Back in 2011, the metalcore staples known as Atreyu went on hiatus. Perhaps they were burnt out by the politics involved with being on a major label. Perhaps, after 13 years together, after consistent touring, after five albums; they simply needed a break.
Either way, the beast has risen. With a new album on the way and a tour to follow, Atreyu has been exhumed. They are back and more brutal than ever.
About to head out on the road for a string of dates, beginning with a performance on Friday at Riot Fest in Chicago, vocalist Alex Varkatzas took some time to chat with Examiner about what he was up to during his time away, the band’s new album, their upcoming tour and how it feels to be back.
Andrew Demo: During your hiatus, you released an album with a project called I Am War. What was it like working with a new band, and how did your time away affect Atreyu?
Alex Varkatzas: It was fun. I Am War was basically just a studio project. It was myself and Brandan Schieppati from Bleeding Through, there wasn’t really much of another band. We played all of the instruments on it. It was cool though; and I think it helped me be better when Atreyu started doing stuff again. I think it made me a little bit more confident and competent at what I was trying to do with the band. Basically, I just wanted to scream from that point on. I’m not really worried about singing anymore.
AD: Fair enough, you do scream a lot on that record.
Alex: (Laughs) Yeah, and on this new Atreyu one I scream and do all sorts of different vocals, but I don’t do any sort of like “melodic” singing. It’s a nice change for me.
AD: What has it been like being back with Atreyu after a few years away?
Alex: It feels great. We haven’t put out a full-length record in like five years. We’ve all been best friends since we were like 12, 13 and 14; so to be firing up the engines again, and to me, I think it’s the best record we’ve ever made, it’s exciting times for us.
AD: Speaking of your new record, Long Live comes out in a little over a week. Describe what the process of making the record was like. Was your approach any different than it’s been in the past?
Alex: For this record, while we did work with a producer, and Fred [Archambault] had a lot of really great input, and helped guide this record in so many ways; we really wanted to not have any outside influence from the record label, or from the management, or from the producer too much. We really wanted it to be the guys in this band working together to make a record that’s as true to us as we can. And I think we did that. So in that way it was different.
In the past there was a lot of influence from outside things, especially once we moved on to a major label [Hollywood Records]. There, there’s a lot on the line; and people know that. There’s a lot of outside voices and pressure.
On this, we’re on Spinefarm/Universal/Raw Power, which is still a really big deal; but they didn’t even hear a song off of the record until we were like 6-7 songs deep in the recording. No one ever came down to the studio. No one would harass us; but they are very much behind the record. It’s a very cool thing.
AD: How did you get linked up with Spinefarm Records?
Alex: When we decided to come back to making music, there was a couple labels…I at first didn’t really want to be on a label. I thought we could do it on our own. Then it was kind of brought to my attention what a pain in the *ss that would be for someone like me to try to do. So we had some meetings with just a few guys that we knew were good dudes, and that we had known from the industry before. I had worked with Tim [Brennan], who’s at Spinefarm, when I was with I Am War. So there was a little comfort there. That was basically it.
AD: You’re about to head out on your first full tour since reuniting. What’s the most exciting part about getting back out on the road?
Alex: Just catching that thrill every night. The shows have been so awesome since we’ve been back. We played some really huge festivals. We’ve done a couple weeks here and there; and things have been sold out or full of such good energy. It’s a little addicting. So it will be nice to catch that “wave” every night for a few weeks in a row.
AD: On the tour, you’ll be playing with Unearth, Wovenwar and Beartooth. Why did you select those bands as your supporting acts?
Alex: Beartooth is a band that the other dudes in my band, they kinda turned us on to. I think [drummer/clean singer] Brandon [Saller] and [bassist] Marc [McKnight]really thought they have some cool songs, and are really into their vibe; so we wanted to play with them.
Unearth, we have a good history with those dudes. They are a really great live band. Like us, they are getting old. It felt really good to have them out there.
Then Wovenwar, we know a bunch of the dudes from the As I Lay Dying days. What they are doing with that band is a real cool sound, and cool thing. So it feels like a good tour.
AD: Prior to that tour, you’re actually playing Riot Fest. How did the opportunity to play that festival come about for you guys?
Alex: People call our booking agent and make offers (laughs). Your standard thing. Someone said: “hey, do you want to play Riot Fest?” And we said: “f*ck yeah! That sounds awesome!” We know what a cool show it is. I don’t want to say “legendary” summer festival, but it’s got a good vibe. It’s made a good name for itself. And we’re stoked to be out there with a sh*t-ton of awesome f*cking bands. It’s gonna be hot, I think. Really hot.
AD: Historically, Riot Fest is mainly known as a punk rock festival. How do you think you guys will fit in?
Alex: I think great. Were kinda a punk rock band. I think we’re punk rock, I think we’re a metal band, I think we’re a hardcore band. We have a little bit of all those elements; and I think that’s why we’ve been able to do stuff. Like we played Warped Tour one year and Ozzfest in the same year. We did Mayhem and Taste of Chaos. We kind of like, go between everything. A good show is a good show, and that’s what we’re all about.
AD: For people who are new to your music, either seeing you for the first time or hearing your music for the first time, what is the one thing you’d want them to take away from the experience?
Alex: That their blown away. That it was an intense experience. That they are seeing something that they haven’t seen before. Something intense and unique. I remember listening to records when I was a kid, like reading the lyrics along to a Bad Religion record, and when it’s done you’re like “oh f*ck.” It was such a crazy feeling. I want to give that feeling to people.
Their first full-length album since 2009, Long Live will be released through Spinefarm Records on Sept. 18. Prior to heading out on their own headlining tour, you can catch them at Riot Fest on Friday (tickets are available here). The rest of their tour dates can be found here.