By: Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman
Last week, the Weekly published our unscientific list of the 10 Greatest OC Metal Bands of All Time. Some of you may have noticed the absence of Atreyu on that list–one of the pioneering metalcore bands to blow up in OC with the advent of their 2002 Victory Records debut Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses. Sure, it was a mild oversight on our part. But chances are, if you're a local, longtime fan of the band you know that in a way, Atreyu's omission from some congratulatory Internet listicle is par for the course when it came to the band.
In the early years of their career, the Yorba Linda natives were often seen as outsiders in OC's burgeoning metalcore scene for things that often had nothing to do with their music. But in the years to come, they'd prove to be one of the biggest bands to come out of the county for their 80s metal shredding and melodic screaming/singing vocal style. Though the band has remained dormant for a couple years while they work on other projects, the promise of new material in the future is definitely not out of the question. As we continue to unearth a little bit of OC's metalcore history, we turn to the book Louder Than Hell: A Definitive Oral History of Metal by Jon Wiederhorn and Katherine Turman for an excerpt that allows Atreyu to explain their early struggles in the scene in their own words. (Nate Jackson)
From Louder Than Hell: A Definitive Oral History of Metal
BRANDON SALLER: Our high school was in Anaheim, California, right on the border of Yorba Linda. Once a year they had a battle of the bands called “Creative Impulse.” You'd pay to get in, and we'd play those shows and only our friends would understand what we were doing. Every other band was ska or pop, and then we'd get up there and people were like, “What the fuck?” Once we got to play at lunch at school on this square cement 2-foot platform. There were a lot of people watching us, but a big portion of the school were thugged out dudes and jocks and preppy girls, and they all thought we sucked. Alex had a cordless mic and he left the stage and walked around the school screaming. He'd go 100 yards away to the bathroom and take a piss in the middle of our songs. Everyone saw him as this weird tattooed guy with big ear plugs, lip rings, and painted nails screaming at people while they were eating lunch.
ALEX VARKATZAS: I got picked on a lot, which is where a lot of my anger came from. When I was a freshman I got pushed into the pool at a big party. And once, I was running to class because I was late, and this big dude tripped me and I fell flat on my face. That kind of shit really formed who I am now. But I look at what most of those people are doing now and I'm like, “Fuck you guys. Who's laughing now?”
JAMES HART (Eighteen Visions): Our relationship with Atreyu was not great at first. Their old bassist [Chris Thomson] liked to talk a lot of shit and was constantly running his mouth about us, Avenged Sevenfold, Bleeding Through, Throwdown, and Adamantium, who we got along with really well. It got to a point where none of our bands would play local shows with them.
ALEX VARKATZAS: We were really on the outside of the Orange County scene. A big fight happened at one of our early shows between some of our friends and some dudes from Eighteen Visions. People had beef from it for years. Afterwards, a lot of people didn't like our band and we had a hard time getting shows because I knew that none of those bigger bands were gonna put us on a show.
BRANDON SALLER: It was extremely annoying. We were just like, "Why? What makes these other bands so special? What makes it so difficult for us to be accepted?” But we kept pressing on, and little by little we started seeing results. We didn't get a lot of shows until our first record, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses, came out in 2002. After that we'd book shows at Chain Reaction in Anaheim and put on our own shows at parties.
DAN JACOBS: When we started getting more popular than bands like Eighteen Visions, I think people started to hate on us, and I think a lot of that came from jealousy. People who weren't necessarily our biggest fans in the beginning saw us starting to do okay, and they said, "Why is this band, which I don't really like, doing really well, and these other bands that I love are not doing as well?” I think that pissed people off and fueled their fire.
ALEX VARKATZAS: I found out about this supposed rivalry with Avenged Sevenfold through Kerrang! They sent me an e-mail saying, "This is what this band said about you in an article.” They accused us of stealing a song from them. I got mad about it for a second and then I thought about it a little. It was curiously right around the time the Avenged record City of Evil came out [in 2005]. I think that was an interesting maneuver and a total fantasy. We never stole a song. If you're cool with Atreyu, thank you, and if you're not, go fuck yourself.
M. SHADOWS (Avenged Sevenfold): All that shit gets so blown up in the press. We never had a real problem with Atreyu. Those guys are our friends. But I will say this: Atreyu get more shit talked about them than anybody.
BRANDON SALLER: We decided that since we weren't a part of the cool scene, we weren't going to even try to be. We don't want to be a metalcore band because that puts limits on you. We don't want people to be able to put a name on us, so the more we can do to be able to make that happen, the better for us.