Atreyu and Taking Back Sunday Prepare to Make Their Mark at Musink

For the ninth year in a row, Musink will fill the OC Fair and Event Center with many of the world’s best tattoo artists and a handful of the biggest bands.

The festival, presented by Blink-182’s Travis Barker, has always been home to three evenings of the drummer’s favorite styles of music. From hip-hop to hardcore to pop punk, Musink’s never been afraid to put on some of the most interesting lineups in OC.

This year’s festival takes place March 4-6, and it’s certainly not one you’ll want to miss. The 2016 roster features Snoop Dogg, Transplants, and Yelawolf on Friday (who could potentially all be backed by Barker on drums), Deftones, Taking Back Sunday, and Plague Vendor on Saturday, and Circa Survive, Atreyu, and Face to Face to close out the weekend.

While playing the event will undoubtedly be a special experience for many of the bands (although Barker’s friend Yelawolf was there just last year), it brings an extra level of importance for the guys in Atreyu. Once one of the biggest rock bands in the world, OC metalcore’s favorite sons figure to be playing to a huge crowd less than six months after releasing their first album in six years, Long Live.

“It’s pretty awesome anytime we get to play a local show,” says Dan Jacobs, Atreyu’s founding guitarist. “The hometown crowd is always awesome, and we can zip home right after the show. OC crowds love their rock, punk, and metal.”

After three years off, Atreyu’s return in 2014 was embraced by many in the hardcore and metal communities. But the band wasn’t exactly sure they were ready to live the ridiculous grind of touring and releasing new music necessary to keep a band afloat as a full-time career. They were no longer the teenagers who started Atreyu back in 1998, they were now adults who each had responsibilities of their own.

“I love Atreyu, but Atreyu all the time burns everyone out,” Jacobs says. “We all have businesses and lives outside of Atreyu now, so it’s really nice to have that balance. I think we can also all put more into Atreyu if we don’t have to do it all the time.”

During their hiatus, much of Atreyu went on to work with other musicians. To this day, Jacobs still has a separate gig writing songs for other artists. It gives the guitarist a pretty unique view on the current music scene, and he still believes one thing to be true. Whether it’s 30 years ago or 30 years from now, Orange County will likely still be putting out bountiful amounts of new musicians.

“(OC) is one of the most desirable places to live in the whole world, and I think that attracts a lot of successful people with successful children,” Jacobs says of OC’s music scene and history. “There’s always a lot of talent in the area, whether that talent is in music, art, sports, everything.”

Coming full circle back to Musink, Atreyu’s lead vocalist, Alex Varkatzas, chose to have his side projects way outside of music. Although Varkatzas closed his CrossFit and Muay Thai gym, he continues to tattoo as another form of artistic expression. Despite the singer’s progress in the art form, Jacobs isn’t lining up to be tattooed by his bandmate just yet.

“I don’t think I’d get tattooed by Alex,” Jacobs says. “It’s not that he’s not amazing for how long he’s been doing it, I just haven’t personally been tattooed in a long time, and I’m just not looking for more tattoos right now.”

But the day before Atreyu goes on contains one of the most interesting names on the bill. Taking Back Sunday was once a name that would headline just about any festival in the world, and they still sell out headlining tour after headlining tour, but unlike Atreyu, the New York-based band rarely performs in SoCal.

“We’ve never done Musink before, so we’re really looking forward to it,” says John Nolan, Taking Back Sunday’s lead guitarist. “Actually, we haven’t even been to the West Coast in a while, so it’ll be good to get out there.”

Don’t expect a full California tour just yet. Musink is the only listed show for the band, as Long Island’s favorite five-piece is about to get back to work in the studio. Unlike many of their emo, pop punk, and alternative contemporaries from a decade ago, Taking Back Sunday has made it a point to be either in the studio or touring almost constantly for the last 14 years despite some lineup changes. With six records already on their resume and another on the way, the band’s sound has evolved far beyond the New York emo scene they came out of.

“I think this record is going to be something that surprises people,” Nolan says. “It’s an interesting progression from the first record [2002’s Tell All Your Friends] to [2014’s] Happiness Is and then to this one. I think the fans who have stuck with the band will really appreciate what we’ve been building toward with this record.”

Much like how Jacobs believes OC is a hotbed of talent, musical and otherwise, the guys in Taking Back Sunday are among the posterboys of a Long Island scene that’s turned out everyone from Glassjaw and the Movielife to Brand New and From Autumn to Ashes. Although many of those bands grew into international successes, Nolan isn’t sure a band like Taking Back Sunday would even be around if not for those who came before them.

“When the band was first starting out, the scene had been in place for years,” Nolan says. “It was an amazing thing. We would get on a show at a VFW hall or wherever else we could play with five or six other bands that would bring some of their fans out, and we’d have full shows all over Long Island. It was huge for us.”

Like any other band, Taking Back Sunday’s been through their fair share of turmoil between the time when they’d play VFW halls and now. Aside from early issues with Jesse Lacey from Brand New, Nolan and bassist Shaun Cooper left the band in 2003, but they’ve now been back for six years. Over the last few of those years, there’s been the “emo revival” that’s led to a lot of the groups Taking Back Sunday rose to fame with coming back and a lot more interest in the genre as a whole.

“I think we’ve really hit our stride, and it feels like we’ve been building momentum ever since we’ve been back with the band,” Nolan says. “We really haven’t slowed down at all, and the renewed interest in emo has definitely been good for us.”

As for Musink’s other half, Taking Back Sunday is into tattoos as much as any band. They might not all be sporting full sleeves and neck tattoos, but they’ve got something a lot of bands won’t dare to touch: matching ink.

“We all got this one panther tattoo about four or five years ago because Eddie (Reyes, Taking Back Sunday’s other guitarist) had one and he couldn’t remember where he got it or why he got it,” Nolan says. “We gave it some significance for him.”

Atreyu and Taking Back Sunday perform at Musink with Snoop Dogg, Deftones, Circa Survive, Transplants, Yelawolf, Plague Vendor and Face to Face. OC Fair and Events Center, 88 Fair Dr., Costa Mesa,, March. 4-6, 3p.m.-10 p.m. (Friday), 12 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. $25-$299. All ages.

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