Editor’s Note: It was a beautiful summer night in Des Moines, Iowa as Hell Or Highwater was prepared to take the stage as providing direct support for Stitched Up Heart in the “Hearts In Hell” tour. I was somewhat stammering at the beginning of this interview as those that personally know me know that Brandon Saller(Atreyu, Hell Or Highwater) is one of my all-time favorite musicians. How he is able to carry his voice as a frontman, much less when he is behind the kit drumming for Atreyu is beyond me. The whole band made this one of the coolest interviews I’ve done. Check out Hell Or Highwater providing direct support for Nothing More this fall! Without further delay, here is my conversation with the entire band of Hell Or Highwater.
M.T.C.: I just wanted to say that this is truly an honor and a privilege to talk to you guys. I love the “Vista” record, and Brandon, I have looked up to you as a musician.
Brandon: Thanks man, I really appreciate that.
M.T.C.: Since we kind of had some small talk in regards to alcohol, what is your favorite drink?
Brandon: I like Jose, I like red wine, I like bourbon.
M.T.C.: If you go up to Wisconsin, try the Spotted Cow beer. Look at me, it looks like I would enjoy a few! *laughs*
Brandon: You look svelte bro, we’re in the best shape of our lives! *laughs*
M.T.C.: I want to congratulate you all on the success of the “Vista” record. I really dig the laidback vibe of the record along with being able to rock out. “Vista” is a town in California, which you all have described, compare “Vista” to the Midwest.
Joey: I feel like the literal vibe of our homebase of Vista is my parents’ place, it feels like all of the good parts of the Midwest with having the fortunate trek of having the beaches and the weather there. It’s like open land. There’s not really a lot of spots in Southern California that you get space and to just chill.
Brandon: There’s no corn either.
Joey: There’s no corn yet.
M.T.C.: Probably the GMO corn.
Brandon: Probably the H.O.M.I.E. kind of corn. *laughs*
M.T.C.: Based on how I described “Vista”, is that an accurate picture on how the album sounds?
Brandon: Yes, “Vista” looks and feels like how the album sounds. It’s very laidback, very mellow, fun vibe, people are friendly for the most part, for us it is.
Joey: It’s a good times place.
M.T.C.: If you could pick that “Vista” spot on tour, and it’s one place, where would it be while on tour?
Brandon: Definitely Chicago or New Orleans, really, we just kind of make it fun anywhere. We tend to just have a good time wherever we go.
Joey: Wherever the venue is, we make it fun.
Brandon: Wherever the venue is, that’s our favorite spot for that day.
M.T.C.: Even in Des Moines, Iowa?
Brandon: We have fun here in Des Moines, we played here a few weeks ago with Nothing More and it was so much fun, it was one of the better shows of the tour, and you have Zombie Burger and the downtown area.
Joey: And the weather today was literally amazing. It feels like we are in Vista today.
M.T.C.: Brandon, I’m just going to speak from the heart here, you’re one of my favorite vocalists. How do you train your voice or how do you prepare for a show with your voice?
Brandon: Thanks man, I appreciate that! I’m the wrong guy to ask on that one! I may be the most lax singer of all-time. I mean, I’ve done things in my career to better my voice, but it was just mostly practicing a lot. Trying to sing things that I can’t sing until I can sing them. But as far as warming up and to take care of my voice and stuff, I’ve kind of been blessed with just a “get up and go” kind of voice. I don’t warm up ever, I rarely have a vocal blowout. So, I’m just blessed with having a strong voice. I’m not saying that you should do that because it doesn’t always work for everybody. It just so happens to work for me and I’m thankful.
M.T.C.: What can schools do to better music education for kids?
Brandon: Everything! Schools are lacking so hard and the arts in general are the first to go and I feel like whether you’re going into a career in the arts, whether it’s a painter, a graphic designer, a musician, whatever it may be, you need to have that in school to open up kids’ minds, and you need to push creativity. The world needs creative no matter what they are going to end up being in life without the arts, there is lacking in creativity. Schools is just by the book learning, useless facts that you may or may not use.
Maultie: They teach you like Algebra and math, stuff that you will never use, not to mention the fundamental element of being a human being, not to mention being creative.
Brandon: That should be number one.
Maultie: In the country that is number one, Denmark is one and in Sweden, they have programs where they teach music all the way through college.
Joey: I can’t imagine us doing this if we didn’t have the good music programs that we had while we were growing up and it led us to figure out that this is what we’re supposed to do and even my friends that have 9 to 5’s now, and that’s their life and they love it, and that’s what they’re good at, they still need an outlet and they still need to be creative, and they were taught how to do that s*** in school.
M.T.C.: If music didn’t exist as that outlet, what outlet would you have instead?
Kyle: I would have skateboarding. Talk about being back in school where you could skateboard. *laughs*
Maultie: I probably would be a pro football player. I work hard for this physique. *laughs*
Kyle: Honestly though, I would rather not think about it, you know what I mean? I remember being in elementary school and there was a music teacher at the school but she would go around to each classroom and you have a 30 minute to an hour long session and she would pass out all the percussion instruments, it was very minimal, but I f****** loved it.
Joey: High school was great, we had mandatory music class. We had to be in a music room, had to play an instrument. We had everything, we had drama, we had dancing, vocal music, instrumental music. It doesn’t do that anymore, but it was sick. Clarinet was where I started and tenor sax.
Maultie: We had the choir stuff in elementary, but there wasn’t enough programs for us. Most of my interest in music came from family in Oceanside.
M.T.C.: Let’s talk about the singles “I Want It All” and “Walk Out In The Rain”. What does wanting it all mean to you and what can you take away from this?
Brandon: Wow, that’s a tough one! I think wanting it all and having it all is different to each of us. I feel like recognition, success, comfort, and the ability to live how we want would be pretty much all of it.
Joey: Success is a different realm in our lives. We’ve taken a lot of different roads to get here and for that song in particular, it means it’s our time.
Brandon: I feel like that song was written out of a good amount of frustration because the time that was spent waiting for our moment for this album to come out was a lot of time and a lot of question marks, but that song was written out of frustration, but it’s kind of redeeming to play it now, it’s like, “this is all happening, these lyrics are coming true now”.
“I Want It All” Hell Or Highwater
M.T.C.: What about the song “Walk Out In The Rain”, what was the moment when the lyrics came to you and what were you guys going through?
Brandon: It’s a song about perspective. Your life can be sh**** at times, you can have ups and downs, and have hard times, and they may last longer than you want, but I feel like any given curveball that life throws at you, it’s all about how you approach things and how you. The whole concept is like, “life is a walk out in the rain”, it could me that you’re pissed because you’re soaking wet and cold and it can ruin your day or that it’s a beautiful moment that you can enjoy. Every time that I’ve gotten caught out in the rain, it’s become the funnest part of the day, and I’m soaking wet, but it’s hilarious, it’s about living life with the right perspective, and it won’t ever be that bad.
Joey: That positive energy is literally our whole M.O. and just being the good guys. It reminds me of the time that I got locked out of my parents’ house and it was pouring outside! All I had was my music and my discman and I was rocking out in the rain.
Brandon: Circle pit in the rain! *laughs* When it poured rain, me and my brother lived in an apartment complex and it was the perfect example of right perspective, a lot of the times when it’s pouring rain, people are like, “aw, f***, we’re in the house for the night, let’s watch a movie or whatever”. The apartment complex had these dips in the middle of the road, and every time it would rain hard, the dips would just fill up and it was six or seven foot of water. We would take our bodyboards and charge the dips, essentially just surf the parking lot.
Maultie: I remember elementary school and going out to play in the rain and my buddy Zack and I would go get snails and put them on leaves and put them in the gutters, and we would watch them surf. *laughs*
Brandon: Life’s a snail race in the rain! *laughs*
“Walk Out In The Rain” Hell Or Highwater
M.T.C.: What is currently on your listening device?
Maultie: Portugal The Man.
Brandon: I’ve listened to Royal Blood a few times the past couple of days.
Joey: The new Jimmy Eat World record is awesome! There is this super heavy riff in the middle of the record that will blow your damn mind! Thrice is mindblowing too!
Brandon: Thrice’s new record is the best thing that I have ever heard from them.
M.T.C.: Where do you see Hell Or Highwater three to five years from now?
Brandon: I have this prophecy that we will be having a new shirt out. *laughs* It’s a riff from a Zeppelin shirt and it’ll say November 21st, 2020 Wembley Arena. We’re putting the prophecy out now and we’ll be headlining Wembley Arena.
M.T.C.: Why not Wembley Stadium?
Brandon: Baby steps, figured we haven’t played the UK yet, and having 20,000 people in an arena is a good first baby step. *laughs*
M.T.C.: This has been a lot of fun, but I know that you all have to play a show tonight. Where can people find you all? On the interwebs, don’t want people stalking you all.
and find our music at Spotify, Apple Music, all digital online retailers, pick up a CD at a show.
M.T.C.: Thank you so much!
Brandon: Perfect! Thank you for taking the time!
And there you have it! Check out Hell Or Highwater providing direct support for Nothing More this fall! My Ticket Home and As Lions will also be appearing on this tour! Check out the dates below!
Tuesday, September 12th- New Daisy Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee
Wednesday, September 13th- Regency Ballroom in Springfield, Missouri
Saturday, September 16th- The Intersection in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Sunday, September 17th- New Concert Theatre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Tuesday, September 19th- Paradise Rock Club in Boston, Massachusetts
Thursday, September 21st- Baltimore Sound Stage in Baltimore, Maryland
Friday, September 22nd- The Underground in Charlotte, North Carolina
Saturday, September 23rd- Fiddler Green’s Amphitheatre in Englewood, Colorado
Monday, September 24th- The Masquerade in Atlanta, Georgia
Wednesday, September 26th- State Theatre in Tampa, Florida
Thursday, September 27th- Maverick’s in St. Petersburg, Florida
Saturday, September 29th- St. Andrew’s Hall in Detroit, Michigan
Monday, October 2nd- The Cannary Ballroom in Nashville, Tennessee
Wednesday, October 4th- The Truman in Kansas City, Missouri
Thursday, October 19th- Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona
Friday, October 20th- Vinyl in Las Vegas, Nevada
Wednesday, October 25th- The Van Buren in Phoenix, Arizona
Friday, October 27th- The Summit in Denver, Colorado
Saturday, October 28th- The Black Sheep in Colorado Springs, Colorado
Sunday, October 29th- Mesa Theatre in Grand Junction, Colorado
Tuesday, October 31st- Crystal Ballroom in Portland, Oregon
Wednesday, November 1st- Crocodile in Seattle, Washington
Friday, November 3rd- Marquee Beer Market in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Saturday, November 4th- The Knitting Factory in Spokane, Washington
Sunday, November 5th- The Knitting Factory in Boise, Idaho
Monday, November 6th- The Complex in Salt Lake City, Utah
Wednesday, November 8th- Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Thursday, November 9th- House Of Blues in Dallas, Texas
Friday, November 10th- The Aztec Theatre in San Antonio, Texas
Click here for tickets and further information on any of the tour dates.