If you blinked at one point during 2013, there’s a good chance you missed the first sonic explosion from Hell Or Highwater. Their debut album Begin Again was a surprise offering to us from the rock and roll gods, communicated via the prophetic chops of Atreyu drummer Brandon Saller.
The album was a world away from Saller’s other work commitment, in fact, universes away. But, despite a strong reception to the release, it was soon all quiet on the Hell Or Highwater front, not unlike Atreyu. However, that silence appears to be forever pierced with word of a second release from the project, dubbed Vista.
With a release date as soon as Friday, 19th May, fans of Brandon’s work are understandably losing their shit. The first mutterings from the release strongly confirm this as a rational response. Ahead of the release we spoke to Saller about the bands big plans for the album, and where Australia sits on their tour hit list.
The Neversphere: I’m not sure if you remember our chat from Soundwave 2015…you told me a story that I’ve thought about every day since…That one time Ronnie Radke goofed up meeting you…
Brandon: I do remember that, dude. That’s so awesome.
The Neversphere: I’ve interviewed Radke twice since then but I just can’t bring it up, I don’t feel like I could bring something like that up with him…
Brandon: Of course you can!
The Neversphere: Next time. Now, so Vista will mark the second Hell Or Highwater album. I remember vividly discovering Begin Again back in 2013. How does it feel to be making a second one once and for all?
Brandon: Dude, we’re so stoked. We’re about ready to pop. it’s taken us quite a while to get to this point. We spent a couple of years writing it, finishing off recording it and everything. Everything’s been done probably since last March or April so we’ve just been patiently waiting our turn. We finally released I Want It All, the first single and that’s going swimmingly, people are loving it; it’s getting played on the radio. We’re stoked man. It’s a very fun time for Hell Or Highwater. We’re excited to get it out and play some shows again and just get the machine going.
The Neversphere: How did the single go down? After a few years on the back burner, did you have to do much explaining this time around that this is completely different from Atreyu?
Brandon: I feel like we just wanted it to speak for itself. There was no pretence or explanation of what it was. We just put the single out and let the people hear what we’re working with. We chose I Want It All because it punches you in the face from the first note. It’s got the riffs, the groove, and the vocal that we love. It was our favourite first impression.
We’ve been so quiet for so long that we just wanted that impact with the first listen. But we’re stoked, people are loving it. We’re getting a better reaction than we ever could have dreamed of. In the States, we’re working up the radio charts, it’s streaming like crazy; we’re blown away by the reaction.
The Neversphere: YouTube agrees with me that the only way to describe I Want It All is a thick slice of Sexy rock and roll, which is on par with the previous Hell Or Highwater album. When you found the time to start writing Vista, were you tapping into the same creative well as Begin Again? Or due to the time gap, did you have to tap into something else?
Brandon: We definitely needed to go somewhere different but that took time. We started writing a little over two years ago. We had a lot of this written before Atreyu came back. Atreyu came off hiatus and we were going to do another album, and do things. The history there allowed us to come back a lot quicker; when it was time to do, it was time to go; Hell Or Highwater got put on pause a little bit.
Whenever I was home, we’d still meet up on a regular basis, writing music, so we took that opportunity to really think hard…We realised this next album is going to be the first time we are broadcast to a world audience. We’re going to have a label push and radio. We’re going to be talking to people like you in Australia; We’re really being exposed. We took time to think about it and write, write, write…We wrote probably over 80 songs and whittled them down, tunnelling them into a smaller scale where we were like ‘This is the vibe, this is what we want to sound like…’
It took a lot of time, a lot of blood sweat and tears went into making this sound and we’re ready to unleash the beast.
The Neversphere: Now that you’ve found a moment away from the massive Atreyu machine, and you’re front and centre again for your own project, what are some of the topics you wanted to approach thematically with your new music?
Brandon: Really, it’s all just life. Everything I write comes from our lives. There’s songs on this album that are very personal to me. Other dudes in the band are great writers and write great songs too. Joey [Bradford, Guitar] had a big part in writing a lot of the songs, as did Jon [Hoover, Guitar]. It’s all what’s been happening in our lives for the last two, three years. There’s betrayal, there’s hopelessness…On the other side of that, there’s also hope. There’s this feeling of revival, there’s songs about specific experiences where we may or may not have taken drugs together…
There’s everything. It’s just what our lives are. You know what I’m saying?
The Neversphere: Once you wrapped up the debut album, was there always going to be a sophomore from Hell Or Highwater?
Brandon: There was. I feel like with the first album we did everything ourselves as a fully independent band. With that we got some crazy opportunities, we got to tour with Avenged Sevenfold, Bullet For My Valentine and Three Days Grace…We did a tour with The Darkness, Stone Sour, The Used; we did all this cool stuff all on our own.
For us we thought this is cool, but we want to take it to the next level. Getting signed took a lot of it to the next level. After the first one, we realised we had not even come close to making our mark yet, we hadn’t shown the world what we were made of so there was always going to be a second record.
I feel like the fact it took this long to happen has made it even more perfect for us, it’s given us more time to think about what we want and how we want to do it.
The Neversphere: Where’s your head at with Hell Or Highwater now that you’re back and Atreyu is back, do you plan to keep releasing for both projects?
Brandon: Absolutely. Pretty much the Hell or Highwater cycle will take us well into the next year, Atreyu have just begun writing a new album so we’ll be taking time off, writing and get into the studio this year or next year but Hell Or Highwater, on Friday we start our first tour, we’ll be going strong well into 2018 and just going for it.
We hope to see as much of the world as we can and play for as many people as possible, that includes Australia; you’re #1 on our list.
The Neversphere: I was just about to ask what plans you had for your maiden Australian tour…
Brandon: ASAP. I’ve been talking to our label and management like ‘What’s up with Australia? How’s the record doing? How’s pre-sale? Let’s do everything we can do that’s specific to Australia, it’s like our favourite place.’ Even some of the guys from Hell Or Highwater came down for Soundwave with us. They saw the energy and the passion people have for music there, so it’s at the top of our list.
When I got the email saying, ‘You’re doing 4 hours of interviews with Australia today’ I was like…Fuck yeah…
…That’s the spark that lights the fire.