Atreyu manager Tim Smith said he’d been out of the heavy metal scene for a couple of years when he first heard “A Song for the Optimists” by the Southern California hardcore band about four years ago. To Smith, it was a breath of fresh air.

“I guess you could say I was disappointed with the current state of music in that genre. [There was] nothing like there used to be, nothing like the old bands like Pantera and even the stuff before that,” Smith told Pollstar. “Atreyu was really unique. They had a lot of heavy elements of the bands like Pantera and other bands that I enjoyed, but then they also had almost classic and ’80s influences. They were absolutely special. They really blew me away.

At the time, Smith was employed by The Firm as an assistant to Simon Renshaw.

“I was looking for the right act that I believed in enough to leave the position I was in, which was definitely a nice position,” he said.

Smith left The Firm after founding Entertainment Services Unlimited with Atreyu as its flagship act. Despite giving up the opportunities and connections he had at the powerhouse company, he knew he’d made the right choice.

“When I first picked them up, I guess a lot of people within the company thought I was a little bit crazy for doing it and for picking up a band that, at the time, definitely sounded out of place,” Smith said. “Now it’s become more mainstream and the rest of the world is catching on to it.”

Frontman Alex Varkatzas was on a short break from the road before heading out with the Vans Warped Tour when he talked to Pollstar about Atreyu’s explosion out of the Orange County hardcore scene.

“The scene then and even now is pretty cliquey. Bands make friends and pacts and then betray that and talk shit,” Varkatzas said. “We’ve made some cool friends now but it’s been over the years. But we never had trouble getting shows.

“I knew this guy, Ron Martinez, who was with this punk band Final Conflict. [He was] a local booker and at one time our booking agent for a little bit. Same thing with Joe at Showcase Theatre in Corona; they just helped dudes out. We just kept doing that and trying to play with every touring band that came to town, so at least they had our name in mind.

“[We had] a bus and a van with all our equipment and no trailer and all the merch. We did two months like that during our first tour and we just haven’t really stopped since.”

Smith’s interest in the group and Atreyu’s escalating popularity couldn’t have merged at a better time.

“When we got Tim, it was a time when bands like us didn’t have managers at all, really. [But we were] getting ready to do our first tour ever, our first record ever and our first recording ever all within like the same two-month period. It was a lot to deal with,” Varkatzas said. “Tim just really believed in us and we could tell he loved what we were doing and understood it.

“[He] didn’t have any kind of swagger to him and there was no bullshit. Where we come from, we appreciate that because we don’t do that either.”


The group

comprising Varkatzas, guitarists Dan Jacobs and Travis Miguel, bassist Marc McKnight and drummer Brandon Saller

has hardly been off the road since its 2002 Victory Records debut, Suicide Notes and Butterfly Kisses. Since its 2004 release, The Curse, the band has continued to build its already diverse legion of fans.

“That’s one thing that definitely sets Atreyu apart from the rest of the bands out there and even from the bands they’re lumped in with,” Smith said. “They can play metal shows

they’ve played Ozzfest

but by the same token, this is a band that can play in front of Taking Back Sunday’s audience, in front of The Used’s audience and not just get by but blow them away.

“They’re young, they’re fun, they just have a good personality and attitude onstage. I look at Atreyu not as a metal band but a rock band. They’re today’s version of rock ‘n’ roll.”

Smith said Atreyu’s plans after the Warped Tour wraps mid-August were still under discussion at press time, including going back into the studio.

“We’re contemplating headlining. We would do a support but it would have to be something special,” Smith said. “We’ve had a great cycle on this album and we just did an amazing headlining tour. It would be hard to top that one.”

Varkatzas said he and his bandmates are keeping Atreyu’s success and everything that goes with it in perspective.

“I think the most time we’ve had off since June 2002 when the record came out is about four or five months to write The Curse. That was our biggest consecutive stretch of time off,” he said.

“But I don’t think any of us stop and think about it other than that we’re pretty fucking lucky.”