Atreyu blossomed after Y2K, headlines at Cargo on Saturday

Atreyu’s 20th anniversary tour hits Cargo Concert Hall in Reno on Saturday, Nov. 16.
The year is 1998. The internet, becoming more commonplace in American households, is beginning to change the landscape of music. Until this point, music was listened to primarily on full length albums or singles played on the radio and exchanged by trading cassettes with friends. Compilation CDs and traveling festival-style shows like Warped Tour and Lollapalooza were just emerging as an option for music fans to check out bands and performers from different genres. In short, depending on where you lived, it was a lot harder to hear music outside of the popular styles and a hell of a lot harder to casually listen to the more fringe genres and performers without putting a lot more effort into it. Along comes the internet, and artists such as Stevie Nicks talking about how musicians can’t make a living anymore. But this medium also has a flipside; bands born in suburban garages that may not have had access to big-time record labels and A&R reps are actually able to get their music out on a wider scale, at least if you were willing to wait several minutes for your AOL dialup connection to eventually download a full 3-minute long song. And while the excesses of bloated artist-exploiting record contracts started to crack, a band called Atreyu made up of high school friends was releasing its first recordings on underground record labels.

 ‘Pure feelings and emotions on tape’

“When we first started, our songs go a million different directions and have no rhyme or reason,” said Brandon Saller, Atreyu’s drummer and vocalist. “That time was just sorta pure feelings and emotions put onto tape.” Made up of four – eventually becoming five – members, the band’s early releases expanded beyond hardcore influences and began to mix metalcore and screaming emotion. “We haven’t belonged to one genre in so long. We’ve always just written music that we loved and I think when you do something that is kinda pure and has no agenda other than that we love to make it, it connects with people.” The early 2000s brought the increasing ubiquity of the internet and its spread of music, allowing metalcore to infiltrate bedrooms and car CD players across the country that had previously been a landscape of classic rock. If you were lucky, maybe a radio station that would incorporate harder rock bands. With a large independent record label behind them landing Atreyu on movie soundtracks and Headbanger’s Ball episodes, Saller describes how the band could tour and play with bands all over the hard rock spectrum. “We can do metal tours with bands like Slipknot or Taking Back Sunday. We’ve done Ozzfest and Warped Tour. We’ve done tours with Linkin Park and shows with Korn and Rob Zombie. There’s always gonna be a heavy element when we’re writing music, and there’s always gonna be a rock element.”

Merging into the mainstream

At a time of upheaval in traditional foundations for the conventional music industry, Atreyu’s stature began to loom larger and larger, emerging from the underground scene into large festival stages and the Madden NFL video game soundtrack, which may have cemented its rise from Orange County, California, backyard parties to tastes of a worldwide audience of melodic metal and rock lovers. The musical landscape appears a lot different these days than it did 20 years ago when it seemed like the internet may just be this passing fad. Atreyu is on its 20th anniversary tour, which will bring the band through Reno’s Cargo Concert Hall on Saturday, Nov. 16. It was by coincidence that they formed at a time when the face of music — and how people in small rural towns were able to access music that spoke to them — changed from the same major label bands that held a near monopoly on the culture for so long. And while the band formed while its members were all in high school, today they find themselves at a far different place. “It’s an interesting way to grow up,” Saller recalls. “I turned 18 on one of our first tours. As the years go on, a lot of the older lyrics were a lot darker, a lot more about relationships and heartbreak and things like that. And then we grew up, we got married. On the new record we have songs about being fathers, having children. I think it’s just a representation of where our lives are at.” Saller and the other band members spent three years on other projects, before reuniting to put out music once again as Atreyu. “I think it was really good to make those realizations about ourselves and create some individual identity apart from the band. When we came back, it was like ‘we know what this is, but it doesn’t define us.’ ”

Taking a break to refocus

“When the band went on hiatus, we had only really known ours ourselves as humans in this band, so the break gave us the opportunity to explore what else we were made of and to see what we could do outside of the spotlight.” These days Atreyu is playing again, performing at large rock festivals and headlining their own national tour, supporting their most recent album, 2018s “In Our Wake,” while delivering a set list voted on by their fans and consisting of some deeper tracks spanning their 20 years. “I think as a band we’re always wanting to try something different. We’re always wanting to expand the parameters of what people might think of our band,” Saller said. “It’s a beautiful thing. We’re very fortunate. We’ve always prided ourselves on our music being a snapshot of where we’re at in that moment. We’ve had a longer run at this as a career than most people have in normal careers. The fact that we get to be here and play these songs, and our fans are singing along to all these deep cuts, it feels phenomenal, you know?” On the verge of entering a new decade, where the old rules don’t apply and artists need to remain a step ahead if they want to ride the wave rather than have it wash them aside, Atreyu is 20 years deep and still releasing brutally creative music.

— Shaun Astor

  • Atreyu Openers: Whitechapel, He Is Legend, Tempting Fate and Santa Cruz Where: Cargo Concert Hall in the Whitney Peak Hotel, Reno When: 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16 Tickets: $22.94 LINK

ABOUT Shaun Astor

Shaun Astor
Shaun Astor cites pop music singers and social deviants as being among his strongest influences. His vices include vegan baking, riding a bicycle unreasonable distances and fixating on places and ideas that make up the subject of the sentence, "But that’s impossible…" He splits his time between Reno and a hammock perched from ghost town building foundations. Check out his work at www.raisethestakeseditions.com

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