Hailing from Canada, Traveler have just debuted their self-titled album on Gates of Hell Records. They started as the solo project of Matt Ries (Hrom, Gatekrashör) and after a kick-ass, well-received demo last year, a full line-up was put together to record the album. Their 2018 demo was stuck on repeat for me and I haven’t been this excited by a debut in years! I connected with founding member Matt Ries to talk about the new album and what his journey has been like since forming the band. And now without further adieu…
Traveler’s Self Titled Album:
You can find my review of it here at this link.
Hi Matt, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to join us! It must have been a whirlwind last few months for you and the band – did you ever imagine the reception would be anything like this when you first put your demo out there?
No way! It was all a shot in the dark. Just wanted to do my own thing creatively and see if people like it. Zero expectations. I still have that mind set. But now there’s a fire under my ass to keep working hard at it.
At the time of demo release it was just you and Jean-Pierre Abboud, but now Traveler is a full fledged, five person band! Can you tell us a little bit about the line-up and how it all came together?
Luckily with how well it was received, it put me in a nice position to be able to choose whoever I saw fit. With Chad, we have already had a history jamming together in my other band Hrom. So there was already familiar ground. And we both really enjoyed jamming together. So that was a no brainer. With Toryin, he was showing interest before I asked. And given I already knew what he could deliver. After a couple jams to get a feel for him. I knew he was the right guy to have dueling with me. Super stoked to have him! And leaves the bass. I had no idea who I could get to play bass at the level I needed at the time. I mulled over a lot of ideas. But a stroke of luck hit when Dave sent me a message about wanting to join. I thought for sure someone would have stolen him for another project after the Striker days. He’s the fucking man. So there we have it! Traveler is a band.
How has the songwriting process changed and how do you see it evolving for Traveler now that there’s a full band involved?
So far, I’ve had a bunch of song ideas on the back burner left over from the debut. So I’m going to work those into the next album. But as a full band, I’d like everyone’s input. It’s important to not be a one man show. And I want everyone to feel satisfied with their creative juices. We have a lot of ideas kicking around that we’re gonna start putting together. Keep the ball rolling as much as we can!
You mentioned in your previous interview with Metal Squadron that you essentially had a dozen songs already written around the time of the demo release. Did you end up using these for the full-length and if so, how did you and the band end up selecting what songs fit?
Yeah, all 8 were from those songs. The ones that didn’t make it either weren’t ready or just didn’t need to be released yet. I didn’t want to rush them. So there’s some tweaking I’m gonna do. The band didn’t have a say at the time. Again, this will all change now that we’re officially a group.
Last year’s demo featured an evil floating space squid on the cover. This year’s debut seems to feature the same space voyager, only this time he’s all grown up and looks like he’s ready to devour some planets. What’s the story behind our friend on the cover and does he have a name?
That would be Marvin! STARvin’ Marvin. The story I have based around him fits into the lyrics of Starbreaker. He comes from a race of planet destroyers. Scans the universe for life forms and keeps an eye on how they evolve. Negatively speaking, the human race has failed. So he’s arrived to destroy us. Wiping the planet clean so we can evolve again, hopefully making the right choices next time haha. We’ll probably explore this idea some more. It’s all fun, anyways.
You’ve mentioned that you and JP originally wanted to name the project “Starbreaker” but ran into some issues with Tony Harnell’s project of the same name, leading you to name the band Traveler instead. What made you guys decide on that name and is there any relation to the space-themed Slough Feg album of the same title?
No relation to Slough Feg! But they are obviously masters of their craft. After we had a good laugh about having to change the name. We basically tossed names back and forth for a few hours. I settled on Traveler. Has a good ring to it. And fits in with the lyrics of Starbreaker. I actually like it more now. So, I’m glad we changed it. And as a band, we will Travel.
In addition to Traveler, you play guitars for Hrom and Gatekrashör which are also up-tempo metal bands. How do you separate songwriting and riff ideas between the 3 projects?
Both bands worked rather slowly. So there was lots of breaks between writing. Gave me time to figure out my own thing. Separating the riff ideas wasn’t too difficult. Gatekrashör is much more aggressive speed metal. So Traveler riffs just wouldn’t fit either way. I could see it being a little tricky with Hrom. But there hasn’t been any issues so far. I think the entire sound of the band is what separates us mostly. Maybe the riffs could be used for either or. But Hrom is a little more definitive on the power metal spectrum. I’m sure I’ll have a hard time deciding whether to use a riff for one band or the other at some point. But I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
Traveler contributed an original song to the kick-ass Trapped Under Ice compilation. Your song features Jean-Pierre Fortin of cult legends Deaf Dealer on bass. How did this collaboration happen and what was it like for you guys to work with him?
Fortin is really cool! It was amazing to hear him rip it up again. I’m so surprised he hasn’t played on any releases since the Dealer days. When I asked him, he gave the demo a listen and was immediately interested. Given he’s one of our absolute heroes. This was a total honor. I didn’t have a bass player at the time. And just took a total gamble on asking him. Still can’t believe it, really haha.
“Betrayer”, the song featured on Trapped Under Ice, is warmer and darker than the rest of your material to date. What did you have in mind when writing this song and is Traveler looking to further explore this direction in the future?
I’ll be honest. I was pretty stoned when I wrote it hahaha. I’m not much of a pot smoker these days. But it comes in handy every now and again. But lyrically speaking, I had the idea from the domino effect a thoughtless betrayal can have. It’s easy to get caught up in your own selfishness and completely disregard the consequences. So it’s more about dealing with those consequences. Whether we explore that particular sound is kinda up in the air. At the moment I’m just playing what I think sounds cool.
What’s the least likely place you’ve drawn inspiration from?
I guess a couple notable influences would be Thin Lizzy and Vio-lence. I can’t say I’ve ever had those bands in mind while in the writing process for Traveler. But I’m sure it comes out one way or another. Vio-lence is absolute maniacal riff madness. And Thin Lizzy‘s lyrics are pretty inspiration more than anything. Phil was always very open about the hard times in his writing. I dig that a lot.
You guys are already locked for Keep it True 2019 and Legions of Metal this year. What are some of the bands you’re most looking forward to playing alongside and do you have any other plans to tour in the near term?
Oh man. The list of amazing bands is too long haha. I’d say #1 for me right now is Cities at KIT. Never thought I’d ever get a chance to see any of those songs live. Still waiting on some more announcements for Legions. But so far looks super solid as always. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Cirith Ungol twice now. And they do not disappoint in the slightest!
What’s up next for Traveler?
Lots of cool shit in the works! Other than those festival dates. We have our sights set on our album release show before we head to Germany. So right now we’re pretty focused on creating a killer live show. As well as staying on the writing path and preparing for the next album. There’s more I can’t talk about yet. But you’ll be stoked, I promise.
Thanks for having me! FEEL THE REIGN OF STARBREAKER!!!!!!!!!