SKILLET w/, Red Gazelle & RedHook Big Top, Luna Park, Sydney Thursday 15th November, 2018 …
Every single album Atreyu have put out has seen the Californian quintet continuously raise the bar for themselves, and In Our Wake utterly sweeps the floor clean of anything Atreyu have done up to this point. It is utterly sensational—the perfect way to mark the band’s 20th anniversary.
“I feel like we’ve never lost the spirit of having something to prove,” says vocalist Brandon Saller. “We’re always wanting to be a better band, write new songs and try new things. This is an extension of that.
“It gives you perspective, when you’ve been a band for 20 years—it’s an important time, we’re very fortunate we’re still here, to still be playing good sized shows to a lot of people and people are still stoked to hear the music. All we can do is try and be the best version of us people have ever heard.”
Beneath Atreyu’s cumulative anger and resentment—so expertly translated on In Our Wake—is the sound of existential reflection. Impacted by the deaths of Chris Cornell and Chester Bennington, Atreyu approached the album with one heavy thought: what do we leave behind when we’re gone?
“Both of those guys were huge influences on us,” says Saller. “We toured with both of their bands, and they’re both hugely immense talents in the music world. You can’t be in a band and not look up to people that like that. That’s the crazy thing when people pass, and when they pass in an unsavory way—it makes you think about life.”
Another point of reflection that came into play when Atreyu started writing In Our Wake is that members of the band are now fathers—lead vocalist Alex Varkatzas has a son and daughter, and Saller has two daughters—and the majority of the band are now married.
“You start to think about the fact that life isn’t just about you anymore,” says Saller. “My wife and I, we’ve created new life and we have this responsibility of how they’re going to grow, how we keep them and how they’re going to contribute to the world. It makes you think. Your purpose just became one speck bigger—it became that much greater than it was. There’s a lot of stepping back and reflecting on the record.”
I feel as though every Atreyu album is our truest form of creation at that time, and I think that’s why our albums have always taken turns and surprised people. If you have that true intention and you live in that moment, there’s no pressure. There’s no worry.
Looking at the album’s title track, Atreyu reflect heavily on the ifs, whats and maybes of what happens when you’re gone. “It might be positive or negative, it might be small or big, but as an adult, you have to really think about that and make a conscious decision to take one road or the other,” Saller muses.
“We’ve never questioned our intentions in the moment. I feel as though every Atreyu album is our truest form of creation at that time, and I think that’s why our albums have always taken turns and surprised people. If you have that true intention and you live in that moment, there’s no pressure. There’s no worry.”
Living in the moment is a mantra that Atreyu adhered by for the entire songwriting process, going so far as to write what Saller says was 90 percent of what we hear on the album during the day of recording. “That was a push from John Feldman. He’s ask us, ‘What’s on your mind right now?’ We were living in the actual moment. Every day, we’d come in with fresh-rested brains and have a song fully written by the end of the day.”
During the writing process, there were of course moments that were defined by existentialism, wherein Saller found himself feeling utterly pure as the events of one moment (though there were many) encapsulated him. “There were definitely a lot of cool, special moments on this record for me—like Superhero. We had the idea for a grand Yellow meets Queen meets give-me-music vibe—something new and grand.
“The second I had the concept for that song, the whole thing started taking shape. Getting the guests involved was another beautiful moment in the studio. That took so much time and effort to create, but it’s the masterpiece of the record for me.”
Elements of your past are what led you to where you are right now, and Saller is the first to remember how important your history is. “We’ve been a band for so long, we’ve been friends for so long, we’ve known each other since before we could drive – we’d sneak out of our houses and go toilet paper houses! We’ve been a group since we were kids.
“There’s a trust, a belief in each other, that grows, and grows, and grows.”