Attack Attack! have been on the scene for a while now — since 2005, to be exact — and they’ve no doubt had their fair share of ups and downs. But, even with multiple lineup changes, the group’s managed to do much more than most people their age — their eldest member being 22 years old — and they definitely don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The band’s new album, ‘This Means War,’ flew to #11 on the Billboard 200 in January. And, since then, Attack Attack! have been heading to city after city, making sure everyone’s heard their newest and heaviest songs yet.
Andrew Wetzel’s eyes were trained on his laptop screen when we showed up. With two back-to-back international tours followed by a US co-headlining tour coming up, the Attack Attack! drummer has a lot on his plate. After booking roundtrip tickets for the band to get to and from Europe (at a killer rate), Wetzel sat down with us to discuss the band’s new record, their documentary, and plans for the upcoming US tour, which may or may not include fire.
So have you been able to explore Austin?
A little bit. I went out with one of my friends to Panera [Bread] a few minutes that way, kind of around downtown, which is nice. We appear to be in the taco district right now.
Yeah, this is kind of the ghetto area, which is why I live here, because it’s cheap. You know, it’s a little iffy at night. [laughs]
Ghetto might be a strong word; I like taco district.
For sure. You guys just released your album and it peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200, which is freaking awesome, so how was that? That’s the highest you’ve ever charted so far, right?
Yeah, it’s super exciting just to know that a band like us — just some kids from Westerville, OH that have been dicking around for the last few years — can chart that high on the 200. I mean, it’s really awesome because this record was a really passion-driven thing for us, in that we recorded it, we wrote it, produced it, mixed it, mastered it, and did everything ourselves at our studio. It was really cool to see the fruits of our labor have that kind of response. That was really awesome for us.
Yeah, it’s definitely cool. You did everything yourselves — does that mean you also used your own money?
No, this was our last record on our label and publisher, so we just took our recording advance and then used it to build a recording studio. After this record, we don’t have a record label or anything anymore, but now we have a recording studio that we can do whatever we want in, which is nice.
That is nice! This is the first album to feature Caleb on both clean and unclean vocals. Do you think that has changed your sound? Is it more cohesive now having one singer do both?
Absolutely! Caleb’s voice is definitely much more — I don’t know, the kid’s just got a lot of soul, you know what I mean? He’s definitely a very passionate person, very talented musician, and he’s really good at taking his passion and his emotions and transferring it perfectly into a type of music. And the other thing is his voice — particularly his range — really allowed us to start to reach out and mess with new styles of music that we haven’t been able to do anything with before. It definitely was a huge breath of fresh air to have that sort of new asset to add to our writing process and a new facet to our sound.
Yeah, I really liked this album. The first time I heard you guys was on Tap Tap [Revenge 3], and your song is really hard on Tap Tap… [laughs]
But, I was like, “I’m going to keep up with these guys,” and I was shocked by the new sound, but I really like it. Was that your plan all along: to go for the heavier sound?
Nah, ‘This Means War’ just kind of happened. When we started writing for it, we didn’t have any real preconceived notion as to what we wanted to do. We didn’t have any ideas; we just started writing music. Our biggest thing was that we wanted to write a bunch of music that was going to be super fun to play live and full of energy. And ‘This Means War’ just kind of happened. It started off, and it was super heavy, and we were really skeptical. We got like five or six songs into writing this record and we were like, “This is really heavy,” and we weren’t sure if it was going to do anything or if it was going to be a huge culture shock and we were going to write ourselves into our own grave or whatever, but we just committed to it and went for it. Once Caleb put his vocals on top of it, it just completely shifted how the whole thing felt and how the whole thing fell together. So yeah, it was definitely an accident.
That’s cool that it came out that way, though. It’s a good accident.
A bunch of the reviews have also noted the heavier sound and they were questioning if that meant the end of the electronic sound.
We don’t know! We don’t really plan that far in advance. As a band, we’ve always taken risks and we’ve always been ones to just live a day at a time and follow whatever we’re super passionate about at that point in time. You know, you get a lot of criticism for that because you do weird shit. You end up with something like crabcore, which is something that none of us ever thought twice about. It was like we planned out this whole thing to start this brand almost. It was just what we were into when we were fucking 16 years old. I don’t know. We just live life and roll with the punches.
Definitely! So the story behind this album is about this soldier during a World War II-like war. What inspired you guys to write that?
I don’t know. After we got done writing all the music for the record, we decided that we should commit and go all the way and make a concept album and try to create a whole universe for the record to exist in. The way we looked at this record was very special and it was a very big benchmark for us as a band because we completely transformed our sound. We really developed a sound that is just more than a gimmicky thing. It’s like a real mature style for us, so we decided we’d go big and make the story. The whole storyline revolves around these four soldiers that join the army and go off to fight a war that’s super far away. When they come back, they find out that the government got all crazy and tyrannical and stuff and the whole country and rest of the world hates this government. So because of our affiliation with the military everyone also hates us. So the whole record is written around the idea of rejection and really going out on a limb and putting yourself out there and risking your life to do what you think is right and then having people hate you for it and having your family abandon you and stuff like that. Really, it kind of accidentally ended up being a metaphor for what it’s been like for us in our career: to be a band that’s always just taken risks and go out and be different and genuinely try to be passionate about music, even though it seems like it’s kind of gimmicky, and just having everyone fucking hate you and reject you for it. So yeah, that’s sort of where the story comes from.
I was watching the video for “The Wretched” and I was wondering if all the music videos are going to have the concept theme, too.
Absolutely. We’re going to shoot one more music video to finish out “The Wretched.” What we want to do after that is shoot at least two, if not three, videos to put a visual portrayal of the story that we wrote. It’ll be pretty epic once we get all the funding for it, because we’re going to go big. We’re going to drop a lot of money on them — like make a small movie, essentially — because we’re really proud of what we’ve done and what we’ve written and we want to go all the way with it. We really want to give this story a face and a name and give it its place in history for us.
You need to blow stuff up.
Oh absolutely! You have to blow shit up![laughs] So you guys are releasing a documentary, right?
What is it that made you decide to do that? Is it just that it was the right time?
I don’t know. We just have so much video footage of us from when we were a local band all the way up until yesterday. I mean, we have hundreds and hundreds of gigs, probably a thousand hours of footage of us from then until now, and there’s just so much to us and our career and so much stuff that has happened that no one really knows about, that we feel like it would make more sense to the world if they could just see it, and really see who we are as people and as a band, because it’s really easy to get stereotyped and labeled as just being a band dude or one of those bands that’s super generic and just wants to be famous or only care about money, but that’s just not the case with us. We could give a shit less. What we do, for us, is a fucking privilege and we’re so stoked to have the opportunities that we have. We just realized that we have all this video footage of us being super goofy and being kids and doing whatever — we might as well throw together a freaking DVD. Throw a little backstory at the world so they can at least understand why they hate us instead of just hating us just because.
Yeah, I was reading some comments [on YouTube], and a bunch of them were like, “Why are you still talking about Austin Carlile?” I know that was a major shtick of the documentary, and I think it should be more about you guys than the departure of a singer.
Yeah, and once the whole story is really there to exist, all those stupid one-and-done scenarios that overall had almost no effect on our career will disappear when people really see the real shit we’ve actually been through. So we’ve had a frontman that’s a little crazy — whatever — it’s not that big of a deal. We’ve seen some serious shit as a band and as people, and I think once people start to understand that, it’ll make a lot more sense.
Awesome. Also, you guys just announced your upcoming tour with Escape the Fate. Do you guys have any surprises up your sleeves for that?
I wouldn’t even know where to begin for that! I can tell you that the tour is going to be one of the most epic shows you’re going to go see all year, without a doubt. Craig and the other Escape the Fate guys were just out at Caleb’s studio. Escape the Fate demoed a few songs there and Craig just finished a solo record with Caleb, so we’re really close with those guys. They’re really good friends of ours and we just decided we should put together this tour and just go decimate and destroy everything, so that sort of came together. Because we’re friends and co-headlining and everything, both of our bands are working on making the biggest show ever. If we can do fire and explosions, then we’re going to do it. We’re going all out and it’s going to be an extremely epic, super awesome, really fun show, and it’s definitely going to be something you aren’t going to want to miss.
You guys should wear your military uniforms!
Yeah! We have them, but they’re out in LA waiting for us to shoot the rest of our music videos.
You should definitely bring those along.
It would be cool. Now that we’re getting a little bigger and have this more versatile record, we want to add a theatrical element to what we do live just because that shit is so much fun. And it’s just so cool to really branch out and do things like that and just add that element to our live show. It’s more than just playing music — this is our lives — so we want to make sure that it’s epic. There will definitely be some sweet stuff like that coming in the future.
Pick up Attack Attack!’s new album, This Means War.
For the band’s upcoming tour dates, check out their Facebook page.