Atreyu Interview

Spinefarm Records

Atreyu’s latest album Baptize is the beginning of a new era for the band. Frontman Alex Varkatzas has exited. Brandon Saller is stepping out from behind the drum kit to focus on clean vocals, bassist Marc “Porter” McKnight is doing the unclean vocals, and the newest member is drummer Kyle Rosa. Guitarist Dan Jacobs fills us in on the changes, the new album and other topics.

Chad Bowar: How did drummer Kyle Rosa come to join the band?
Dan Jacobs: We met Kyle through our singer Brandon and his other band Hell or Highwater. When Atreyu came off hiatus in 2014 and became active again Hell or Highwater wasn’t able to tour at the same time as Atreyu so Kyle would come out and help drum tech for Brandon. After years of him coming out on tours here and there we became very familiar with him and he became very familiar with our band and the way we do things. In 2019 we had a tour booked in Europe that two weeks before the tour started our then singer Alex had to drop off the tour because of issues with his back so we called on Kyle to come play drums for that tour and had Brandon come upfront and sing. We had such a great time on that tour and it worked so well that when the time came, Kyle was our first choice to join the band.

Did the lineup changes affect the songwriting process for Baptize?
A little bit. Most of the album was written while Alex was still in the band but there are some songs that were written after we had parted ways with him. We also had to go back and change everything vocally to accommodate our current lineup which gave us a lot of room to try new things and venture out a little more both musically and creatively.

This is the third album you’ve worked with producer John Feldmann. What about his style works so well with the band?
John Feldmann brings an incredible vibe and energy to everything he does musically. He’s a great songwriter himself as well as a great producer and he also has an a list Rolodex of artists he can bring to the table to collaborate with. The combination of all these things is also what led to us having someone like Travis Barker performing on the album.

What will be your strongest memory of the recording of the album?
Writing songs with Mark Hoppus from blink-182. That was one of the most surreal moments in my career and I still can’t believe it actually happened. Two of the songs we did with him made it onto the album, one being “Sabotage Me” and the other being “Dead Weight.”

Did the pandemic affect the process?
It slowed things down a little bit if anything, but at the end of the day it worked out essentially the same way it does on any other album process. We are fortunate to be able to keep creating and recording only a few months after the initial shut down once we were able to figure out safe ways to collaborate.

How did Jacoby Shaddix, Travis Barker and Matt Heafy’s guest appearances come about, and what did they add to the album?
All three of these artists are people we’ve had our eye on for a while to collaborate with and this album felt like the perfect time to do it. Jacoby came about from Brandon hanging out with him and the Papa Roach guys not too long ago and Jacoby had mentioned to Brandon that he would love to get on an Atreyu song if he could which of course we were 100 percent down for and I had him come down and track the song “Untouchable.” The energy he brings to that song stepped it up from a 10 to a 15. Jacoby is incredible at what he does and always puts in 200 percent to whatever project he is involved with and you can hear that in the song and his performance.

Matt Heafy, who is also a long time friend of ours, we contacted in regards to doing a song called “Oblivion.” He lives in Florida so since were in California, and the pandemic was still not allowing too much travel, we decided to send him the tracks both completed and without the vocals on them so he could do his thing on them. What I love about his performance on this song is that it doesn’t sound like any other Matt Heafy performance on any Trivium record that he’s done which is really cool to hear especially if you’re a Trivium fan. Travis Barker we were connected with via John Feldmann because John has worked a lot with Travis and the blink-182 guys over the past few years as well as lives in the same neighborhood as Travis. With that being said we told him we’d love to have Travis on our song “Warrior” so he contacted him and sent him the song and he said he was down so we had him come in to the studio and track some snare drum marching band style percussion on the bridge of the song which came out epic!

How has the band’s sound evolved from In Our Wake?
If anything the songs have gotten even bigger sounding and more epic sounding. We wanted to push all of our favorite elements of our band more so everything sounds like the arena stadium band version of Atreyu.

Several songs would have made good album titles. What led you to go with Baptize?
Because of our lineup change in the middle of this album and it feeling like a new chapter in our band we thought Baptize felt like a new beginning type name as well as felt like a good opening song to smash into.

This is your third album with Spinefarm. Has what you expect from a record label changed over the years?
Not too much as of now. We still use record labels for the same reason we used them years ago and Spinefarm has been wonderful to us for the past eight years and we can’t thank them enough for all their hard work and hospitality. A wonderful group of humans over there at Spinefarm.

You have some festivals on your schedule. Do you plan on booking any tours for this year, or will you wait until 2022?
We’re hoping to do some thing this year if we can make it make sense. Definitely in 2022!

What have you missed the most and the least about touring?
Playing the shows is the part I miss the most and getting to be in a different state or country every day, which is fun. The parts I don’t miss are missing my family and friends and some of the discomfort of living in a bus for weeks or months at a time.

The promotion process has changed a lot in the 20 years the band has been releasing albums. With social media, things are much more transparent and interactive. Do you like that, or prefer when there was more mystique with album releases?
I miss the good old days of things being more mysterious. I feel because of the way things are now people are a lot more entitled and have very high expectations for artists to be in contact with them directly which puts a lot of weight and responsibility on artists like they’ve never had before. It can also be very time consuming trying to keep up with all the social media hype and limelight. I think the mystery before is also what made things so exciting.

What was the best thing you binge watched during the pandemic?
I’ve been really enjoying the show Outlander. It’s a really interesting concept about a woman in the 1940s going back in time two hundred years and having to make a life back then. It has a Game of Thrones essence to it without being as fictional since most of the storyline is based off true historic events.

What’s currently in your heavy musical rotation?
I’ve been listening to a lot more reggae and 1950s/60s artists. I love pulling ideas from things like this in applying it to heavier songs, which adds a really fresh element. It’s the same way that I’ve been pulling ’70s and ’80s style riffs and putting them in Atreyu songs to add a classic element to a new hard rock sound.

Anything else you’d like to mention or promote?
Please check out my company Pluginz Keychains. We make licensed Marshall and Fender wall-mounted replica amp keychain holders. They’re amazing for your home, recording studio, man cave or even a stocking stuffer. Treat yourself!

(interview published June 3, 2021)

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