"It’s almost our duty to take it to the extremes that it has never gone before because if we don’t do it, who will?"
In case you somehow missed it, Attack Attack! are well and truly back.
Following a seven-year hiatus, the godfathers of crabcore announced their return at the tailend of 2020 and set about reclaiming their throne. But don't just think this isn't a nostalgia-laced comeback, pining for a return to the mid-00's way of life. This is a whole new beast that isn't afraid to bite back and throw a few punches of its own. Taking all of the energy and creative fluidity that helped to define a whole genre at the end of the last decade and channelling it through a modern lens, there really is no limit on what is possible as we look forward.
So, with a new EP being worked on and tour dates being pencilled in, we jumped on the phone with drummer Andrew Wetzel to get the full story of what exactly Attack Attack! is in 2021...
What has the last eight years, from hiatus to the conversation about getting back in the saddle, been like? What has it been like watching people talk about and discover the band whilst not being active?
"After we went on hiatus back in 2013, at that point, it felt like people didn’t care. Our early career had been a very uphill battle. It was popular to hate on our band. People loved to do it, and they were good at it. It was a pretty ridiculous position to be in. We had been beaten down for so many years, and you can only hear so much negative stuff until it starts to get to you, no matter how resilient you are. So people in the band were less and less happy with everything, and we were trying hard to be a band that we weren’t. You can see it in the evolution from the Self-Titled album into ‘This Means War’, where there was a way more serious tone. That was us almost trying to prove that we were a real band. I don’t want to say it was a mistake, but we should never have felt like we needed to prove to anyone anything, especially when it’s about something artistic and creative. We had an identity crisis, which led to more discord in the band, leading to Johnny [Franck] and Caleb [Shomo] quitting. [Andrew] Whiting [Guiarist] and I just continued doing what we had done before and find replacements, but we weren’t addressing the real issue, which was that we weren’t happy. We were trying to be somebody else, and it wasn’t Attack Attack!.
"So after we went on hiatus, time started to put everything into context. I began to see the number of mentions that the band started getting online. There was lots of coverage and articles being written about us. More people were streaming our music and putting us on playlists. We got more popular after we broke up and after two years of total silence. Like, what the fuck is going on? I think people had started to understand what we had been about. As a scene, we had begun to navigate away from that type of music, and we had it good back then. It was a great time to be involved, and it was so much fun. There was a big breakout moment. Then we all got older, and life marched on, and it lost that spark. I don’t think we were the only band who went through that identity crisis either. As a huge listener of metal and metalcore personally, it felt like the genre started to get stale and never really recovered. As the scene began to disappear and people got on with their lives, a lot of other bands were just like, ‘Well, what do we do now?’ They tried to get into radio and find bigger audiences, and a lot of the goofy, stupid and fun feeling of the scene was lost.
"So it was interesting seeing people looking at what was going on and then turn around and look back towards where we had been. So for Whiting and me, it started to become clear that our work wasn’t done and that there is something special about this band and the creative outlet that it gives us as artists and musicians. Now that people recognise a little bit more what it all meant, we have the opportunity to operate with even more freedom and do even bigger stuff than before. Now that we understand what we have, we can pursue things as recklessly as we like. At this point, we don’t care, as we have lost the band once. Right now, we have nothing to lose, and that idea is so powerful and fun.
"The conversation was very short, and whilst we had it, we both knew what the answer was. This is bigger than us, and it was always going to happen. It was just a matter of time."
That idea of recklessness is so interesting. In many ways, that’s what the band existed on in the first place. You were taking what you thought might sound good in your heads and making it a reality, despite being unlike anything else. The difference now is the whole tool belt of resources at your fingertips that simply didn’t exist back in 2008…
“Totally, and it’s interesting. During the hiatus, I would sit around and think about all of the things we did and how I would have done them differently if I had the chance to do them again. I thought about that in great detail. So when Whiting called me, and we decided to start again, I checked back over my notes. I looked through our career line by line and thought about fixing everything that we could have done differently but do it differently. Let’s say fuck it and go to a hundred on everything and see what happens because that’s the attitude that we had as teenagers because we had no understanding of risk or what’s right or wrong.”
Where did the actual feeling and look of this new era come from? How did you bring it to life?
"When we work on music, we always joke that the songs write themselves. It’s true that Attack Attack! is an organism all of its own. There is so much fan participation and feedback that we don’t need to make any actual decisions. We just need to know to put little pieces of the puzzle out there, see what people say about them and then learn from them. The group decides that they like this or don’t like that and so on. We have our catalogue of songs, and we have seen how everybody has responded to everything we have done. At the end of it, we’re scene kids, and we always will be. So in a lot of ways, our identity is still connected to those kids in the scene right now because we are all still so similar. When we are thinking about what we want to do, we are thinking about how we can take stuff that we have done in the past, yank it out in the future and do it in a way that we haven’t done it before.
"That’s how we started talking about the whole anime aesthetic of the new videos. That’s something that we all like and something that people in the scene are interested in, but it also fits our initial identity. It feels like an obvious inclusion in the Attack Attack! chest of tricks. So we looked out for people who also felt excited about the same things, and a lot of the guys who worked on the new logo and graphics are active in the music scene and big fans. They understand, and when we sit down to talk with them, they are excited and want to participate. That’s a massive thing for us, finding people who want to be involved and add their piece to the puzzle. Like having Joey Sturgis involved, he isn’t producing anymore except for Conquer Divide, his wife’s band. Having him come out of retirement just to do a handful of tracks with us specifically is incredible because he is excited. It’s a delicate balance for us to ride, but the most important thing for us is making sure that we are excited about what we’re doing. It needs to check all of these boxes for us as fans as much as artists.”
In a lot of ways, it’s about celebrating all of the things that you loved about the band initially, but not make everything rooted in the nostalgia or the way that things were a decade ago. You don’t want to become a caricature of yourself…
"If we wanted just to play ‘Someday Came Suddenly’ again and again, we wouldn’t have written the Self-Titled record. Some people are never going to be happy, though, but that’s okay. But there is also the fact that there are many people interested in what we are doing now, and the range is incredible. 16-year-old kids are discovering this music that I was making when I was 16, and some older people remember what it was like back then. It’s so interesting how the stuff I got into when I was younger is still relevant to kids now. It’s still cool. It’s still fun. Then some people are stoked get to experience us now who didn’t get the chance the first time."
It’s all about escape at the end of the day. And if you can deliver the same level of escapism that this music allowed you to have when you were younger to kids today, then that’s a pretty incredible legacy to have…
"That’s a big thing. One of the reasons I feel confident in what we are doing now is that feeling. Our number one goal right now is to be entertaining. We want to create experiences that you want to have because you need that. We needed that because it was an outlet for us, so we want it to be the same for other people. So as long as people are there to enjoy our shenanigans and we can both decompress through them, that’s a great system to have.
"But there were a couple of people who told me that this wasn’t going to work and that we shouldn’t do this. I told them that they didn’t understand how this works. For the same reason that they thought that people would reject is why people would accept us. If you commit too much to the nostalgia, sure, you are tap-dancing on stage in clothes that barely fit you anymore. But if you take the risk and tick the right boxes and keep on looking forwards, there’s nothing you can’t do."
So, as we are looking forward, what is the thing that holds the new songs you are working on together? What’s the core and aim of the process?
"Our whole process is extremely fluid, and that’s how you end up with things like ‘Kawaii Cowboys’. Once we started working on ‘Brachyura Bombshell’ and took shape, we’ve been writing without borders and rules. Because of that, we end up with stuff that feels like it authentically belongs to this band. But at the same time, nothing in life is free, and if you want a ‘Brachyura Bombshell’, you have to get through a ‘Kawaii Cowboys’ to get to it. We want our fans to have whiplash before we’re finished with this new EP. We are going back and forth between all of these things. Because who else can, and will, do that? Who else will take that risk in 2021? It’s almost our duty to take it to the extremes that it has never gone before because if we don’t do it, who will?"
The thing is that Attack Attack! will always represent that push and pull of trying something different. And the minute that changes, it becomes a disservice to what this all is
“You’re right. It can’t change. This is its own organism, and it does its own thing, and once you’re tapped in, the energy binds all of these chaotic events together. Things that don’t make sense all of a sudden make sense. That’s the best way to sum up the real identity of Attack Attack!. We do things that don’t even make sense to me sometimes, and then with time, it starts to sink in a bit more.”
How does it feel to have Attack Attack! back as a part of you and your life?
"Indescribable. Every day when I wake up, there are a thousand different possibilities. I have this powerful outlet to pour myself into creatively in every possible way, and no one can tell us otherwise. I can’t even describe how that feels after living through the career we have had up to this point and dealing with these different barriers and struggles. All of those shackles and chains have been removed, and now it’s just us and everything we want to do. I launched a record label, so I’m doing all of the release stuff with two other guys. Then there is no one else. There’s no booking agent or manager of anything else. Nobody can tell us, ‘I don’t think that’s a good idea’. We need to try it to find out, though. We can make or break, and it’s all up to us. That’s a potent motivator."