Atreyu’s Brandon Saller – Alex Varkatzas Exit Provided More Opportunity Than Challenge
Atreyu's Brandon Saller was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show, on hand to discuss the band's latest album Baptize. The record, while it does contain material written with former co-vocalist Alex Varkatzas, is their first not to feature his vocals. And during the chat Saller spoke about the opportunity that provided for the group.
The drummer, who has now moved to the front of the stage in the band's current configuration, also spoke on making that live transition and pulling strength from seeing someone like Dave Grohl do the same thing. Saller also offers insight into his writing approach and discusses why material written with Varkatzas remained on their new record. Check out the chat in full below.
Between the pandemic and Alex Varkatzas leaving the band, uncertainty characterized last year for Atreyu. How did those unknowns actually exhilarate you while making Baptize?
We're definitely a group of dudes who thrive in the face of the challenge. We've always been that way as a band. We've always been that 'uphill battle' sort of band — nothing's ever really been handed to us.
We saw it as more of an opportunity rather than a challenge. We had already started writing and recording Baptize in January and it pushed us to go ahead and have an even more creative outlook to finish the album.
Atreyu, "Warrior" Music Video
Alex was actually involved in writing some of the music on Baptize. Why was it important that his efforts be part of the finished album?
We had started the album and we wrote probably 12 songs, musically and vocally as well. He had a hand in writing a lot of the lyrics on the first batch of songs too, so we loved the songs and we loved what we had all accomplished.
We didn't want to just shelve the songs because he wasn't in the band anymore. We all were super proud of what we did so we just kept on trucking. We wrote a handful of songs on our own and adapted everything that we'd done before, essentially with putting my voice and Porter’s voice on everything.
Baptize is one of the heavier Atreyu albums. When you're writing and recording, what subconsciously dictates the style and tone of the music you're making?
We've always been a band that doesn't focus on much more than the current feeling and current thought, especially with the way we make records with our producer John Feldmann.
It's very much like, 'What are you feeling today? How do you feel? What do you want to write about?' It's like time capsules. There's never really the intention to make this record heavier or [to make a record that is] more pop or more metal. That's why Atreyu albums have always come out being so eclectic and cover multiple genres. Whatever we're feeling that day, it's very clear and honest — creative time capsules every time we write a song.
Someone transitioning from one role to another can sometimes be disconcerting for their audience. In what ways have other people doing the same thing, such as Dave Grohl for example, encouraged you?
A big part about me taking the lead role over as far as vocals in the band was because it wasn't going to be as jarring and as much of a shock to our audience because they're already used to my voice. It wasn't like bringing in a stranger.
As far as me gaining the confidence to jump up front and have a new kind of role onstage, people such a Dave Grohl are definitely a huge influence. You realize that if it's good and it's entertaining, then people are going to welcome it with open arms. So, that's what I intend on being.
I intend on just going onstage and being myself and if anyone's seen my other band Hell or High Water perform or if anyone has seen video of Atreyu in 2019 in Europe (we actually had to go to Europe with this exact lineup currently and I was up front)... people have kind of seen a little taste of it.
We did our livestream events too and people saw a taste of it. So far people have been very, very kind and kind of welcoming to the new stage setup.
Atreyu, "Save Us" Music Video
Brandon, you're a multi-instrumentalist with multiple creative outlets. How does excessive creativity help you cope with turmoil and disruption that sometimes occurs in life?
I feel like, honestly, it's my main coping mechanism. I feel like there's never a shortage of things to write about in this day in age and I feel like whether for me, if I'm sad it doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to write a sad song. Writing music and having an outlet creatively is something that just makes me feel better inside. It makes me feel normal. So, I think that's why I write so much music. I'm in Atreyu, I'm also have this other band. I do music for TV/Film, I write as an artist, so it's kind of one of those things where like that part of me just needs to continue to exist at as high of a capacity as I can. It makes me feel better inside, ya know?
Thanks to Brandon Saller for the interview. Get your copy of Atreyu's 'Baptized' here and follow the band on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio show here.