Atreyu are gearing up for their new album, Baptize, out June 4th via Spinefarm Records (pre-order here). The follow-up to 2018’s In Our Wake will be the first without vocalist Alex Varkatzas who left the group in September 2020. We caught up with Porter McKnight (bassist/unclean vocals) to discuss the journey leading to Atreyu’s next chapter.
How has the overall creative process changed since Alex’s departure from the group?
This new chapter, with all due respect to our history and those involved, has felt very liberating. The 4 of us have most always been at the heart of the song for Atreyu, and this gave each of us a little more room to expand. Dan has his first vocal part on a song. I have my very own verse for the first time, and even Travis sings! When I joined the band in 2004 I stepped into a well established vocal dichotomy, and a powerhouse of musical ability, so I chose to help uplift and inspire the other members when they needed my assistance instead of implanting my ego where it doesn’t yet belong. Over time, as I grew more comfortable, I started to add lyrics/melodies/music here and there as in all my previous bands I was a frontman and lyricist. My contributions always have, and always will be, for the greater good of Atreyu as a whole. I don’t give a shit about the spotlight. This album was a chance for me to connect to the artistic wellspring of who I was before Atreyu, and combine it with my own personal growth as a human and an artist over the last 17 years.
What was the experience like to switch up the lineup moving Brandon away from drums and adding Kyle Rosa to the mix?
Honestly, it’s been fantastic! We’ve known Kyle for many, many years and he’s been part of our Atreyu touring family for quite a while. He’s an excellent drummer and we’re all very much looking forward to playing shows with this new lineup!
Aside from the obvious changes, how would you compare Baptize to your previous efforts?
We are a band that likes to challenge ourselves. We grow with each album as artists, and as humans, and this record is a prime example of that. In Our Wake was about how we affected those around us and its reverberations across communities, nations, and humanity, but Baptize is more of an internal album. Humanity as a whole needs to take a long and hard look in the mirror and attempt to heal the vast internal wounds they exist with. What matters to you most? Why are you not happy, or why are you? What can you change about yourself that will yield a stronger connection to why you exist on this planet?
Can you talk more about the song “Underrated?”
Music/Artistic “success” isn’t always reflective of the quality of what’s created. We have steadily continued building our fanbase over our 20 years, and have watched many other “bigger” bands rise and fall, and we remain. In all honesty, and many times in our career, we’ve felt the sting of feeling “Underrated” and this is an anthem to all those struggling with that feeling. We are who we are and we love it.
Are there any songs that were more challenging to write?
The song “Stay’ on this album is about a VERY heavy topic of suicide and losing the loved ones in a supremely tragic way. It was difficult to write from the standpoint of a specific event that we are paying our respects to by creating this song. We are lucky to have an abundant lyrical/musical wellspring that flows for us, but the true struggle lies when we choose topics such as this, and to honor those involved and create a proper homage to the story.
What’s it like for you to release new music during a pandemic?
Weird! Tons of “should we” and “maybe we could” and so many moving parts that arise when humanity is in a place where we’ve never been. Ultimately, we decided to go ahead and release the album, even if we couldn’t do what is “normal” around the release as we feel this is an honest and open reflection of who we are as a band NOW. Not one year from now when things calm down, etc etc.
With shows slowly returning to the surface and Livestreams becoming our new normal, what plans do you have to celebrate the new record?
We’re cooking up a few things, but surprises exist for a reason, so we’ll leave it there!
Is there anything else you want to say or add?
Thanks for your time!