Courtesy of Ashley Saller
The last time Brandon Saller was in Columbus, more than three years ago, he was the drummer for metalcore band, Atreyu.
Since then the band has taken a hiatus and Saller has emerged from behind the drum set to center stage as lead vocalist for new project Hell or Highwater, and he said the transformation has been a gratifying one.
“Obviously you have nerves at the very beginning of switching positions, but I love the interaction and being able to be face-to-face with people rather than being so far away,” Saller said. “And I’ve always had a lot of energy on stage that I tried to get out any way I could, so now I can just run around and be in people’s faces and it’s a whole different level of connection with the audience.”
Hell or Highwater is slated to perform Wednesday at Newport Music Hall, opening for The Darkness. Doors open at 7 p.m.
The Orange County, Calif. native spent more than 11 years with Atreyu before the band announced it would take a break in January 2011, but for Saller, ceasing performing wasn’t an option.
“If I don’t play music … and perform, I get antsy and irritable and I’m not a good person,” he said.
Saller formed Hell or Highwater, which also consists of guitarists Matt Pauling and Neal Tiemann, Joey Bradford on bass and drummer Captain Carl almost immediately after Atreyu’s hiatus but said he started writing its music well before then, which contrasts with the sound Atreyu fans are used to hearing.
“I started to write music that was kind of more straight rock base and not heavy stuff,” he said. “So it’s just a lot less heavy, a lot less abrasive, but at the same time the energy’s still there, the passion’s still there.”
Saller described the band’s music as the real rock ‘n’ roll sound he’s trying to revive.
“We don’t believe that rock ‘n’ roll has ever fully gone away and we’re really just trying to revive true rock ‘n’ roll style of music,” he said.
Mike Hunter, promotions manager at PromoWest Productions, said that while he doesn’t know much about Saller’s new band, he thinks the show will draw in fans from his previous band.
“Hell or Highwater, I’m not all that familiar with, but hopefully some Atreyu fans will come out and check out his new project,” Hunter said.
Since forming, Saller has seen a great deal of support from past fans but said Hell or Highwater is more than capable of creating its own success.
“Obviously there’s a lot of run off from Atreyu fans, which is cool and we appreciate it, but I think that from day one we kind of made it very clear that we’re our own band, that we can hold our own as being a separate completely different thing, so we’re lucky that we don’t really have to stand on the foot of our history. We can stand on our own,” Saller said.
Hell or Highwater’s debut album “Begin Again,” which was originally released in August 2011, is set to be rereleased Feb. 5, and Saller said lyrically, it describes his musical transition.
“I played in a band for 11 years and we kind of disdained and I had to start all over again. And whether you’re in a band or you’re an accountant or you’re going to college and you don’t like you your major, there’s times in your life that can feel crushing and like the end when really it’s just the beginning of the next part,” he said. “So it’s the thought of kind of reinventing yourself and understanding that it’s never too late in anyone’s life to do so and you kind of have to live your life like you want to and there’s never a time that’s wrong for that.”
When it comes to the fate of Atreyu, Saller said his priorities lie with Hell or Highwater.
“I wouldn’t want Atreyu fans to hold their breath,” Saller said. “We’re having a good time doing this and we’re gonna keep on going.”
Tickets are available through Ticketmaster for $25 in advance or $28 the day of the show.