You may recognise Brandon Saller as the drummer and clean vocalist for Atreyu, the Southern California hard rock/metalcore band prominent in the ‘00s.
Hell or Highwater started as a side-project by Saller when Atreyu went on hiatus in 2011, as the band wanted to take a break.
Now they are about to release their second album Vista on May 19 and Brandon says it’s been great to explore this different musical experience.
“We had been gong strong and steady for 12 years, all we knew from our teenage and adult lives was Atreyu,” Brandon says.
“When I first started the project it was just me and I had written about eight of the songs on the first album and recorded them myself.”
“Then once I found a band, that changed and we had more writers involved, the other guys in the band started contributing and it became a group effort.”
In terms of musical style, this became an opportunity to rediscover his roots and create something indicative of what inspired his original interest in music.
As Atreyu’s sound became more melodic, they still had to balance the screaming vocals of Alex Varkatzas and heavy playing of the band’s guitarists.
However, Brandon is now working from a completely blank slate and the sound could be built from scratch to his own vision.
“After 12 years or so playing metal and hardcore, I just wanted to do something that was totally different and a fresh start,” Brandon says.
“Naturally I gravitated towards rock n roll because that’s where my basis in music is; I didn’t even get introduced to metal later in life.”
“You can kind of hear where my head was going stylistically with the Lead Sails Paper Anchor album from Atreyu, which was more hard rock.”
Although he initially wrote all the songs and played all the instruments, he wanted to use the opportunity to be a full-fledged frontman of a rock n roll outfit.
It seems like fronting a band is a natural fit for Brandon, so in hindsight it’s a wonder why he never took a role like this until now.
“When we started Atreyu, we were kids and drums were my first instrument, so that was the role I got into and I started singing later.”
“When it came time to do something new I wanted a new experience for myself and that’s why I wanted to only sing in the band.”
“I always had a desire to get in front, feel that energy from crowd and be able to interact a lot more than I could behind a drum kit.”
The door to Atreyu isn’t shut and although Brandon is focused on Hell or Highwater, he is willing to solve a few mysteries regarding Atreyu.
As long as the band has existed, fans have often wondered why he had three kick drums on stage and what the purpose was for.
“Pure aesthetic, haha, I had one kick drum and I wanted to get it bigger I was like ‘everyone does two’ so I did three,” Brandon says.
“We made my first kick into a bar, we split it down the middle and put hinges on it, so the guys could lift the front head and there was a bottle of whisky and beers there etc.”
Pre-order their new album Vista here.