Exclusive Interview: Atreyu
by Gregory Burkart
This week Atreyu released their epic fifth studio album, Congregation of the Damned – which you really need to check out pronto, since it contains some of the band's darkest material since their 2004 record The Curse (which I thought was essentially a vampire-themed album, but apparently that's not entirely the case), and also represents the best and strongest of the band's decade-long creative arc. It's an ambitious, epic project with an undercurrent of doom running through it – a theme well represented by killer tracks like Gallows, Storm to Pass, Stop! Before It's Too Late and We've Destroyed it All – and owes a lot of its heavy sound to the production skills of Bob Marlette, whose client list includes the likes of Alice Cooper, Black Sabbath and Slayer.
Atreyu guitarist Travis Miguel was gracious enough to take a break from the band's ongoing fall tour with Hollywood Undead (about whom you'll be hearing more on these pages very soon) to chat with us about the new record, their childhood fears, and their shared love of horror flicks and games – definitely great ways to pass the time on the road. Check out the interview below the jump!
FEARnet: Thanks for taking time out to chat with us... I know you're in the thick of touring right now. How are you guys getting along with the Undead?
TRAVIS: Touring with Hollywood Undead has been great. They're a bunch of characters... I think I lost a few hundred bucks playing C-Lo with them!
I see you're all playing in Philly on Halloween night... any big plans for the holiday?
We don't really have any elaborate plans for Halloween, really... we'll probably get some half-rate cheesy costumes earlier that day, have a few drinks, and rock out. We have to cross the border into Canada later that night, so we have to be on our best behavior.
Congratulations on the release of Congregation. I was really impressed by how menacing the new material sounds... what led you down that darker path?
It wasn't really a conscious decision to go darker and heavier, it just kinda happened. In a way, we reflected on our entire body of work and put it all into one album... an all-encompassing Atreyu album, if you will.
It really feels like it. How much did influence did producer Bob Marlette have on that heavier, darker sound?
Bob was integral in making this album sound the way it does.
What was it like working with Bob?
[He] understands where we come from and what we wanted to achieve... he wasn't concerned with kissing our asses, promising to make us huge rock stars with a platinum record. He understood our odd, left-of-center sense of humor, which made it very comfortable to work with him. His main concern was deciding what was best for the particular song at hand. Some producers may only work with drums and vocals or some may work strictly with the preproduction; some producers don't work on albums at all and just slap their name on the final product. This wasn't the case with Bob: he was right there with us every day, manning the boards and getting his hands dirty.
It seems like the last time your music went this dark was in The Curse, and that one seemed to have a kind of vampire concept going through some of it... did [frontman] Alex Varkatzas also come up with a theme tying this new material together?
Even though there is some cohesive subject matter in Alex's lyrics, there isn't a specific theme going on with Congregation, really.... as far as The Curse goes, I think people looked way too deep into the imagery and assumed there was some kind of vampire concept album...
Ah, I guess I made the same mistake there.
But as far as themes go, each song on the record is independent from each other.
I got the idea that the title refers to modern society as a whole, marching blindly toward certain doom.
[It's] basically a broad view or outlook on humanity as a whole. We, as the human race, could use a little work... actually we could probably use a LOT of work.
Some of the songs seem to suggest we've already gone past the point of no return. Would you say that's true and we're all doomed, or is this more of a wake-up call?
There's always room for improvement, and I don't think all hope is gone... but, I'm afraid if we keep going at the same rate we currently are, there WILL be a point-of-no-return situation... which is fucking frightening.
You're absolutely right. Speaking of which, what would you consider your biggest fear?
Oddly enough, I have a phobia of blood. I can't get blood drawn without feeling like I'm gonna faint... I'm a big pussy.
How do you feel about blood on the screen? Are you guys big horror fans?
We all have soft spots in our hearts for horror movies. I've always been a big fan of the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I saw it for the first time when I was about 8 or 9 years old, so even to this day when I see it, it brings me back to being super-young and impressionable... and being scared senseless.
I'm guessing your tastes run more to old-school horror flicks.
I'm definitely more of a fan of the old-school stuff... mostly because, again, I saw all of those movies when I was young and they freaked me out. Every night, I had to make the dreaded trek down the long dark hallway to my bedroom. I'd always make a mad dash into my bedroom and turn the light on as quickly as I could because I was afraid something was going to grab me.
I thought your "Metalhead Zombies" online shooter was a cool promotional idea... I take it you guys are into video games in general?
All of us in our camp play video games... some more than others. When I'm 70 years old, I'm pretty sure I'll still be playing video games. The "Metalhead Zombies" thing was just something fun for the fans to get into. Who doesn't like shooting up zombies?
Absolutely. So that game is more or less based on Call of Duty... was that a favorite of yours?
Personally, I never really got into Call of Duty... mostly because I totally suck. But both our bass player, Marc and myself have been playing Uncharted 2 on a regular basis on the bus. It comes in handy on tour when you're bored out of your mind!
You can play “Metalhead Zombies” yourself and watch a series of webisodes from the making ofCongregation of the Damned on the band's official site or MySpace ... and be sure to get your hands on the album itself, which is out in stores and on iTunes right now.