Walking through the mall in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, Andrew Wetzel of the metal band Attack Attack! sounds a bit winded over the phone as he makes his way to a semi-quiet place to talk.
After composing himself, though, the drummer was more than happy to discuss with us a variety of issues. Often criticized for blending every conceivable influence, Attack Attack! is either one of the most intriguing bands around or the biggest load of shit you're ever heard.
In anticipation of the band's appearance on the main stage of the Vans Warped Tour, which kicks off its summer-long festivities at Gexa Energy Pavilion tomorrow, we wanted to get a grip on Wetzel's responses to these perceptions. He certainly didn't shy away from speaking his mind.
Attack Attack! have been labeled both as a Christian band and an emo band. Do you think bands are reluctant to embrace either label?
It's very complicated. The Christian label is easier to go for because it's a really hot or cold kind of label -- except, if you are a Christian band, you've restricted yourself to that market. Some people will not listen to you simply because of that. It can be a really shitty label to have, but I think most people don't give a shit about it either way. But being labeled emo is just gay.
Emo is gay?
Well, it's really become a derogatory term.
Who came up with the idea to cover Katy Perry's "I Kissed a Girl"?
It's a combination of our management and our label. Our version got played a lot on the radio, so it was a good way to get exposure.
Were you wary of alienating fans by doing it?
Not really. We did not think about any possible repercussions of doing it. That kind of thing never occurred to us.
The band has lost two vocalists since 2008. Are you still friends with Austin Carlile and Johnny Franck?
We're still friends with Johnny, but not with Austin. And there is only one person in the band now who was not doing something in the band previously. After Austin left, we added one extra guy [Nick Barham, who has since left], and the rest of us just shuffled around.
You were going to call your 2010, self-titled album Shazam. Why did you decide to change the title?
I don't know. Disney or somebody else had a comic book character called Shazam and we couldn't use it. It was a shitty name anyway. It was a better idea to just leave it self-titled.
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The band is often described as metalcore. Do you have a problem with that description?
We just sound like Attack Attack! There isn't a single description that suits the music we play. We play all kinds of different stuff and we put it all together. We say it just sounds like us.
Well, you certainly merge electro-pop and metal. Was that the intent from the beginning?
Yes, the sound reflects our writing style. It's what we like to do. We write what each person wants to put into the song. It just kind of happens. We all like different styles of music, so it made sense to put it all together, to stick in all in the same song at the same time.
Some critics of the band have written that such a merging of styles can't work.
We don't worry about it. We've been successful so far. That kind of criticism doesn't bother us. Our music isn't the best thing in the world, but we really try hard to write stuff that we like and things that we enjoy playing. I think our fan base can identify with that.
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Have you been surprised by the success of the self-titled album?
I don't want to say I expected it to do well, but we were really confident as we recorded it. We really felt that we knew what we were doing as far as the songwriting goes. We knew it would do well because we were proud of what we had made.
Be honest: Is being on the Vans Warped tour a beating?
It's rough and it's long. The heat can be miserable, especially if you're playing in the middle of the day.
Do you get many chances to mix and mingle with the other bands on the tour?
It depends on whether or not the other bands hate you or not! This is our third time on that tour and we've kind of experienced everything. The first year, we didn't have any friends. And, last year, we had a ton of friends. This year, we're on the main stage with a bunch of different bands. It should be interesting.