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INTERVIEW – DAN JACOBS, ATREYU – September 2016

| 11 October 2016 | Reply

INTERVIEW – DAN JACOBS, ATREYU – September 2016
By Shane Pinnegar

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After 12 years together and a four-year hiatus, Californian Metalcore trailblazers Atreyu rebounded late last year with sixth album Long Live. They’re touring Australia this month as guests of Bullet For My Valentine, who are old friends, as lead guitarist Dan Jacobs tells SHANE PINNEGAR.

Tour dates: Bullet For My Valentine with Atreyu and Cane Hill:
Thursday, 20th October – Metro City, Perth
Friday, 21st October – HQ, Adelaide
Monday, 24th October – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Tuesday, 25th October – 170 Russell, Melbourne
Thursday, 27th October – Big Top, Sydney
Friday, 28th October – Eatons Hill, Brisbane

“Yeah, I wanna say that we took them out on their first actual tour over in the UK a long time ago – probably, like 10, 11 years ago,” Jacobs remembers. “It’s always good to see them. Those guys like to have a good time. There’s very few bands that have been around as long as we have from our genre and era of music, so it’s cool to have guys like that to tour with and you can relate to and a similar age and similar vibe and a similar style of music.”

Being one of the first Metalcore bands to forge that new genre, I wonder if Atreyu listened back to their first Metalcore forays and sat back thinking, ‘this doesn’t sound like anything we’ve ever heard before – we’re really breaking new ground’?

“I don’t know, sort of,” he answers, cautiously. “The reason everything that we do sounds the way it does or why Metalcore, that kind of vibe, came about, is more so because we wanted to sound like SO MANY of our favourite bands from so many different genres of music, but at the root of it, be a heavy band.

“We like the energy of the live show of a heavy band. You go and watch a hardcore band play and people are just losing their minds like you’ve never seen before. That was really intriguing to all of us. I think that really sucked us into that aspect of music. All of the other styles of music from punk and rock and punk-pop stuff to even mainstream radio stuff, to just anything, even totally obscure styles of music, just collectively (we were) trying to sound like all of our favourite bands of every genre of music that we like – from every dude in our bands’ opinion, all at the same time! That’s why our band’s got this unique [sound that is a] mix of all this stuff.”

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Talking about the long hiatus the band took from the end of 2010 until late 2014, Jacobs confirms that the band were burnt out and a couple of months off wasn’t going to solve the problem.

“I think a lot of it was just that we were steering in the wrong direction,” he admits. “I think mentally we all were just not feeling the way that we wanted to with everything, the way we should doing something as cool as getting to be in a band for a living. I think we were like, ‘you know what, maybe we just need to step back and shake it off for a little bit.’

“Sometimes even a month or two off tour is not even enough to get yourself mentally prepared to go back into it if it’s something you’re not 100 percent happy with at the time. I think it was important for us to take that time off, too. It almost made us come full circle and also gave us time to see how green the grass was on the other side, as well as find ourselves as individuals outside of the band. I think we just wanted to see what we’re all made of and not just be the dudes from Atreyu our whole [life], since we were teenagers, you know?”

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Dan and his bandmates all started other bands and/or businesses and spread their wings during their time away from Atreyu. Singer Alex Varkatzas started I Am War with Bleeding Through vocalist Brandan Schieppati, and is a tattooist; drummer Brandon Saller’s side project Hell or Highwater recorded the album Begin Again; rhythm guitarist Travis Miguel released an EP as Fake Figures, then toured with Trapt.and both Brandan and Travis score music for TV and film; bassist Marc McKnight is a photographer and artist; while Jacobs runs the merchandise company Rock World Merch, and a company that makes Jack Racks, wall mountable guitar amp-style key chain holders.

“It’s interesting,” ponders Jacobs, “I feel like in doing that – like you said, we started all these other projects, and they’re all things that we still, for the most part, we all still are involved with on top of getting to do Atreyu – it helped us grow like that, where it helps diversify ourselves, which is something I don’t think any of us were really looking too deeply into when you’re in your early 20’s or late teens and just touring around trying to be a rock star.”

Jacobs says the band rarely hang out as friends during their hiatus, elaborating about one of the darker sides of life on the road.

“For the most part, it was a complete break,” states the guitarist. “We’d see each other occasionally here and there, but very rarely. Sometimes I’d go over a year without seeing any of the dudes. I don’t know… I think it’s a strange thing. When you’re a younger band, a lot of time everybody in your band… are your best friends and you hang out with them all the time and you just talk about music all the time. All you can talk about is writing songs and when are you going to jam next, when are we going to play a show, and all this stuff.

“As you get older and you’ve toured, you live with them 24 hours a day for months at a time, 7 days a week – you get to a point where you don’t really get to have that bit space of like, ‘all right guys, good morning – I’m going to work today. I’ll see you tonight.’ There’s no balance of space. You’re just living with people for so long and on top of that trying to deal with the stressors of making sure your band is successful and [how to] maintain this lifestyle so you can keep doing what you love.

“It can all kind of wear on you a little bit. When you get home, you end up just… everybody has their own group of friends outside of the band that they hang out with. It’s humbling, too, to hang out with these groups of people that are not necessarily band people. Most of my friends are lawyers that I went to high school with, or some people just work locally at restaurants and stuff. I don’t know… it’s a cool balance, I think.”

It all sounds like all five of the Atreyu family really needed to do that for the good of their souls, as well as for the future of the band.

“Yeah, absolutely,” says Jacobs. “I think it’s good for anyone. You got to have balance. Too much of a good thing can become a bad thing – it’s gluttony!”

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Upon their return, Jacobs says the band were confident but a little nervous about whether their fans would be lining up immediately to hear more from Atreyu.

“It was half and half… part of us were really excited and knew it was going to be awesome in one way or another, just from social media and just seeing the response when we started announcing things. Even some of the first shows that we did, they sold out really fast, faster than we’ve ever sold out a show in our entire career. We’ve never had that happen before. We were like, ‘oh my gosh.’

“Now we’re more nervous to see how big is this, or what does this really mean? We’ve been out of the game for enough time to where the scene has shifted and things are a little bit different. Most bands’ careers only last about 4 or 5 years, as far as their peak of the people being really stoked on them before they start to slow down and hit that wave before they got to come back again, if they come back up again.”

Musically Long Live sounds more like what the band were doing 10 years ago, rather than the albums just before they went on their break. Was that a natural result of the break they had, just realigning in the direction they would prefer to be going in?

“I think it’s kind of like I was saying with us coming full circle,” explains Jacobs. “I feel this is almost like round two for us. We’ve come all the way around. It’s like, ‘all right, let’s start over again.’ This time, obviously, we can’t forget all of the experiences we’ve had and all the things we’ve learned and everything.

“Taking that and almost starting on album one again on round two, that’s kind of what this is. If you look at our earliest album, on Suicide Notes & Butterfly Kisses, it’s pretty aggressive for the most part and not as melodic. We got more melodic as we went. We just started getting bigger sounding. I think we’re doing that on another level now. We did this album which is a lot more aggressive like our older albums. I think this next album, we’re going to change it up even a little bit more and just keep the party going.”

How has this reinvigoration affected their live set – are they eschewing more latterday material for earlier songs?

“A little bit of everything,” he says, before giving us a so-simple-why-didn’t-we-think-of-it-before touring band hack. “Honestly, the trick that we’ve come to when it comes to playing live shows (if you’re not playing an entire album front to back) is lately you can go on things like Spotify, you can go on iTunes and you can go look up [your songs]. You can click it over to a different country and you can go look up a band in that country and get their page and see what their top 10 songs are in that country. You have a much better chance of pleasing your audience by going in and just looking at the top 10 – there’s your set! Just mix those up however [you like]. You go in there and it crushes!

“Strangely enough, whenever we’ve veered away from playing songs that are within our top 10 or top 15… like, you have those people that post things, they’re like, ‘oh, let me hear that one super-rare B-side from your first album that you guys only played one time in a garage somewhere.’ We’re like, ‘all right, let’s bust that one out,’ then you play it and everyone in the crowd just stares at you like, ‘what the fuck song is this?’ You’re like, ‘why did we even play this? Nobody even cares. They don’t even know what it is. It’s too deep of a cut!’

“You can maybe please a couple people but ideally you want to try to please the masses. In doing so, the top 10, man, it works pretty damn good. I don’t think any band could go wrong with their top 10. They got the algorithms for it – they already know what the whole world likes about your band.”

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Dan has gone on record in the past about his abiding love for ‘80s hair metal. What other influences do his bandmates bring to the mix?

“Let’s see…,” he muses, “I’d say Alex, in particular, he’s got a very poetic way about his lyrics. He’s got a very punk vibe to him. He loves classic punk rock, like ‘80s, even ‘90s, punk rock, even a lot of the old English stuff. He brings a lot of that attitude and vibe and just angst and an even darker side to the band. Brandon, I think brings a lot of the pop element and the big straightforward backbone with the drums and stuff like that. Even his vocals, he’s got a shredding voice. He can sing anything, really, and hit whatever vibe he needs to go for. He brings that element.

“Marc is more of a… he just brings the fucking insanity. He’s more there as a guy that when we write stuff, he’s there to be calm and narrate certain people’s ideas. [If] one seems better than the other, he gives his opinion – then live it’s more his insanity! Travis brings… I don’t use that many pedals. I plug into a wah pedal and I got a tuner and that’s it. I don’t need much – maybe a delay. Travis has got a whole array of pedals. He can do a lot more with that and get a lot more creative. He brings this ambiance to our band, this dark, interesting ambiance that because of his style and the way he likes to use all these pedals, it adds an element to our band that’s really interesting.”

I throw a hypothetical question at Dan to finish up: If he could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording of any one record in history, which one would he choose?

“Oh my gosh, let’s see… maybe a Queen album,” he says without much delay. “Yeah, I think to go see Queen, like A Night at the Opera, or something – when they’re recording Bohemian Rhapsody, just to be in there and watch the magic happen. Especially back in that time when they weren’t using Protools and shit. People just had to be able to play the fucking song like a champion in one take!”

Category: Interviews

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