and a dedicated working ethic, regardless of what the world throws at them.

Baptize’ is out on 4th June on Spinefarm Records