BRANDON SALLER OF HELL OR HIGHWATER / ATREYU, TALKS THE NEW HOH ALBUM, VISTA (due out May 19th) GETTING TO SHARE FESTIVAL STAGES WITH THE LIKES OF KISS & OZZY OSBOURNE, AND BECOMING A DAD FOR THE FIRST TIME.
If you think you recognise the powerful vocal sounds hailing from rock ‘n’ roll band Hell Or Highwater, you’re not mistaken, they are that of the drummer and iconic melodic vocalist of Atreyu, Brandon Sallar.
Following Atreyu’s hiatus in 2011, Saller brought his solo project originally named, ‘Black Cloud Collective’ to light. It was renamed ‘Hell or Highwater’ and they released their first studio album as a band, entitled “Begin Again” in 2011. The band then released an EP entitled The Other Side in August 2013.
Fast forward to 2017 and rock n rollers Hell Or Highwater are back with a new single, ‘I Want It All’ from their third offering and second full length studio album, VISTA, due to be released on the 19th of May 2017, on Spinefarm Records.
SCENEzine had a chat with vocalist Brandon Saller about his super busy life featuring two full time bands- Atreyu and Hell or Highwater, sharing a festival lineup with KISS, alter egos in his new music video, the new HOH album, and a very special new addition to his family.
SCENEzine: “How has 2017 been for you so far?”
Brandon Saller: “So far so good, just been prepping for this new release, and getting excited for it. Had a baby, all good things.”
SCENEzine: “Oh yeah I did see that, she is adorable!”
Brandon Saller: “Oh thank you so much.”
SCENEzine: “So you’d be extremely busy, being in two full time bands and now a new Dad! Congratulations! How is Dad life? How are you finding the balance between band(s) and baby?”
Brandon Saller: “It’s been a lot of fun, I mean the band thing fairly busy, Atreyu’s kinda stopped the touring cycle in December, so that’s left a lot of time for Hell Or Highwater to kind of keep going you know to keep moving, so that’s been easy.
Definitely having a baby has been a tough one because you never want to leave her side but it’s been a lot of fun. She’s been involved, she saw her first show the other day, she came to a Hell Or Highwater show and she’s all about it.”
SCENEzine: “Aww that’s so cool, did you get her some of those cute little earmuffs to wear?”
Brandon Saller: “(laughs)…yeah and then she slept through most of my set but I didn’t take it personally.”
SCENEzine: “Another congratulations on your second baby, your new album ‘Vista’ for Hell or Highwater! Did it turn out the way you originally thought it would, or did it end up taking on a bit of a life of it’s own?”
Brandon Saller: “It turned out better then I could have imagined. I think that we all spent so much time writing this album and when it finally came time to make it we thought a ranch in Texas would be the best place to make it, some real magic happened there. Kind of made all the times making the album worth while and make sense and it was a really good pay off, and so now we’ve been sitting on it for about a year just waiting for it to come out, so we’re all about to explode quite frankly.”
SCENEzine: “Were there any key music, overall sound or lyrical themes that you wanted to explore going into creating Vista, as somewhat of a fresh start or even as a progression from “Begin Again” (debut album 2011) and “The Other Side” (EP, 2013)?”
Brandon Saller: “Absolutely, I don’t know if it was the exact vision of what we wanted it to be, we knew we wanted to kind of perfect what we were doing, and really think about exactly how we wanted to sound, because we knew that the next release was going to be, you know, seen on a lot more broad scale, so we knew that there would be a label involved, there would be a lot more people that would be noticing and really see the band for the first time, so we kind of had about two or three years to really figure out what that was, and we wrote like eighty songs for this album and kind of widdled them down and went through a bunch of different kind of directions that we could have gone, until we found what contained Vista I felt. For us it was just kind of voting in on exactly how we wanted the world to see us, you know how we wanted to sound and that came with a lot of really heavy fuzzy guitars and trying to do alot of cool vocal things, everyone in our band sings so we really made use of that, just really trying to put ourselves best foot forward. It’s funny because it’s like one of those things where rather than explain it I’d rather just people go listen you know, you gotta hear it for yourself and make your own decisions on where we were going, you know.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah for sure, sort of like a choose your own adventure, Goosebumps book (laughs)”
Brandon Saller: “Exactly, there’s definitely a lot of turns on the album, there’s a lot of kind of lanes that we go back and forth from so it’s definitely a fun listen.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah, do you think because you made so many songs, will some of those end up on the next record or be like a B-sides kind of thing?”
Brandon Saller: “I don’t know, I feel like some of them maybe but at the same time it was kind of like stylistically, they weren’t where we were, you know like there was a lot of experimenting with new things and I feel like the songs that actually made the record, were the ones that were like this is where we wanna go, this is where we wanna be.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah, that makes sense.”
Brandon Saller: “But you never know , you never know (laughs) we have plenty of B-sides if anyone ever needed them.”
SCENEzine: “You recently released a new music video for the first single off Vista, called ‘I Want It All’ what was that like to make?”
Brandon Saller: “It was awesome, the videos all essentially for the most part it’s one shot, so that was kind of fun to literally do the entire video over and over again. It was a little bit difficult but at the same time it made things a lot faster because you’re literally doing the whole thing, in one foul swoop, so it turned out great. It gave me a chance to be the cocky son of a bitch that I don’t get to be all the time (laughs)”
SCENEzine: ” (laughs) an alter ego…”
Brandon Saller: “…yeah so the video really kind of paints me as a big asshole (laughs) but you know it’s kind of fun to play that part every now and again you know.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah it always fun to play parts you wouldn’t normally get to play, so we’ll let you off for that one (laughs) ”
Brandon Saller: “(laughs) exactly”
SCENEzine: “So that song (‘I Want It All’) feels like it has the potential to be a big song, it’s already has over 23,000 views on YouTube and it’s gotten some big radio air play, perhaps even commercial use, do you feel like it has that kind of potential?”
Brandon Saller: “Absolutely, I mean that song was always special for us, I feel like we always wanted that one to be first because it’s one of those, like kind of hits you in the face from note one so I mean we’re stoked, it’s been on the radio, left the radio couple weeks ago here in the states and it’s already charting and climbing every week, you know people are responding to the video, so it feels really good for the first one to put out, that you know people are receiving it well.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah for sure, we can’t wait for it to come out here and see how it does on the radio, I think it’ll do really well here.”
Brandon Saller: “Absolutely, I love that, then we can get down there faster”
SCENEzine: “Yeah we would like that. Besides that track (‘I Want It All’) are there any other particular tracks we should check out on the new album, that you’re personally proud of? (Obviously you’re proud of them all, but any stand outs to you?)”
Brandon Saller: “Yeah for sure, at this point, I feel my favourites, my top ones are besides ‘I Want It All’, are ‘Walking Out In The Rain’ and ‘Another Good Time’ and ‘Revolution’ those are my top.
SCENEzine: “Any reason for choosing those tracks in particular? Why are they special to you?”
Brandon Saller: “I feel like ‘Walking Out In The Rain’ was special to me, like lyrically it was just a special song that kind of just came out of me and it was one of the older songs we’d had on the album that just turned out exactly the way I wanted it to, so for that one it’s kind of a personal song. ‘Another Good Time’ is real life out of an experience I had with the rest of the band members, that may or may not have involved some sort of mind altering substances, and the song just came out badass and ah ‘Revolution’ is just such a departure from anything we’ve ever done, it’s something that’s totally fresh for us and really just kind of came off to do this amped up of a song.”
SCENEzine: “How did you find the transition, all those years ago, from stepping out from behind the drums in Atreyu, to being the front man of Hell or Highwater?
Did you find it a bit tricky to figure out what to do with your hands?”
Brandon Saller: “(laughs) a little bit of a Will Ferrell, Talladega Nights moment?”
SCENEzine: “(laughs) yeah exactly.”
Brandon Saller: “I mean it was definitely a challenge, but for me, I’m just comfortable on stage so I was like comfortable to do either role and for me it was just exciting, like letting the bear out of a cage, do you know what I mean? I was excited to be able to run around and be face to face with people right up front, so for me it’s always been fun. It’s a learning curve, you know, every show that we play you find out something that you love about being up front you know? But there’s definitely nowhere to hide, which is challenging.”
SCENEzine: “Oh yeah that would’ve been challenging in the beginning, but it looks like you’ve nailed it now.”
Brandon Saller: “(laughs) oh thanks”
SCENEzine: “So being one of the primary songwriters for Atreyu and Hell or Highwater, and having two pretty different outlets in each of them, how do you find the song writing process differs from band to band?”
Brandon Saller: “Style wise it’s just totally different, it’s just different writers as well, everyone in Hell or Highwater has this humungous part in writing as well, and each of the members bring something special in their own right to the band, to the writing and to the way they play everything so it’s just a whole kind of different monster and I feel like it’s a lot of fun you know, I write alot of music, I write music for other bands, and music for tv and film and both the bands that I’m in, so it’s just kind of another cool outlet with a different group of people and whole different vibe unto itself you know.”
SCENEzine: “From the early days of Atreyu, mastering the talent of singing choruses while playing the drums, to melodic vocals becoming iconic to the band’s sound, and now releasing your second punchy rock n roll record (and third overall offering) as frontman for Hell Or Highwater, your voice only seems to have gone from strength to strength.”
Brandon Saller: “Oh thank you.”
SCENEzine: “How do you think the two different creative outlets have played a part and helped to shape your vocal evolution?”
Brandon Saller: “I mean for me, Iike coming into a main role singing, like with Atreyu I always wanted to put my best foot forward and be the best drummer I could and the best singer I could with every album kind of pushed myself to do everything and kind of just went into hyper mode with Hell Or Highwater and me being in front I really just wanted to show myself in the best way possible, really just be the best singer I could. So over the last few years it’s just been a lot of focus and trying to push the boundaries and trying to push myself and open up new parts of my voice and you know I don’t ever want to be good at something, I want to be great at what I do, so I’ve just been trying to push myself as far as I can go.”
SCENEzine: “I love that. That’s inspiring to just never settle for mediocrity and always strive for greatness. Did you ever have singing lessons?”
Brandon Saller: “Yeah, I had lessons early on, when I first started singing, and they kind of taught me some cool basics but they more so, more importantly I think taught me how to understand my voice and how to figure out you know where I want my voice to go and how to do that, so a lot of its just been self exploratory and just like I wanna be able to do this so for my voice to be able to do this I’ll just train my voice enough to be able to do it and then just try to perfect it and then practice and practice it. So some lessons at the very beginning, but for the most part it’s just been figuring it out myself.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah I feel like you will probably end up mastering it more anyway if you’re figuring it all out on your own, sort of step by step, it might help to cement it all a bit more.”
Brandon Saller: “Absolutely, I think you’re right, I think figuring it out at an early age and kind of you know, get a good understanding of your instrument, that tool that you’re working with, if you can get that figured out then I feel like you can teach yourself a lot more than you’d think, you know what I mean, if you just get that understanding of what you’re working with.”
SCENEzine: “In July, Hell or Highwater are playing Chicago Open Air, are you excited to hit the festival stage and play alongside the likes of KISS, Korn and Ozzy Osbourne?”
Brandon Saller: “Just a couple small bands you know? (laughs) I mean that’s awesome, Atreyu played with KISS, years back at a festival, I believe it was Graspop in Belgium and now I get to mark it off the list for my other band, you know what I’m sayin, both my bands will have played shows with KISS (laughs) not a bad thing to have on the list.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah they’re incredible live, (laughs) yeah not a bad thing at all to have on the list at all! Did you hear aswell, that the bassist for Metallica, they’re getting his son (I think he’s 12 years old) to play bass for Korn?”
Brandon Saller: “What! (laughs) that’s crazy, I did not know that.”
SCENEzine: “Yeah crazy huh, training them young, I thought about that before, maybe your daughter when she grows up, she might have to get singing…”
Brandon: “(laughs) I know yeah, I had her play her first guitar the other day, I put a pick in her hand and was strumming the guitar, and I’ll play guitar to her, she seems interested, so who knows maybe she’ll play in a band with me later.”
SCENEzine: “…(laughs) aww yeah, a daddy / daughter band, that would be cute.”
Brandon Saller: ” …or maybe she’ll play in Korn at some point (laughs)”
Scenezine: “…(laughs) yeah well it sounds like they’re recruiting. Now lastly, can you leave us with a message for all of your Australian fans? Any cheeky hints of when we might get to see Hell Or Highwater play here next?”
Brandon Saller: “The only thing that I can say is it’s hopefully as soon as possible. The Hell or Highwater guys came down to Australia with Atreyu when we did Soundwave a couple years back and much like I have, they completely fell in love with it, fell in love with the fans, fell in love with the just the country in general, the shows were crazy, they saw what that kind of energy was and it was amazing to be back. It’s definitely on the top of our priorities.
Today when I saw 3 hours of Australian interviews lined up it kinda made me kinda tingle a little bit in my heart because you know that’s the spark that lights the fire. So hopefully we’ll get there soon. It’s on the top of our list.”
SCENEzine: “That sounds good, well we’re glad to hear it. You won’t be able to play Soundwave anymore because that doesn’t exist now unfortunately….”
Brandon Saller: “…yeah that’s gone!”
SCENEzine: “Yeah unfortunately, but we’ve got like Unify and a couple other heavier festivals starting…”
Brandon Saller: “Absolutely, even if we can just get down and do clubs that’ll make me happy, I love Australia, so I’ll take any excuse I can to get down there. We were just there with Atreyu, that was only like 4 or 5 months ago, and it’s already been way too long.”
SCENEzine: “(laughs) yeah you’ll have to make it like a six monthly trip or something..”
Brandon Saller: “(laughs) exactly, bi-yearly …”
SCENEzine: “Alright, well thank you so much for your time and hopefully we’ll see you soon.”
Be sure to check out Hell or Highwater’s new album, Vista, due out May 19th, 2017 through Spinefarm records. In the mean time you can check out two tracks from the record on Spotify, “I Want It All” and “Walk Out In The Rain”
Interviewed & Written by: Sarah Thomson.
VISTA can also now be pre ordered on iTunes.