Metalcore mainstays Atreyu released their fifth album, Congregation of the Damned, recently, adding yet another chapter to the band's already expansive never ending story. Bassist Marc McKnight checked in recently from a victory lap across the US with Hollywood Undead to hold court with Punknews interviewer G'Ra Asim.
How is the tour with Hollywood Undead going so far?
Itâs going extremely well, you know? Weâre like two weeks in so far. We did a bunch of dates in Texas and Iâm from the South, so itâs always a pleasure to play there. Weâd been home for a long time. We played radio shows and signings here and there, but itâs nice to be on a consistent tour where you play every night. We played Atlanta the other night and it was the craziest show Iâve played in Atlanta ever. It was amazing.
So is Atlanta like a typically awesome date or was it a surprise?
Letâs do a scale of one to ten here, alright? Atlanta is usually, Iâd say, about an eight. But this was like a 9.7. You know what I mean? And Orlando the night before was in the same boat, they were in the upper nines, too. Like, I donât understand it. It was fucking awesome. Itâs good to be back, good to be playing again.
Your vocalist, Alex Varkatzas, mentioned that the heavier music on the record gave him room to write darker lyrics. Iâm curious if the rest of the band anticipates lyrical themes when you compose instrumentals, or do you just wait to see what Alex throws at you regardless?
Thatâs a good question, actually. Nice. We usually just write the songs. We donât want to take any sort of bias as to what Alex is going to write, or go, "Oh man, this sounds like a love song." Like, the ballad we wrote on the record- the last song ["Wait For You"]- that one was kind of obvious, it should be a love song. But we usually just let his genius just hang out and do what it does. We just wrote 30 songs for this record, I think. It was kind of weird because usually, for instance if we need ten songs for an album, we just write ten songs. That was it. When this one came around we were writing 12, 13, 15 songs. We got to thirty and we were just like, "Where the hell is this coming from?" The well was just never dry. It was pretty amazing.
I heard that you guys didnât take any time off of touring before writing this record. Does that mean you anticipated this kind of productivity?
We actually werenât anticipating this absurd amount of creativity that we felt after that one tour. It was a European tour, I remember and I stayed over there a little bit later and traveled around because I decided to hang out. If I know weâre ending a tour and Iâm going to have a lot of free time where Iâm just sitting at home, Iâd rather be traveling in Scotland, you know? So I was over there and Iâd been talking to the dudes through emails and it was only a week and a half after that tour and theyâd already written three songs. So the second I got back, in the beginning it was two songs a day. We were just pumping out songs and they were all good. We didnât even end up using those first three or anything so they are still kind of just ones that were left under. We were all just kind of blown away by easily this record came to us and how right it felt.
Are we going to see any of those b-sides show in another form anytime in the future?
The leftovers, you mean? No. We initially wanted to do this record with say, 11 songs and on it, and then record six other songs that we release a couple at a time every so often after the record. Because they were still good songs- they [could have] been on the record- but fans are a lot more hungry these days. With the internet and with the ease of information, I just wanted to give the fans something else to listen to after the fact. Then we started doing these songs and weâre like, "Goddamnit, all of these songs are way too good to cut." We didnât know which ones to cut so it ended up like we were gonna do a 10 song record when we had 16 songs after we started recording with [producer] Bob [Marlette]. We had 16 songs, which ones are going to be cut? And everyone had a different list of songs they wanted to release. So weâre like, "Crap, letâs do 11, crap letâs do 12. Well, we canât just do 12 letâs do 13! Ok, awesome. Weâre done."
Man, thatâs an excellent problem to have as far as songwriting goes.
Exactly! That was our joke the whole time. It was like, "This is a big problem, but not a bad problem to have."
Members of the band have indicated in the press that some elements of Atreyuâs identity were absent on Lead Sails Paper Anchor that you wanted to bring back. What parts of Atreyuâs past did you focus on reclaiming when recording this album?
I donât think we reclaimed anything from our past. I think on this record we used everything weâve learned over the past ten years of being a band. Weâre not going to write another The Curse. Weâre not going to write another Suicide Notes [and Butterfly Kisses]. Thatâs what we wrote when were 18 years old. Weâre all grown adults now. Two of us are married. Weâre never going to write those albums againâ¦ I donât understand when people are just like, "What the fuck, man? You need to sound like so and soâs record, this record, this song." Itâs like, "Fuck you, man." Why would I want to condemn myself to writing that style or song for the rest of my life? If you want to listen to that song, listen to that song.
That kind of makes me curious how youâd say your musical tastes have changed most recently as a result of maturity. Are you into anything now that you never wouldâve anticipated being into?
Thatâs really funny. Iâd say last year I listened to more like movie soundtracks- not like the Spiderman movie soundtrack with Nickelback on it. Iâm talking like Clint Mansell who did the movie The Fountain where itâs this absurdly beautiful, genuine and orchestral score that goes around the movie and makes the movie that much better. Or like Jonny Greenwood, the guitarist from Radiohead, did the score for There Will Be Blood and itâs gorgeous. It just blows my mind every time I listen to it. I listen to Sigur Ros and bands like that whereas when I was 13 or 14 years old, the only thing I wanted to listen to was Zao and Stretch Arm Strong, or Hot Water Music. And I still love all those bands today, but it doesnât mean I donât like new stuff too.