Atreyu: interview with Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Atreyu

The legendary American metalcore band, Atreyu, is gearing up for its first ever shows on the African continent. The band will headline at The Final Quest in Cape Town on 5 September, and then play alongside Scottish “Pirate Metal” band Alestorm at Pirate Fest in Johannesburg on 7 September.

We chatted to Atreyu‘s bassist, Marc “Porter” McKnight, about their upcoming South African shows, which they are very much looking forward to.

“It’s been a dream for us to play places like South Africa for a very long time. We’re going to do as many fun-filled events as humanly possible; besides the shows – the shows are gonna be amazing as well. We have some safaris planned – singular safari probably – some hikes planned… my freshman year roommate from college in California lives in South Africa with his wife and two kids, so hopefully I’ll get to see a bit of the local side, and not just touristy things. He said he wants to set up – I don’t know how to say this – a braai? I definitely have to google that. I don’t know what this word means! We wanna soak it all in; we’ll be back again, so we want to take full advantage.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

The joys of the road are not limited to performance only.

Atreyu members are no strangers to traveling, having played all over the United States and in many countries all over the world. Porter admits to being quite keen on traveling and exploring, and is also an avid
photographer.

“Every time we go to Europe I love it. I do a lot of photography, so I wake up early and I go and
explore, and I come back for sound check and I go and explore more. To be fair, I do that in the states too. We went to all the US states. I think even as you grow and change as a human, your view of each city changes; and what you can get up to grows and expands, you know what I mean? You look forward to different things at different parts of your life. At one point it was, like, what’s the coolest bar we can go to? And now it’s, like, where can I get the best meal and a calm park? It’s fun; it’s a pretty cool thing we get to do.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Atreyu_live_2016_Elekes_Andor
Atreyu live 2016: photograph by Elekes Andor

The joys of the road sometimes also involve some big challenges!

In May and June 2019, Atreyu‘s frontman, Alex Varkatzas, had to sit out of their European summer tour due to serious back problems. Instead of cancelling, the band decided to compromise, with drummer Brandon Saller (who also does clean vocals for the band) standing in as frontman for the tour. Porter described the experience of having to play without Alex and shuffling their lineup.

“It was obviously a shame, because Alex is a member of our band and it’s never nice to be with one arm behind your back. But it turned out really well. Brandon did a great job. He’s been doing frontman stuff with other bands for years, and he obviously knows the songs. We got our friend Kyle in, who used to drum tech for us – and he plays in Brandon’s other band called Hell or Highwater, and in a band called Dead American. He’s a brilliant drummer.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Of course, it’s not uncommon for career bands to have to change out members on short notice, and few are the bands who have never faced a similar challenge. Porter described the nail-biting process:

“Honestly, we found this stuff out three days before we were leaving for the tour, and we had one rehearsal all together in England. Because of technical issues we had an hour and a half. So we played the set through twice and Kyle was great, he was honestly great the entire tour. He saved our ass more than me and Brandon taking over. I think if you’d never seen us before you wouldn’t necessarily have known the difference, because you’d have nothing to compare it to. I think if you HAD seen us you’d be like, okay, this is a unique version of this that’ll never happen again. So I think it was a treat for everyone, and it was fun for us.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

As with for Brandon, the shift for Porter was also reasonably natural.

“I do a lot of singing already in this band, and in my previous band I was the lead singer; so I had it under my belt to be able to do it. It was just a matter of remembering all the lyrics.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Atreyu press image

Atreyu keeps it fresh after two decades

Atreyu has been around for two decades and enjoy exploring new ideas, which is partly why their music has evolved over the years. From the band’s genesis with Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses to the most recent In Our Wake albums, there have been continuous shifts. Porter attributes this to a dynamic team.

“I think that the main influence varies person to person. We’re a very eclectic band, and I think that shows in our music and in our growth as well. We came from simple hardcore metal – if you are used to Metalcore roots – and then with every album we’ve grown and experimented. And I think our fan base has done that with us. I think that’s very evident between each record. You can tell it’s Atreyu, but it’s not the exact same. We’re not gonna write the same records; we have LOTS of inspirations and lots of influences that vary between us, so we have a lot of music flowing through us.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Something for the tech-heads out there: we took the opportunity to discuss bass tone with Porter, since it’s not often we get to pick up tips from a high profile bass player. Porter talked a bit about the changes over the years and what his favourite gear is currently.

“It has vastly changed over the years! Now, technology has gotten us to a point where it is the easiest it’s ever been to get a good sound. Me personally; I used to have two 8 X 10″ cabs on stage with multiple Amppeg heads. At some point I even had a guitar rig that was multiple running at the same time for my distortion, and I had all these pedals and extra stuff; and now I literally have: a tuner pedal; a wireless, and; a Darkglass pedal. Darkglass is a company out of Finland. They’re revolutionizing everything. It’s essentially like a direct box pedal, and it has every sound I could want on that. So that’s not only my fly rig, but my normal rig as well. It’s incredible.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Future goals for Atreyu

When asked what lies ahead for Atreyu in terms of the band’s goals and aspirations, including new countries to visit, Porter had the following to say:

“There’s always a next step that we can get to. I think, honestly, going to South Africa is a major one for us. We have wanted to go there for a very long time. This is the first time on Africa for this band. For us to be able to go here, and for people to seem interested and want to see us; it’s an incredible feeling. So this is one of those moments. We need to go to mainland Asia. We need to go to South America, and we’d love to go to Russia – there’s always places we haven’t been yet. But it’s not a matter of conquering new territories; it’s also going back to places that we know and have experienced. We’re lucky enough to go back to Japan again after South Africa, so it’s just a wonderful thing. And we want to keep going to those places, and each time we go we play to more and more people and have fun with more and more people, and meet new humans. We like to enjoy ourselves on these shows, and we like to have fun, and we want every person that comes to our show to leave a better person, and to have memories made for the rest of their lives. That’s the whole point of this. We want to do that in more places. In ALL the places.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

Some advice for aspiring artists.

Porter also offered some final wise words for musicians and song-writers, and no surprises here; he suggests each person explore their own creative identity.

“Be true to your own voice, for what YOU have to say. What is the music that is flowing out of you? You can take things as influence and inspiration, but make it be your own voice; because you, as an artist, have something that’s a unique voice. Nobody cares how good you can sound if you copy another band. Try and write and invent something that’s new and fresh that people are gonna be excited to hear, and at the first listen they’re like, ‘holy shit, this is cool!’ Because you have that in you. So if you have the calling to pick up a guitar or bass, drums, sing, whatever; you have something unique inside you and a story to tell. But it’s whether you can connect to that or not. So pull apart all the bullshit and all the things that you might do to be successful, and just do what calls you.” ~ Marc ‘Porter’ McKnight

South African show dates:

05 September @ Mercury Live, Cape Town with Zombies Ate My Girlfriend, Treehouse Burning and Set For The Sky.

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07 September @ Pirate Fest 2019, Johannesburg with Alestorm, Tweak, The Hellcats and Fuzigish, along with a ton of other activities.

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