Interview: Dan Jacobs of Atreyu – “It Was Like We Never Left…”

Atreyu

atreyu1On hiatus since 2011, the popular metal-core band Atreyu excited many when they announced in 2014 that they would be heading back into the studio to work on their new album Long Live, their first studio album since 2009’s Congregation of The Damned.

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Featuring an impassioned return to the sound and style found on the band’s biggest hit record 2004’s The Curse, Long Live showcases the band at their most confident in years, and within a sound where they have proven to be most comfortable. Lead by the hard hitting single of the same name, Long Live was named #4 in OC Weekly’s Best Albums of 2015 list, and is definitely a record you do not want to miss.

We recently spoke to guitarist Dan Jacobs on his thoughts on the band’s comeback, his thoughts on the band’s change in sound in 2007, what made the band decide to return to a harder sound, and much more. Read our interview below:

AW: With so many years having passed since your previous record, what was it like heading back to the studio after all that time? Was it an awkward feeling getting back into the flow of recording, or was it like you never left?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: It was kind of like we never left. Especially because Brandon, Alex and myself have all been playing together for close to 20 years now, even prior to Atreyu. Atreyu at the time [of heading into the studio] was a band for close to 15, almost 16 years. It’s just one of those things where it’s just so much easier no matter whom I write with, to write with them at any point in time. No matter if we take years off or days off, whatever it is. There’s all of that comfort there just because we’ve been doing it for so long. They’re kind of like family.

It was probably one of the easiest albums to write because we were so excited and had so much pent-up inspiration. There were these ideas we had that were just sitting around for years, just waiting to come out and be used. All that played into the process, and made it really easy and really exciting.

AW: As a band your style musically went through a few changes over the years, but when approaching the writing and recording process for Long Live, you guys expressed a want to create a sound closer in style to your 2004 album The Curse. What is it about that album in particular that you feel still resonates and appeals to the band after all this time?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: I feel like when we came out that we were doing a sound that both us and a few of the other bands kind of created in a way, accidentally, just trying to do something a bit different. In doing so it sort of started a trend of these screaming and singing bands, and I think that record for us in particular was the height of our wave and where we really hit our stride, and really found our sound. I feel it was that’s also why that is our highest selling album to date. I feel like it’s always been the biggest ‘fan favorite’ album.

When we did that turn on Lead Sails Paper Anchor and went a little more melodic, I think that’s something that made our career a bit weird. As much as it helped us in some ways, it also felt a bit weird in other ways and I think we’ve all have felt confused since then. In bringing back a sound like The Curse, or at least that kind of style, it’s something where we all feel the most comfortable, at least for this band.

 AW: With such a strong comeback record, I’m sure the entire album is something you’re proud of, but do you have a certain track from Long Live that is your favorite, or that you had the most fun recording in the studio?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: I’d say “Long Live”. Long Live in particular was the first riff that we wrote when we came back as a band and all sat in the room and said ‘let’s try writing something’. Like, that was the first riff that had come out, and it eventually got developed into the lead song on the album. The song has to do with us coming back, and that song I feel represents everything that is Atreyu and that we’ve always been as well as it represents the new version of us now. It’s kind of like an ‘on steroids’ version of everything we’ve done in the past as well a new vibe with some things we’ve never really done before. I think that song really encompasses everything that we are, and who we have become.

AW: I’d imagine returning after so long yielded quite  the creative output. Were there any very strong tracks that did not make the final cut, which we may see on future releases or EPs?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: No, actually. What we did is actually something that we were doing on our first three records (Suicide Notes, The Curse and A Death Grip on Yesterday). All those records were back in the days when we were not writing 30-40 songs and then picking the best ones and finishing those up. Back then we didn’t know any better or any other way. Someone would be like ‘alright guys, you’re doing an album and you need to have ten songs on it’ and we’d be ‘alright, we’re writing ten songs then and we’re going to make those ten songs the best we can’. Everything makes the cut.

So we took that approach here. It worked really well for us in the past and I feel that the songs get a lot more attention, as well as you put a lot more into them when you know ‘this is it’ and that these are going to be put on the album no matter what, so you need to deliver. Instead of just trying to throw a bunch of things at the wall and hope that something sticks. Even in the recording process we broke things up. Instead of writing twelve songs and then going to record twelve songs, we wrote three songs and we’d record them, then say we’d write five songs and go to record them, and whatever, that way all the songs I feel got a little more attention rather than us trying to pump them all out at the same time.

AW: Many albums by Atreyu over the last decade, have contained studio covers of songs by the band’s favorite artists. One such EP, Covers of The Damned even focused on this exclusively. Are there any plans to do another cover EP for this album cycle, and despite your existing repertoire of covers, are there any songs that you haven’t covered yet that you’d love to in the future?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: There are no official plans or anything like that coming up, but we definitely like the idea of cover songs. We did a cover of Bon Jovi’s “You Give Love a Bad Name”, and we recorded that around the same time as The Curse and the bonus version came with that song. Live it just comes off so well because everyone knows it and I think that’s just one of the beautiful things that covers can achieve. One, you get to hear a band do their own interpretation of a song that they really like, as well as when you go to see a band live, if maybe you’ve never seen that band before or don’t know the lyrics to their songs, you can at least sing along to that song and feel like you’re a part of the show and do your thing.

I definitely wouldn’t mind doing a song by AC/DC, I feel that we could do that in a really cool way. We could make it really heavy.

Atreyu-band-2015

“We all fell in love with it [hardcore shows] and I think that’s what really pushed us in a heavier direction musically.”

 

AW: I see that Long Live was named the #4 best album of 2015 by OC Weekly (congratulations!). One thing that Orange County is known for is being the birthplace of some rather influential rock bands such as No Doubt, The Offspring and Social Distortion, as well as some awesome recent bands of the last 15 years, like yourself and Of Mice and Men. Being from the OC, what is it about that area that makes it such a fantastic birthplace for talented rock musicians?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: I think that it’s a combination of a lot of things. Southern California in particular is one of the most desirable places to live in the entire world. One, we got the amazing weather and there’s also a bit of everything here, from all different cultures, to different foods. You can go to winter sports and drive an hour one way, and then drive thirty minutes another way and you’re at the beach or Disneyland or wherever. There’s so much here, but it’s also fairly expensive to live here.

So with all that stuff being said, it attracts many people. A lot of talent, and a lot of people who crave this area because it has a lot of energy and a lot of cool things about it. It’s a very desirable place. You get more a concentration of talent, and successful people who are bred to live in an area like Orange County, which can be pretty tough to do. I feel that plays into it. There just happens to be a lot of great musicians and just talented, successful people who come out of this area.

To kind of tie off of that a bit, and actually from my school in particular, members of Aquabats, Death by Stereo, The Cheetah Girls, and Atreyu obviously, all went to my school within my four years of being there. There are people who played in all these bands that have played in bands that I was in or associated with, or who were friends with me, that all went to the same high school. It’s crazy! It’s one of those things where bands would play at lunch and you’d go and watch these bands live and think ‘fuck this is really good!’ or ‘this is really good for highschool’, but then you fast forward years later and these are the dudes I’m touring around the world with or running into at festivals. It’s like “damn you guys really were that good!” Everyone really was that talented. We were watching some crazy shit and we didn’t even realize it.

AW: That reminds me of an old video that has made the rounds again recently of Green Day as teenagers, performing in their high school courtyard. It’s so bizarre to see these people watching them perform when they were just really talented kids, unaware that the band that they’re watching are soon going to become one of the biggest rock or punk bands of the last 30 years. I can’t even imagine that!

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: Exactly, right? It’s so crazy. You never know. It’s like one day you’re chilling with them, the next day it’s like ‘wow that person went to my school!’. For instance, I’ll give you a brief story. I had this band that I was performing with in high school called Dreaming In Blue, who were kind of like a poppy punk band. Our drummer from Atreyu, Brandon was in the band and the guitarist was this guy named Jonnie Russell. Then there was this other band called Electric Youth. It was a cover band. The drummer was our drummer Brandon, and the guitar player is now the guitar player for the Aquabats. The singer for that band [Electric Youth] Nate Willett, him and Jonnie Russell (who was playing guitar for our other band) went on and started the band Cold War Kids. They even at one point hit us up in our earlier days when we had just upgraded to a bus and were like ‘oh do you guys have your Atreyu van still? We’d like to buy it, because we’re doing a band’. And I was like ‘Oh Johnnie and Nate are in a band together? What are they doing? Cold War Kids? What’s that?’ Fast forward a few years later and they’re still around and still killing it. Johnnie Russell is not in the band anymore, but Nate’s still the lead singer and they’re doing Coachella this year. They’re one of the main bands on the bill. It’s crazy!

AW: Growing up around all this talent, were there any OC area musicians that really inspired you to want to get in a rock band?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu:  Hmm yeah, but I’d say more to an extent they influenced us to get heavier. Green Day is actually who inspired me to want to get into a band. That was back in 1994 when I was about 12. From there that kind of spun me off into punk, and punk started evolving into heavier music. I started craving more talent musically so I started getting into metal and 80’s classic rock and shit like that. So locally, the bands I was getting into were like Thrice when they first came out. Even though they were the same type of band as us, they had like this punk version of what we were doing, and we came from punk roots as well.

I guess some cool bands would be like Adamantium, or even Throwdown, Eighteen Visions, Show of Hands, Wrench, just all these really heavy local bands who at the time, like us were the biggest thing. Death By Stereo even. Bands that at their shows would just have people going nuts. That’s what really sold us on wanting to play heavier music. Like we thought people went crazy at punk shows and then we go to hardcore shows and there’s people doing backflips off the stage, and piling up on the singer and trying to get the mic from him, and just singing along like I’ve never heard people sing along before. It was just a whole other experience and energy, and it made me feel like “I want to be the person who makes people do that”. We all fell in love with it and I think that’s what really pushed us in a heavier direction musically.

AW: You’re due to play the UK Download Fest, and Nova Rock this year. In addition to these shows, what are your hopeful plans for touring in 2016. Any particular ideas of where you’d like to tour in support of Long Live this year?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: We started touring last year, in but continuing this we’re just kind of chipping away at the whole world because we just haven’t been anywhere in so long. A lot of these markets we still haven’t had a chance to get there. So probably just finishing off the rest of North America and even some of the southern states, and the Midwest and what not. Getting into Canada, maybe even going back to Mexico. I really want to get back in Australia. We’re talking about possibly doing something in Japan, and of course if it works out we’ll probably do some touring revolving around Download and all of that. We’re trying to juggle all the continents as much as we can without being there too much at the same time.

AW: Australia is interesting as it seems to be a place Atreyu really loves to tour in. What would you say is Australia’s biggest appeal to the band?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: Well one it’s just like Southern California. Literally everywhere you go in the country, or I should say at least the main beach cities, it feels like you’re in Southern California but with a twist. They’re driving on the other side of the road, they’ve got this English-like accent, and the culture is even English infused a little bit. But at the same time you’ve got this really funny weather, and great beaches, and it’s just this weird mix. Essentially even for me and what I am because a lot of my family is English. I’m the first-born over here on my mom’s side. So going over there for me in particular it’s just really comfortable, and like I said it’s an English-speaking country so it makes it easier to communicate and get around. It’s not too much of a culture shock or anything.

Also, the fans are awesome. They love metal and there are bands out there like Amity Affliction for instance that may come out here and not do that well, but then they go out there and they headline arenas. It’s like “…what? I want some of that!”

There’s a great energy out there in Australia. It’s easy, it’s beautiful and it’s very vacation-esque so everything about it is just awesome.

AW: You definitely have some great and highly dedicated fans! Before we go, what are you most excited for in the year ahead. Anything fans should be on the lookout for?

Dan Jacobs / Atreyu: Mostly just touring. I’m excited to do a lot of that, and even do some songwriting in particular. Brandon and I do a lot of songwriting outside of this band, and we’re really excited just to collaborate with a lot of different artists as well and see what kind of other music is going to pop up out there that is actually really written by Atreyu [laughs]. It should be cool!

Atreyu – “Long Live”:

Atreyu - Long Live

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