An Interview with Brandon Saller of Atreyu

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In a review of its 2005 album The Curse, a critic described Atreyu’s music as being “too goth to be emo, too metal to be punk and too brazenly emotional to be metal.” With the release of the Orange County band’s latest CD, Lead Sails, Paper Anchor the identity crisis appears to be over. According to drummer/vocalist Brandon Saller, Lead Sails represents a bold effort to “sound like ourselves and not like ten other bands” – a goal which it achieves brilliantly. “We’ve come up in a heavier, hardcore scene,” Saller continues, “but we didn’t want to be stuck with that ‘Metalcore / Screamo’ label.” On what is most definitely a metal album, Lead Sails, Paper Anchor features far less agonized shrieking and more actual singing by vocalist Alex Varkatzas, augmented by Saller’s impressive vocal counterpoints, and layers of shredding, soaring guitars that tip the hat to metal stalwarts from Dokken to Slayer. What a rush! While the album will surely alienate as many fans as it wins over, Atreyu deserves serious props for having the nads to kick the abysmal “Screamo” genre one step closer to the same grave where Nu Metal now appears to be resting in peace.

Metal Edge: You’re a hard-hitting drummer with a solid groove. How do you balance an aggressive approach with keeping the groove in place?

Brandon Saller: I’m a fan of straightforward rock drumming. I’ve always tried to keep my drumming simple, but as far as keeping the groove and still being aggressive, I’m a big guy, so I hit hard whether I want to or not. When I get behind my drums I feel the need to just destroy them, and that comes out in the sound. I can make the simplest groove sound heavy and aggressive if I play it right and play it hard – which is how drums should be played.

Metal Edge: Did you have any input on how the drums for Lead Sails were mixed?

Brandon Saller: Yes. I went to the mixing sessions because I hate hearing a record where the drums don’t come across the way they should. For a band like us, the drums have to be there: in your face, heavy and aggressive. I like the drums to hurt. One of my main objectives for the mix was to make sure the drums sounded big enough. Andy Wallace mixed this record and a couple of days in he probably got sick of me saying, ‘could you make that kick drum a little punchier?’ But I wanted to make sure the drums were prominent in the mix, otherwise it throws off the whole recording.

Metal Edge: Because you vary your feels a lot on this CD, your drum tracks maintain your personality. That’s rare at a time when modern recording techniques have largely homogenized recorded drum performances. What are your thoughts on that?

Brandon Saller: In the past, we’ve recorded albums where every cymbal or drum hit on the entire record was overdubbed or programmed, which makes the drums sound sterile. With this record we did all the drums part-by-part. We went recorded maybe three different options of a chorus with a different fill or whatever, and it was cool to piece it all together in that way. But for the most part drums aren’t supposed to be flawless, because human beings aren’t machines. We recorded this CD to a click – and I play to a click live – but you’re supposed to still feel it and feel subtle changes. I definitely hate over-processed drums. You can be a tight drummer and have a tight record, but it has to sound like it was played by a person. It’s rare that you hear a record that sounds perfect, and then see the band’s live performance and it’s the exact same thing. Little imperfections make it sound real.

Metal Edge: Lead Sails features a great cover of Faith No More’s “Epic.” While the arrangement is very faithful to the original, did you have any desire to embellish Mike Bordin’s drum parts?

Brandon: I wanted to stay as true to the song as we could, because Faith No More is a band that you don’t change and Mike’s obviously an incredible drummer. It would have felt weird to change it up too much: the only thing we played around with was the vocal, because we wanted it to sound like Atreyu. The drumming on that song is so powerful and straightforward that it doesn’t need to be changed.

Brandon’s Gear:
Drums: Truth Custom Drums, DW Hardware
Sizes: (3) 22” X 20” Kick Drums, 14” x 9” Snare, 13” x 8” and 14” x 9” Rack Toms, 18” x 18” Floor Tom, 20” x 18” Gong Tom
Cymbals: Zildjian
Sticks: Vic Firth
Heads: Remo

Official Website: http://www.atreyuofficial.com/

Brandon Saller

This article was originally written for Metal Edge Magazine as part of a monthly column by Gail Worley (under the pen name Jayne Rollins). With the magazines’ dissolution, the article has been added to the content base of The Worley Gig for our readers’ enjoyment.

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