Traveler was featured here at Metal Squadron less than a year ago when their superb demo was released. Things have happened really fast for Matt Ries and Jean-Pierre Abboud since they recorded the demo tunes. A record deal is in place, the lineup completed and the band is already confirmed for some prestigous underground fests. Have Matt simply followed along with all the stuff happening to the band, or has he had to put on the brakes somewhere in the process?
– Yeah, it’s been pretty insane, and I have been following along as best as I can. Not much has slowed down since. There is no sense in putting the brakes on anywhere. Having the ball roll this smoothly for a band is the best possible thing that can happen! So we’re taking full advantage.
Even though thing have gone quite smoothly for you, I guess there has been some difficulties along the way. What has been most demanding about this whole thing so far?
– It wouldn’t be music if it were easy. Haha! I think the most demanding thing has been making sure everyone in the band’s schedules line up. Working out of three different cities can be a struggle. But surprisingly, it hasn’t been overly difficult. All we have to do is show up prepared. Luckily everyone is experienced enough to have total faith in them. Couldn’t have asked for a better line up!
It’s obvious that Traveler is more of your own band compared to what Gatekrashör and Hrom was, I guess there is a lot of things to be learnt when you are more or less in charge of the band? What has been most satisfying and what has been most demanding about being the “boss”?
– There’s definitely a major difference between the two rolls. I’ve learnt a lot on how to manage a band properly. Which directions to take, which offers to turn down. There’s a lot of fine details I’ve never dealt with first hand. And I’m still learning. Though, I’ve always had my opinion on how things should be handled. So now I get to test those theories out for myself. The most satisfying thing has probably been the fact the songs I’ve written have resonated with a lot of people. And in a extremely short amount of time! It makes me wonder why I didn’t do this sooner. The most demanding so far has been making sure all the band mates life and work and band schedules line up with what Traveler is trying to accomplish. It can get a little hectic. But in the end, we find a way. Other than that, it’s just a lot of emailing and interview questions. Haha!
So why didn’t you start your own band earlier on then? Was it about gaining enough experience or belief in yourself and your own abilities?
– I think I was stuck in a bit of rut mentally. Maybe it was a lack of confidence. Or not believing I needed to branch out, given how much I enjoyed playing in Hrom and Gatekrashor. But with Gatekrashor on a hiatus, it was more so a window of opportunity to do my own thing. It gets a little too busy juggling three bands. It’s way easier to perform at your best that way.
In addition to the tape release of the demo, last year also saw a split release with the Finnish band Coronary where the demo songs got pressed onto vinyl as well. Do Matt feel it made sense to pair Traveler with Coronary for this type of release?
– Yeah I think it’s cool! Those guys are great. It was far more than I expected to begin with anyways. So why not get the name out there more with a split? Obviously, Coronary is a little different on the spectrum of metal than us. But we’re happy to rock along side them. Hope to hear the full length from them soon!
In April last year, you told me you had 12 songs written, why did only eight of them end up on the album?
– It basically came down to picking my favorites at the time. And I think the others can use some tweaking. I would rather not take the pizza out of the oven too soon. Eight songs is a classic good amount of material. It rounds out to about 40 minutes. If that still leaves the listeners wanting more, then we know we did a good job. I’m sure the day will come where we release a longer album. But this is a good starting point.
You have put together a full lineup for the album. What were you looking for when assembling the lineup, the best possible musicians, or people you know you get along with?
– Friendship is super important. But what really should come first is the musicianship. Bonding can come later. I see a lot of bands forming around friendship. Which is totally cool. But it makes it that much harder to break the news that they can’t play their instruments. Haha! It’s important to never settle out of convenience. I’ve been lucky enough to have had a history with all the members before. A couple of the guys never really knew each other face to face. But so far, we all get along and everything is great! So all the pieces fit.
Different styles of metal crave different abilities from the musicians. What kind of abilities where you looking for when you were assembling this lineup?
– I think a varience in styles is important with all the members of a band. I like knowing exactly who I’m hearing as they are playing it. Like when you throw on a Iron Maiden record and the solos hit. And you think “Ah, there’s Adrian!” Everything you hear on the record is exactly what I was looking for. Driving bass lines, high range vocals, trading leads, pounding drums. All the shit I love!
I believe the bass player Dave Arnold, who has been involved inStriker for many years, is the last piece of the puzzle. How did you convince him to join?
– Yeah! Dave fucking rules. Again, we’ve known each other for quite a while now. Back when he was in Striker, we played a lot of shows together. I actually didn’t have to convince him. He caught wind of the demo and shot me a message about being interested in joining. Which came to a total surprise to me. I thought someone else would have picked him up a long time ago! It was a total blessing. At the time I really had no idea who could play bass at the level I needed. And his mom makes us breakfast. Long live Dave!
You have had your debut as a live band on more or less local soil. Which aspects are you specifically looking to improve before you advance to bigger things like Keep It True and Legions Of Metal?
– I think we just need to get completely comfortable with the songs so we can play them in our sleep. Then we can focus more on our stage presence. These debut shows were a great ice breaker. So it’ll only get better from here. It’s a little tricky for us, since our members are split between three cities haha. We only had three jams as a full band before the debut. All that said, they went so well that I have no doubt we are ready for bigger shows!
I guess traveling to Germany for the Keep It True will be a big thing for you. What are you expecations for the festival and your own show and which other acts do you plan to see in action?
– I honestly don’t know exactly what to expect. I imagine it would be a pretty insane crowd out of everything I’ve heard from friends who have played. It just sounds like an amazing time. And I can’t fucking wait to get over there. So far, I’m reallly looking forward to seeing Cities and Satan. But all the bands are killer. It’s gonna rule hard.
You have decided to re-record the three songs from the demo. Some people claim that the first recording of songs will always be the best, and in all honesty it wasn’t an easy task trying to improve these tracks. Why did you choose to re-record the songs and in which ways have you succeeded in improving them?
– Truthfully, the biggest reason we decided to record them again was I just really liked the songs. And felt they deserved a proper recording. For starters, the demo was recorded with an electronic drum kit. Haha! And on the demo, I’m just playing solos back and forth with myself. It worked out. But I’d much rather hear them done properly. If the listeners like the demo recordings better, then that’s cool! But now they are recorded as you would hear them in a realistic live setting.
When the demo was released, we spoke about how surprised you were on how it was received. Is the situation different now? Are the expectations higher, and do you expect the album to be received in the same manner as the demo?
– I wouldn’t say things have changed much mentally. I’m just extremely grateful this all happened. I think it would be pretty silly to expect an equal or greater reaction to the full length. It’s pretty easy to inflate your head with wild dreams only to fall flat on your face haha. I’m really digging the ride we’ve been on so far. Whether it does well or not, this has been a fucking blast. And I won’t stop.
The first reviews have started showing up. Do you feel reviews still have a role to play in a time when everyone can check out music online before they buy? Do you read reviews yourself? What will please you in reviews of your own music?
– I’m really not sure what kind of impact they have. I’ll appreciate any type of review. Whether it’s good or bad. It’s all just fun to read.But I personally don’t read reviews of other bands. Whether an album is good or not is all subjective. Just like not trusting other peoples opinions on if a movie is good. You like what you like, so who it shouldn’t matter.
Since you have found place for the instrumental “Konamized” at the cost of a track with vocals, I guess you feel it adds something important to the album?
– That’s actually just something I always thought would be fun to do haha. It’s a cover song from the game “8 Bit Killer”. First time I heard it, I knew I wanted to cover it some day. Some of those old games have the coolest sound tracks. Probably doesn’t mean much to a lot of people. Maybe a bit annoying for fans. As a fan myself, sometimes I find it annoying when a band adds a cover or an instrumental to an album. So, I get it. But I think it sounds cool so go to hell!
You have said that the lyrical themes are mixed with real life experiences and total exaggerated scenarios. Do you keep these things apart in different songs, or are there also examples on the album where one of the lyrics contain both elements?
– Sometimes they merge together. Like with “Starbreaker”. There’s an underlining message about the state of our world. And the poor values a lot of us represent. But obviously, we’re not all bad. This is speaking purely from the negative side of things. But rolling with that idea and creating an earth destroying bad ass monster. Haha!
You feature on a compilation album put together by Temple Of Mystery with a whole host of great new Canadian bands. How did you choose the track “Betrayer” for this album? I guess it must be some kind of honor to open the A-side on this compilation as well? What are you other fave acts and songs from this compilation?
– I didn’t have a release date last time we spoke, and thought it would be out a lot sooner. Looks like we’re all set to release that by Jan 25th. It wasn’t a matter of choosing, rather than just writing a whole new song for this release. I had an idea floating around that I worked off of. It’s a total honor to open the LP. But what’s more of an honor was being able to work work with JP Fortin of Deaf Dealer on bass! He’s a hero of ours. So to have worked with him was a dream come true. It’s hard to choose an absolute favorite. I’m stoked to share a release with my good friends in Blackrat. And I’ve been loving what Metallian, Occult Burial, and Freeways have been doing lately. This compilation is going to absolutely kill!
There are a lot of exciting Canadian bands coming through at the moment, just a coincidence, or are there certain factors that are contributing to this in your opinion?
– I wouldn’t say its a coincidence at all. The underground eighties metal scene has expanded massively in just the last five-ten years! Maybe even more so in the last five. I see more and more younger kids posting, repping amazing underground bands lately. And starting bands of their own. It’s almost gotten a little trendy. But really, it’s fucking cool. All the starving bands from back in the day are getting tons of the well deserved recognition these days. It’s great. So if this paves the road for more amazing bands to start surfacing, I see that as all positive. The world doesn’t need another Nickelback. The world needs another Riot.