By Jim Shea
There must be something in the air in Orange County, Calif. A few rock and metal acts from the "O.C." made the most out of 2004 so far. Bands like Bleeding Through, Throwdown, Avenged Sevenfold and Eighteen Visions have made their impact in the music scene this year, but no other band except Atreyu have made the biggest impact of them all.
Atreyu-consisting of vocalist Alex Varkatzas, drummer and back-up vocalist Brandon Saller, bassist Marc McKnight and guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel - have been making a lot of noise lately with the release of their latest album, The Curse. The Curse is already seeing favorable sales, but it is Atreyu's live shows that have been giving them a lot of buzz. This summer, the band got a massive amount of exposure during their stay on Ozzfest 2004 Second Stage and now they're playing alongside Taking Back Sunday, From Autumn To Ashes, and Like Yesterday for their Fall tour run with nearly every show being sold out.
On Tuesday, Nov. 16, Atreyu came to town for a sold-out headlining show at The Downtown in Farmingdale with supporting bands Funeral For A Friend, Anterrabe and Roses Are Red. The crowd was definitely tearing things up for all four bands as the crowd couldn't wait for Atreyu. While Roses Are Red and Funeral For A Friend satisfied the "emo/screamo" fans, the hardcore fans were tearing it up in a huge pit during Anterrabe and Atreyu.
Before the show, The Chronicle had a chance to sit down with Atreyu guitarist "Big" Dan Jacobs before the show to run down the history of Atreyu and also to discuss the band's recent rise to fame.
The Chronicle: So how's your recent tour with Taking Back Sunday going so far?
Dan Jacobs: Awesome man, it's been incredible touring with these guys.
Chronicle: How do you compare this tour with TBS to your stay on Ozzfest this year?
DJ: I have to say I like this tour better because it's hard to wake up on certain days at 8 in the morning and load up, but for this tour, it's cool because you get somewhat of a more intimate feeling playing in clubs plus we don't have to get up early to play (laughs).
Chronicle: Speaking of Ozzfest, there was this one part during your performance where you would stand on Travis and Marc's knees and do a human pyramid. Did you guys rehearse for that or you just came up with that?
DJ: We came up with that, but originally the Scorpions did that and it was sick since nobody does that, you know? So we said "Let's give it a try," and we started practicing it and we figured out how to do it quick, because we were trying to put this thing together. I was thinking, "Damn, someone's got to hold me while balancing the guitar," but eventually like cheerleaders we figured it out and did it.
Chronicle: It's obvious that with Ozzfest and the release of your new release, The Curse, you've gotten a ton of exposure which must've been unbelievable.
DJ: I know, it was perfect with our new CD coming out before we went out to Ozzfest, so we wanted to keep those scans coming out and people keep buying our CDs.
Chronicle: Now how do you compare this album, The Curse, to your previous album, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses?
DJ: I think The Curse is a more mature album, a more mature version of us. I mean more mature with us by taking the stuff we liked from Suicide Notes and just left the stuff we didn't like from Suicide Notes, it's just the way we write songs like we kind of learn what works and what doesn't work, how to make songs flow better and better transitions and things like that. That's basically it with the differences.
Chronicle: How do you feel with people saying that Suicide Notes was a heavier album than The Curse?
DJ: I don't know, maybe it has to do with The Curse being a more polished album and we had Brandon singing a bit more, but we like his singing, but being softer, well for the next album we're planning to make it heavy with more thrash, more double bass, just more heavy shit. Than again, maybe we want to go in the other direction and write a softer album. It's all about not producing the same album over and over again. I mean if we make another Suicide Notes, some people will like it, but others will want something different.
Chronicle: Basic question: How did you guys start out?
DJ: Initially it started off as a four-piece as it was Alex, Brandon, and I getting together to form a band and this was back in '99. We've had band member changes during the course, we got Travis in 2000 as well as Chris (Thomson) on bass, but then we got Marc for bass in early 2004. Pretty much the rest is history.
Chronicle: Moving back to Ozzfest for a minute, what was your most favorite experience at Ozzfest?
DJ: Man, that's tough...but there's one that's hands down the best one. Towards the beginning of Ozzfest, we started this thing called "Shirts Off Group" (SOG) and one night, we got members - which consisted of Second Stage band members including Corey from Slipknot - and got them rowdy and drunk and friggin' stormed Black Sabbath's set as all of us got into the pit. Security was like, "Whoa!" while all of us were running around with our shirts off chanting, "SOG! SOG!" While we were doing all this, we chanted "Olay, olay, olay" and Ozzy got off the stage for a second and started chanted the same thing as well over the mic. All of us were blown away when that happened.
Chronicle: To get the artist's perspective on the issue, how do you feel about the issue of P2P/file-sharing programs such as KaZaa and Napster?
DJ: To me personally, I really don't give a crap if people want to download our music, you know what I mean? If people still come out to the shows, like support the band and buy the merchandise, it's like if people come out and sing along or whatever, who cares. It's just about people just still supporting us.
Chronicle: Which bands do you consider to be your influences personally?
DJ: For me personally, I'm really, really into the hair metal with bands like Motley Crue, Van Halen, and even Queen, but for instances, I want to have that heavy metal sound, but also incorporate that hair metal sound as well.
Chronicle: Can you describe the music scene that goes on in Orange County?
DJ: Nowadays it seems like everyone's into the hardcore music, but I don't know how it is now. In Orange County, it's tight jeans and black T-shirts, but it's just about the kids listening to our kind of music. I was really into the hardcore scene in the late '90s, but once I started touring, it seemed different. But if you just break it down, it's just metal. It may be all different types of metal, rock 'n' roll, but all it is really is just metal.
Chronicle: What's your favorite Orange County band?
DJ: That's a tough one, but I have to say I like Avenged Sevenfold because they got the 80's metal and also shred things up with their riffs.
Chronicle: What are your plans after this tour with Taking Back Sunday?
DJ: We're going to take a break for a bit and then go on a headlining tour with Unearth and Norma Jean.
Chronicle: How do you feel with places such as The Downtown having no barricades and kids are able to jump on stage and jump into the crowd?
DJ: That's cool because that's how it was when we first started out. Nowadays we play at shows with barricades, but at places like these, it's awesome. I love it as along if no one screws up the equipment. But at times, kids would just stay on the stage and the song would be over, then I wouldn't be able to play my guitar, but whatever.
Chronicle: Tell us about your performance from Hellfest in 2002.
DJ: It was interesting because it was set up that there are two stages. While we were playing, another band would be playing as well and we could hear them. But the good thing about this Hellfest was that it was one of the first large crowds we played in front of and we were excited.
Chronicle: What's been your favorite stop so far on this tour?
DJ:Can't pick, they've all been awesome. It's just because they've all been huge places and nearly every show's been sold out.
Chronicle: Since you've toured in Europe before, how are the crowds in Europe than the ones in the US?
DJ: I have to say they're more enthusiastic than the ones here. It may have been a year and a half ago that we were last there, but they seem to be more open-minded to different kinds of music and stuff.
Chronicle: If you had the chance, which band in the world would you like to tour with?
DJ: Even though they're not around anymore, I'd like to tour with Queen and Van Halen, but pretty much those mid-to-late '80s metal bands like Motley Crue because they always have good shows.
Chronicle: Earlier in the year, you were originally rumored to be touring at the Vans Warped Tour until you were confirmed for Ozzfest. How would you feel if you were on Warped Tour?
DJ: We might be going on Warped Tour next year, but for this year, it was just the matter of which market we want to hit first. We figured Ozzfest had the more "heavier" crowd and we wanted to do that first.
Chronicle: To wrap things up, what would you like to say to your fans out there?
DJ: Keep coming to the shows and keep your horns in the air. n