To some, Atreyu is a character from the classic 1979 Fantasy novel The NeverEnding Story, adapted to a film in 1984. To many young people today however, Atreyu is more importantly also a kickass American metalcore band from Orange County, California. A few years ago these guys were big in the global scene; I mean REALLY big. And then I hadn’t heard about anything from them for a while. This is because Atreyu were on hiatus from 2011 until 2014. Now back together, I got hold of guitarist and soloer-extraordinaire Dan Jacobs to discuss their recently released comeback record “Long Live”.
Kyle Lapointe (KL): So Mr. Dan, you guys just recently reformed as a band, and Montreal’s really agitated waiting for you guys to come here on October 6th. The last time you guys were here was 2010, correct?
Dan Jacobs (DJ): Yes, but we were in Montebello earlier this year for RockFest.
KL: That’s true, how was that?
DJ: That was amazing. Playing in Canada’s always great. The energy was really nice.
KL: I imagine everyone was excited to see you guys after so long. How did you approach playing on your newest album? Is new Atreyu able to stand up to old Atreyu?
DJ: In this case we were just a little bit more focused on what we wanted to do. We all kind of had the same game plan and the same vision. We definitely wanted this new album to be heavy and have guitar solos, breakdowns and big choruses. In particular we wanted our lead vocalist, Alex, to be aggressive like how he was on our first three records. I feel like that’s what he’s best at. We went down that road and everything came together and sounds badass.
KL: Are there any moments on there that you’d say you’re specifically proud of?
DJ: Some of the guitar solos I’m really proud of like on “Brass Balls”, “Live to Labor” and especially “Do You Know Who You Are?” I’ve been doing things a little differently — “Do You Know Who You Are?” has a very Queen-esque big solo. I think it’s the longest solo I’ve ever written for an Atreyu song. “Brass Balls” and “Live To Labor” have techniques I jacked from Brad Gillis of Night Ranger. I threw in techniques you don’t really hear in guitar playing these days. I really want people to scratch their heads and say, “What the fuck is that?”
KL: “I know it’s aggressive but I don’t know what it is, man…”
DJ: Exactly, it’s like Van Halen back in the day.
KL: I was just watching the music video for the first single from your new album. The song’s called “Long Live” and in the video you fell in a hole, didn’t you?
DJ: Oh, right. In the video I fall into a hole. I thought you were asking me if I fell into a hole now. I was like, “No, I’m okay man.”
KL: No, no. In the video each bandmate dies in varying ways, and your character falls to his death into a hole. I was wondering if since the video you’ve been more careful around holes?
DJ: Umm… it really depends on what you mean by that. Yeah, I guess I avoid holes at all costs for the most part. I’m not a very tall gentleman so it’s a longer fall for me.
KL: Wouldn’t it be really eerie if you died that way? I bet the rest of your bandmates would be looking over their shoulders, trying to make sure their deaths didn’t come to them.
DJ: Burned at the stake, cinderblock tied to ankle then dumped in a lake. Rough ways to go.
KL: I really dug the video though and it was good to see you guys come together after having time off. How was it taking time off?
DJ: It really rejuvenated our creative tanks. We were running on empty after so many records. Also, in coming back together it was interesting to see how well we work together as a band. It’s a very easy and fluid process. It’s not something I found when writing with other people outside the band while on hiatus. I had no clue how good I had it ‘til I took time off.
KL: And what caused you guys to be running on empty before?
DJ: We were touring basically right out of highschool. We were putting out albums and touring nonstop. You get a little bit detached from reality and your family and friends. It’s almost like time stops when you’re out on the road. Everything kind of starts to feel the same. It becomes like Groundhog Day. You go to the venue, take a shit, do soundcheck, eat food, wait for bands to come on, go to bed and repeat. You come back six weeks later and people start to forget about you. No one hits you up anymore because they assume you’re always gone. Also everyone wanted to find who they were outside the band as people. We all wanted to be individuals and not just the guys from Atreyu. What else am I good at? Who am I? I can’t just be band-dude. I feel like figuring that stuff out outside the band made us feel complete and made it easier to come back.
KL: It’s interesting that you’d say that it was so repetitive. I know a lot of people look towards artistry and music to escape the nine to five daily grind.
DJ: It ends up that way though. Don’t get me wrong, we travel all around the world and there are some amazing opportunities to be had from that. Like with anything there’s a yin and a yang. A downside of touring though is that you travel everywhere but you don’t see anything. A lot of the time the only things you really see are the bus, the space between your bus and the venue, and the venue. Maybe you walk down to the corner and grab some food. After a while summer touring, all you see is porta-potties and parking lots. After a while you’re in the twilight zone and it’s really amazing and really brutal at the same time. You have so much downtime. You’d think that would be great but you go crazy. You get sick of watching tv and seeing the same bands over and over again. It’s too hot outside and there’s nothing to eat on the bus. Catering is a mile away.
KL: Basically you wanna drown yourself in the porta-potty.
DJ: Yeah! We had to come up with the concept of putting locks on our porta-potty every day so we’d always have a fresh one. Otherwise you share the porta-potty with the general population and it gets disgusting.
KL: So what were you up to on hiatus, far away from porta-potty hell?
DJ: I’ve got some business projects I run with my brother. One’s called RockWorld Merchandise/ Craft Beer Merchandise. We do t-shirts and hats and merchandising work for RockStar energy drink. I’ve also been working with selling guitar plug-ins. Now I’m enjoying do all that stuff but still having time to play with Atreyu. I’m always busy but not doing the same thing all the time. I can always be creative now.
KL: So how are you guys approaching everything differently now?
DJ: Right now we’re not doing more than two weeks at a time. A lot of weekend shows, a lot of fly dates. We like to travel but not get burnt out. Once you hit the four, five or six week mark it’s brutal and you feel very uncomfortable. When you want to go home you can’t perform as well as you want to. Two weeks is perfect for us. Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing and we had been on eleven for so long. People don’t even come to your shows as much when you return to cities every three months. Now we’re doing great though, and you can really feel the chemistry from fans who haven’t seen us for a long time.
Atreyu plays on October 6 at the Corona Theatre with Beartooth and Wovenwar. 8 p.m. $31.50/$34.50.