By the time you read this, Atreyu will be touring across the nation on this year’s edition of Ozzfest and surely impressing old and new fans alike with the dynamic live performances. Although their new album is entitled The Curse, their career has been anything but jinxed. Their previous Victory Record release has sold over 100,000 copies and awareness of the band has taken them into the bigger venues. The classic story of an Orange County band making it into the big time, we recently spoke with guitarist Travis about all things having to do with Atreyu.
Introduce yourself and tell me what you do in Atreyu.
I’m Travis, I play guitar in Atreyu and we’ve been a band for almost five years now – with this line-up it’s been about four or five months.
The last album sold over 100,000 copies. Did you even think that was going to happen?
Not in a million years, no. The original plan was to do our first album, and maybe tour here and there, and then who knows after that. But we’ve gotten a lot further than we ever thought we would, that’s for sure.
With the first album doing so well, did you feel any pressure with recording The Curse?
A little bit, yeah. We felt the pressure, but at the same time we were really confident that we’d do our best and put out something that we thought would be at least up to our standards, if not better. We just can’t wait to get it out, and hopefully people will like it.
Isn’t it kind of a jinx to call your second album The Curse?
(Laughs) In a way, yeah. Basically the name of the album The Curse comes from the fact that – especially when we’re on tour, we just keep coming across all this miniscule problems that add up to one big pile of shit. Whether it’s the van breaking down or getting a flat tire. Like on our last tour, two of the bands including ourselves – we got our vans broken into and had personal stuff stolen as well as money. It’s just stuff like that – little obstacles that make you feel like “I wanna go home!” That’s why we called it The Curse, because sometimes we feel like we’re just a band that is cursed. But then again, at the same time we’re not complaining about what we’re doing at all. It’s kind of a little inside joke between the band.
Who is the girl on the cover of The Curse?
Honestly, I have no idea. I’ve never met her and I don’t know her name. The guy that did the cover artwork – his name is Justin Barucki – he’s an amazing photographer. He did our first CD as well. He’s done artwork for a bunch of other bands as well, and he’s awesome at what he does.
There’s a special limited edition of The Curse that features You Give Love A Bad Name by Bon Jovi. What made you decide to cover a Bon Jovi song?
Why not! Just for fun. We always get tagged with having a 80’s hair band influence in our music, so it just seemed fitting. It’s a cheesy song and a fun song to play live – so we figured why not just put it on the CD.
Are you actually going to play the song live?
Here and there. We played it a few times on our last tour just for fun, but I don’t think it’s going to always be a main part of our live show – unless people want to hear it. But we’ll break it out every once in a while.
What did producer Ggarth contribute to your album and sound?
Ggarth was really awesome to work with. When we went into the studio, we were all kind of nervous because we had to definitely come through because this was our second album and we had to outdo the last one. But he made us feel really comfortable, yet at the same time he really pushed us to deliver our best. He definitely got a great sound for us, and it worked out really well.
So you’re going to be on Ozzfest this summer. How did you get picked to do the show?
I guess they were looking for up and coming bands and what not, and they approached us. The Ozzfest is a high profile tour, and it’s definitely going to be the biggest thing we’ve done to date. Plus all of the other bands, especially on the second stage. It seems like people at Ozzfest seem to have gone more of an underground route – like Every Time I Die, Unearth, Bleeding Through, Throwdown – all those bands are on the second stage, which is a lot different from past Ozzfest line-ups. Before they went with a bunch of major label bands – you had your Godsmacks, your Disturbed, and Linkin Park or whatever – and that was cool. But it was really cool that they went for a more underground lineup this year.
After your set, you’re gonna want to go out and watch the rest of the show.
Oh yeah, definitely. It’s gonna be like a big drunken heavy metal summer camp for us, for sure.
There were rumors about you going on the Warped Tour as well. Is that still going to happen?
No. We got offered about two weeks on the Warped Tour, so we just opted to do the whole Ozzfest. But hopefully next summer or somewhere down the line we could do some Warped Tour dates. Cuz we’ve never played it, and me personally, I’m dying to play it. Even just being at Warped Tour is awesome. So hopefully somewhere down the line we’ll get to play Warped Tour.
Back to Ozzfest – have you ever talked to Sharon or Ozzy or anyone from Ozzfest?
Nope, we haven’t. Actually it’s been all through management – our people talked to their people – as stupid and clichéd as that sounds. But who knows, maybe I’ll get to say hi to him or whatever. Either way, we’re stoked to be on Ozzfest.
There’s been a member change since the last album…
Yeah, Chris our old bass player left. And we have a new guy, his name is Mark McKnight – just an overall awesome guy – great bass and a lot of energy onstage. He helps us out with our website and he designed some shirts for us too. It’s working out pretty well.
Has he been in any other bands?
He was in a band out of Orange County called Nightfall. The timing was perfect because he was leaving Nightfall and our bass player at the time was leaving. And it kind of made sense, because we already knew him and he was a friend of the band. So we just called him up from Canada (where we were recording) and basically (asked), “Do you wanna play for us?” And he was more than happy to. Our old bass player Chris, he got married just this month. He wanted to do the whole family thing, and lead more of a semi-normal lifestyle. He bowed out gracefully and we have Mark in the band now, and it’s all good.
How did your tour with Sepultura go last year?
We had about a week and a half of dates with them in Europe last year. That was our first trek over to Europe. It started off with us and Boysetsfire for a few weeks. Then we had a few dates on our own and then we met up with Sepultura. For me especially, because I grew up on that band – that was one of the bands that got me into heavier music – if you told me like 7-8 years ago I’d be touring with Sepultura, I would have laughed in your face. It was a total dream come true, and they’re great guys – especially Igor, their drummer. He’s a total hardcore kid at heart – we got to bro down with him a little bit. It was just awesome all around.
Tell me about your recent appearance on the MTV Headbangers Ball.
It was weird. It was totally cool, but it was just weird. It’s all done right in the heart of New York City. They flew us out there and we had a 12:15 flight – and none of us could sleep on the plane. We finally landed and we got to the MTV studios and we were all jetlagged – basically just walking zombies. We walked around where they filmed TRL, and it was so weird – I see this on TV everyday. And another thing – the actual studio they film it in – especially on TV, it looks a lot bigger than it really is. It’s a really small room. I just felt kind of weird, but it was a good opportunity for us.
Did you ever think Atreyu would wind up on MTV?
Never! Not in a million years! But then again, it’s happened and I’m not complaining at all.
So what is the best and worst part about touring?
The best part is traveling. Prior to this, I’d hardly been outside of California. I’ve seen the country I don’t know how many times over, and I’ve been to different parts of Europe. I’ve met a lot of cool people. And just being able to play live every day – that’s why we do it – that’s definitely one of the most important things I look forward to in the day. Us playing live for that half hour-45 minutes that we’re onstage – I’m sure you’ve heard this a billion times before – but when you’re onstage, you just forget about all of the bullshit problems that you have – whether you’ve been in a fight with your girlfriend or band mate – once you get onstage, all that is just gone – at least for that half hour anyway. It’s just like a total escape for me. The downside of touring is missing family, friends, girlfriends – missing out on holidays and stuff like that. It’s definitely a give and take, but it works out real well.
Are there any Atreyu groupies wandering around this great continent?
Groupies? (Laughs) As far as the groupie thing, I’m sure there are. I don’t know – I don’t pay attention to that too much. (Laughs) That’s just dumb chicks really. They are there and I’ve seen them and just like whatever. Because they wouldn’t be talking to me if I wasn’t in a band, so it’s kind of like shallow bullshit. But it does happen and it’s just weird that you can be in a band, and then all of a sudden somebody treats you like you’re a god, or they put you on this high pedestal. And I’m like, I’m just this kid from Orange County – I’m not all that special. But it’s definitely a perk of being in a band.
What can we expect from a live Atreyu show?
A lot of energy. Just us rockin’ out, doing what we do. Overall, it’s a good time. When we’re playing and I’m looking at other people in the audience, usually everybody is smiling or rockin’ out or throwing up the horns – there are kids hardcore dancing or moshing. It’s all movement and energy.
Do you have any messages for Atreyu fans here in LA and Orange County?
Yes. Thanks for the support. Go pick up the album when it gets in stores. And come on out and rock out with us.
New Pics Added: 10/17/02
Based out of Orange County, Atreyu has been touring around the country in support of their new Victory release Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses. Mixing screamed hardcore vocals with the clearer inflections of the drummer - not to mention an all-out musical assault for the various musicians involved - Atreyu have been spreading their messages of aggression to all who venture out to listen. On a rare day where the band was actually in OC, Highwire Daze interviewed lead screamer Alex Varkatzas.
Give me a little background on Atreyu, how long you guys have been together and how you all met.
Dan who plays guitar, and Brandon who plays drums, and myself - we all met in Junior High and we started a thrashy kind of heavy punk band. And when that broke up, through some miniscule line up changes - we met Chris in High School - Chris plays bass for us. And I met Travis at my old work - and Travis plays second guitar.
How did you guys wind up being signed to Victory?
Kathi (Haruch at Victory) had heard a song from this kid who heard it off the Internet. I guess she was into it. She called me and we were just talking and we sent her a demo. It was just kind of laid back. Then Tribunal picked us up for that EP. The EP came out on Tribunal in January. I guess Tony heard it and talked to Kathi about it and she kind of pumped us up to him. I guess he liked it - he called me and talked about everything and we decided to work with him.
What do you think of the current music scene out there in Orange County?
I think it's great. There's a lot of great bands coming out here right now, like Throwdown, Eighteen Visions, Bleeding Through, Taken, Scars Of Tomorrow, As Hope Dies, Falling Cycle - a lot of great bands are coming up right now.
Where do you get the ideas for some of your lyrics - and use some specific songs if you can.
Basically I just write about experiences that I've been through. I write all of our lyrics through personal experiences and relationships. Like one of the songs on the full length and EP is Tulips Are Better - it's about this person I met who seemed really beautiful. I met her and she was just like sparkling - I just couldn't believe it. And as I got to know her, she just became so ugly because she was such a terrible person - hence the rose analogy in the lyrics for that song. You can see a rose and it looks beautiful, but if you go to grab the rose, all your gonna get is a handful of thorns. So just basically stuff like that.
So who is Deanne The Arsonist?
Deanne The Arsonist is an ex-girlfriend of mine. Everything I guess is cool with us now. But at the time, she really, really hurt me and did a lot of shitty things. That song was written when I was really mad. You can't tell, because it's kind of different than some of the other songs. I think some of my lyrics are kind of weird to interpret, but that's pretty cut and dry.
Girls who are gonna date you in future - watch out…
Yeah, just be nice…
Yeah, or you'll wind up on the next Atreyu album!
It's really cathartic for me to write though, because I am going through some stuff right now, and I've had writer's block for a while. As soon as I put pen to paper the past couple of days, I've felt a million times better about situations. When I write, it's usually kind of like closure for me to finally put it into words about how I feel.
It seems like that a lot of people can't really write when they're happy.
Yeah. I can't. At all. It's hard. When I write when I'm happy, it's a lot different. When I'm sad, it's just about different things. So we'll see if any of that stuff makes it on to our next CD - whenever we get around to doing that.
Where did you get the idea for the title Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses?
We're just kind of about contrasting things that shouldn't really go together - or aren't thought to go together. We kind of balance dark and light. Even in the lyrics and vocals it's really easy to hear. We go from me screaming to Brandon doing like a melodic singing passage. To me, everything in life is a balance - you have to have good to have bad. So Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses - it's a phrase that came into my head and I thought it would make for some good artwork. It kind of felt right. On the album, the lyrics are real bittersweet to me - because it seems like they're filled with a lot of pain. But when I read them, I read something totally different. I read like letting go and also sometimes like not losing hope - like in Someone's Standing On My Chest. People read that and think it's depressing - everyone goes through periods of depression. When I wrote that it was like a way of saying, "Look, everybody goes through depression and people aren't alone in that." And to me it's kind of hopeful. Suicide Notes would be like the sad and the Butterfly Kisses are the sweet, beautiful moments. I'm feeling all philosophical today - sorry.
That's okay. So what kind of touring have you guys done so far for the album?
We started our first tour May 31st of this year - it was the first time we had been anywhere. We went out with Drowningman for a couple weeks and then we did a little bit of time on our own and then carried that over into a month with Skycamefalling and Bloodlet - which ended at Hellfest. We had an amazing time. Being on tour with Skycamefalling and Bloodlet - we couldn't ask for more radder people to spend a month with. It was just fun because Bloodlet has been around the block and knows what's up, so we got gems of wisdom from them. And then Skycamefalling - they are a little older than us and they've been around longer than us - we'd just stick around with those guys too. It was fun. It was a good balance and we had a great time. We had a tour lined up for Hessfest in Cleveland, which just happened a few weeks ago. But unfortunately that tour fell through, so we went out and played Hessfest anyway - and that was a great show. That's really all our touring history - it's building now. We have a whole bunch of stuff lined up. We're pretty much busy until the end of the year.
So what to you has been the best and the worst part of touring so far?
I could go on about this one. The best part is just being with my five best friends including our merch guy Ryan and just playing music every night all around the United States and meeting people. I mean, I saw the sunrise in the Rockies - I got rained on in Cleveland - our brakes went out coming down the Rockies. It's just fun experiences like that. Doing crazy stuff to people driving in Texas - to me that's the best part. Just twenty minutes a night in front of people is the most amazing feeling - to be like three thousand miles away from home playing to people who are into the same stuff you are. It's just wonderful - it's just everything I'd ever hoped it would be. That's the good part. As far as the bad part - I'm learning that it's really, really hard to have a relationship while you're gone. And actually, I just came out of one almost pretty much because of the touring all of the time. It's just really hard to maintain a home life when we this pretty much is our full time thing - this is our job and it's really difficult. You have family and friends back home that you miss a lot. And we're all relatively young - our oldest guy is 23 and everyone else is like 20. For most of us, it was our first time away from home like that. And then when you have a girlfriend and you're away for like two months at a time, it kind of makes things a little difficult. Chris and Travis and Dan all have girlfriends. I don't now - it's my fault but it's really hard. I'm starting to realize that it's really hard to have a personal life outside of the band. It's kinda crazy. If you look at it - emotionally it's hard, but it's really worth it at times. Like when we play a good show, it's worth the decisions and sacrifices to do this. We all dropped out of school - Travis was pretty much done with college and quit.
Describe a live Atreyu show for those of us who have yet to see you play.
Throwing up the horns and having a good time. We just like to rock out and have fun. We take our stuff and our music very seriously, but when we play, it's like serious but we're having fun. And I think that comes across when we play. We'll do a guitar line-up and Scorpion-type moves - swing the mic around and fall down and stuff. We just wanna have fun.
Anything strange happened while out on the road?
Well. We got harassed by security guards in Las Vegas - they called our bass player a faggot and wanted to shoot him and they tried to fight me. We threw a water bottle full of piss on some ladies car in Texas cuz she cut us off and almost ran us off the road. We almost got in a fight in the gay district of Chicago with some asshole guy who decided to spit all over our van, but then boned out when we saw six people get out and an angry Kathi Haruch. But pretty much that's it - just being scared for our lives at like crazy weird truck stops at three in the morning with scary ass people with mullets and flannels staring at us as we're there with black nail polish and tattoos and holes in our mouth.
Do you have any messages for fans or for people who might be interested in checking out your music?
We have the new full length out and then you can check out www.atreyurock.com - hopefully that will be updated - I think it is now but I don't know. You can also see all of our tour dates at victoryrecords.com.
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