And they return after what seems to be six long damn years. Atreyu, the metalcore band from Orange County that was loved and hated throughout the 00s, finally returns with a new album, entitled Long Live. It was about the album, and the coming back part, that we talked about with lead guitarist Dan Jacobs.
In January of 2011 you guys announced a break. Now that the new album is completed and ready to be released, can you look at it and say what was the impact of the three-year hiatus?
I feel the record wouldn’t sound as it is and would be as it is if it wasn’t for the experiences that we had. Obviously prior to the hiatus but also because of the hiatus. I think all us as individuals, we’ve toured for so long and grew up straight out of high school into touring never really getting out of Neverland and find out who we were as people outside of the band Atreyu. So, I feel that was affecting how our music was sounding, our performance, everything just started kind of changing… In good ways and also in ways that we weren’t comfortable with it. Eventually it led to a point where we just all became very uncomfortable and it was like, “We really need to take a break. We need to get excited again and be passionate about what we’re doing.” When we came back we were all stronger, smarter, and most importantly, excited.
Can you please shed some light on a few lines off of the title track? “A symbol of promise and of light / When we were wandering lost in the dark / Somehow we’ll make it through the pain.” I’m curious to know what it means “lost in the dark” in this case.
The dark is kind of like not knowing who we were as people or who we were outside of the band. Or even just the darkness as far as like not having the band. The band is our life, is our everything, so not having that is just darkness.
Was it strange those first moments without the band?
Yeah! It was really strange. We all grew up from being teenagers into our late 20s, even early 30s for some of us, only knowing Atreyu. We were just these guys from Atreyu and never who we were outside of that, so by taking that break… It was weird because you’ve got to figure out a way to survive, to pay the bills, and stuff without using the band for it, which none of us ever had to do before. We all kind of went out and had the chance of find ourselves a little bit more, and find who we were as people. It really made us more confident as individuals, and songwriters, and even as business people.
Talking about impactful moments… I guess the people’s response to “Thank You” (song released last year) was very important for a band that wants to create original stuff and not just go on a nostalgia trip.
Exactly! It was something that we wanted to make very clear when we came and we started to play again. We’re not just trying to do a cash grab / nostalgic tour, or something like that. We did one show, the ten year anniversary of [2004’s album] The Curse, just to celebrate that but other than that we wanted to immediately release new music as well as starting playing shows and show that we still got it… And even better than we were before. We’ve had just much more time to get better at our instruments and perfect our craft.
Did you feel a sense of clarity from the get go writing Long Live?
Absolutely! We’re a kind of band that writes all the music, internally. There’s no co-writing, ghostwriters, or anything of the type. We do it all. So, I think we had a lot of a built up ideas and things like that but we really just wanted to get out. So, the writing process was actually really easy because of that. Sometimes we would write two songs in a day and comeback in the next day to write another song. It came to us really quickly. It was very comforting in how easy it was to put the record together. There was definitely a clarity that we didn’t have before, which I think it’s really bringing it all together nicely.
Why did you decide to put “So Others May Live” as a bonus track? I mean, that song is so fuckin’ good and so fuckin’ massive.
I think partially because we’ve released it so much sooner than the actual album itself that it almost felt like its own thing. I don’t know, part of me wishes it was on the record because, like you said, it’s a great song and has so many elements of Atreyu and as well new elements of Atreyu… I don’t know, it’s definitely a song that we will be playing live, and we will probably play it live for a long time as well.
The video for “So Others May Live” was shot on Orange County in the day after you playing The Curse from front to back in the same place, and it was your first proper home show after the hiatus. How was it that like?
Actually our first proper show that we did was at a much smaller club, with something like 500 people capacity. It’s a place that we grew up playing, even before we were in Atreyu, when we were in a band called Retribution, back in the 90s. For us is a very nostalgic place to play in, as well as just the fact that we were coming back is a nostalgic experience in itself. Yeah, it was kind of a way to test the waters playing a really small and intimate place because when you haven’t played in years you don’t really know what the market is like for Atreyu. Just because people are supporting on the internet it doesn’t necessarily mean that people are going to show up for your shows and buy your album. So, we did this show first and it sold out in just 30 seconds. It was the fastest sell out that we ever had as a band. That definitely got us really excited, even more than we already were about coming back.
“We all kind of went out and had the chance of find ourselves a little bit more, and find who we were as people. It really made us more confident as individuals, and songwriters, and even as business people.”
Can “I Would Kill Lie Die” be interpreted as a declaration of love by the band’s members to the band?
It’s actually… Yeah, it could. The beauty of music in general is, and the way we tell people to try to listen to our music… Yeah,there’s two meanings. One is what we mean as far as the lyrics and story behind it, and there’s the other meaning that’s entirely of the listener. Whatever the song means to you, it’s what it is. Sometimes people find out what the song really means and that makes them feel differently about a song they thought it meant something else. That song in particularly is about Alex’s [Varkatzas, vocals] son, he just had his first son and he is the first one in our band to be a father. It was a really amazing experience for him but also a very difficult experience, he had a really hard time with it. There’s a decent amount of lyrics on the album that are actually very influenced by Alex’s experience having a child.
I know that the sequence of the album was created to have the album with two different sides. So, where does it start the Side B of the album?
Side B starts with the Revival (Interlude). So, when you get to the Revival (Interlude) it’s kind of like, almost an intermission. It’s basically a nice way to call what’s a breath of fresh air in what’s such a heavy record.
How was it like to work with Fred Archambault [Avenged Sevenfold]?
It was awesome. We work with a different producer every record because we’re always hoping to the grass be greener on the other side. Every producer taught us something and we’ve learned so much over the years with all these different experiences with these different producers, in terms of songwriting and producing music. Fred was very hands off and he did let us do our thing – like I said, we write our own stuff and at this point with don’t need much help with it – and he was there more to capture the moment. For the most part he was there just as an engineer. Of course he would say something if some part of some song was sounding a little bit off or something like that.
Does the five coffins on the cover represent the unwillingness to die and the invigorating pulse within the band?
Exactly! Even the video for Long Live, if you take a look at the artwork and the video… The video was directed by our bass player Porter McKnight, and the artwork was also made by him. We wanted to basically represent our band coming back, and this being the new version of Atreyu (something fresh). Also kind of representing the only people that can make this band and not exist anymore are ourselves. If you see the video there are five characters that try to kill us (members of the band), and the video is us trying to avoid them to succeed, and then we find that those five characters that are trying to kill us are ourselves. So, it’s like we’re not going to give ourselves the glory of ending our own career, and so we kill ourselves. With the artwork, and with the video, we just wanted basically this really beautiful imagery that was really dark at the same time that represented not only us in this album but also getting to showcase Porter’s work. He’s such an incredible photographer, in particular, and we’ve never used his stuff for anything we’ve done… It makes perfect sense to have him doing. That way anything that you hear and see related to our band – music, artwork, videos, etc – it was created by us. I have my own merch company and I make all of our band’s merchandising. We’re a very self-sufficient band which we weren’t as much before.
There’s definitely a dark aesthetic attached to this album but wouldn’t you say that underneath it there’s a lot of light?
Yeah, absolutely. That’s kind of almost the all vibe of Atreyu in general. We always have this kind of darker vibe to a lot of our stuff but there’s also clarity and a brighter light underneath it. Sometimes even the way our music is presented, in some parts of some songs there’s a very uplifting feeling… Like a feeling of hope, or something like that. A very passionate feeling that we put across that I myself consider to be very touching.
As Alex said, you guys have been friends since junior high school and there’s a lot of history. I guess you had the opportunity of looking back during the three-year hiatus. What do you make of this journey?
It’s crazy. If you even told me that Brandon, Alex, and myself when we were 12 or 13 years old, that this band that we were creating would be going on for the rest of our lives, it would be something that really shake us as people, and changed our lives by giving us opportunities that we would never had otherwise… I wouldn’t believe it. When we were doing The Curse and people were asking where we would be in the next five years, I didn’t have the slightest idea where we would be. I couldn’t even image. Ten years later here I am doing interviews, creating new music, touring the world… I’m from California and I’m right now doing this interview with you and I’m in London. It’s very surreal and I think that with the hiatus we learned how to appreciate it even more. We took it for granted. I think a lot of bands, especially younger bands, take it for granted and we tend to forget how amazing this is even the tough times. Just travelling the world with your friends is a blessing.
Will “You Give Love A Bad Name” make its presence in the next tours?
Absolutely! For me that’s a song that needs to be in our set, especially if we are playing a festival, because when we are performing in front of people that potentially have never heard of Atreyu or never had the opportunity of watching us live a song like that, which is very popular because of Bon Jovi, can make the audience connect with us and feel a part of the show. Plus, it’s such a great song.
Final and obvious question: can we expect a bunch of new Atreyu albums in the future?
Yeah, for sure. This is just the first of many more. We’re very hungry and the response that we’ve got so far for this album has been so good that fuels our fire to just want to keep going.