Interview with Chad Vallier (drums) and Matt Reis (guitars)
Interview conducted by MetalMike
Date online: July 5, 2020
Traveler is one of a host of new, young metal bands from Canada. The Great White North might be thought of as a generally cold country, but Traveler are ready to bring the heat with their second full-length album, Termination Shock, that was release ind April 2020. The timing was unfortunate, as it coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic and has put many of the band's plans on hold. Despite any temporary setbacks, the gents in Traveler are undaunted in their pursuit of heavy metal and have maintained a positive outlook for the future. Drummer Chad Vallier and guitarist Matt Reis were kind enough to take some time to answer a few questions and let us know what is happening in the Traveler camp and what might be just over the horizon.
Hello from The Metal Crypt! How is everyone in the band doing? Are you all home in Western Canada and staying safe, socially distancing, etc.?
Chad: Hey! Everyone in our camp is holding up as well as possible. It's been an adjustment for sure. We're all back at home, just riding it out. Things are slowly starting to open up here, but there's no news for gigs happening yet because of the restrictions on how many people can be in one space.
Matt: Hey bud! We're all doing great. Unfortunately, JP is still stuck in the States. We're hoping that gets lifted soon so we can get back to business. They have lifted a lot of the rules around western Canada, thankfully. So, we've been doing alright.
Congratulations on the release of your second full-length album, Termination Shock. It has been out for a little while now, what has the response been like from the fans and media so far?
Chad: Thank you very much. It's been all positive so far. Everyone seems to be enjoying it, which is really all you can ask for. There's always anxiety leading up to a release about it not doing well and fortunately, it has been so we're really happy.
Matt: Thanks! The response has been amazing so far. It's a little nerve-racking putting that second album out. We had no idea how well it would do. At the end of the day, we're all proud of what we put out. And the fans are digging it too.
I know Matt (Reis, guitars) contributed to the Judas Priest tribute that The Metal Crypt's Luxi Lahtinen did a while back (50 Years of British Fuckin' Steel). Did you ever think, back in your teens when you were discovering bands like Priest, Maiden and others that one day, you'd have two albums of your own released to the world?
Chad: That's the dream, right? HAHA. I mean, yes and no. When you're in your teens and just starting out, you're naïve to a lot of things. For me I was like "we're gonna make it" when my first band formed (which wasn't very good). Then as you get a little older and start getting into better bands and diving into how this actually works, it shifts to "fuck, this is harder than it looked." It also takes a large amount of luck. I feel really fortunate to be able to have three albums, including Riot City's, have the reach that they have, knowing how hard it is, and how many solid bands are out there that never really get the chance to branch out.
Matt: We're definitely living the dream to some degree. It's just nice having been at this for so long that our music is reaching this many people. Like Chad said, you have to go through some rough times in other bands to work out the kinks. I think we're all at our absolute best right now. And I think it'll only get better from here.
What other bands besides Judas Priest were key contributors to what would become Traveler's sound?
Chad: Traveler is this weird little machine. All of us have had some form of success with other bands, so I think we've all tried to bring influences and methods that have worked for us in the past. Like for Matt, he's taken a mixture of his power and speed metal background to formulate his riffs, Toryin brought his shreddy thrash style, JP has a very eclectic musical taste that you can hear when he sings for different projects. Dave and I locked in pretty quick. Our styles suit each other well. And because we live in different cities, we've had to rely on those individual influences even more. So, in terms of bands that have contributed, it's hard to say because we somehow made this cohesive mixture that seems to be working well.
Matt: Yeah, we just riff and see what happens, haha. There are a general top 4 or 400 bands that I can probably credit to our sound a bit. But if I had to name a few, I would say I listen to way too much Maiden, Deaf Dealer, Mercyful Fate, Vio-Lence, Fifth Angel, etc.
Termination Shock was released in April 2020, only about 14 months after your debut, Traveler. Do you guys just like to work fast in terms of songwriting, or did/do you have a lot of ideas and actual songs "in the vault" going back to when you started? How is the songwriting accomplished in Traveler? Is there one or two "main guys" or does everyone contribute?
Chad: Most of it was in the vault for Matt. He took some of his ideas and worked them out to make them full songs. It's becoming a bit more of a team effort over time. Self-titled was written before there was a band, but with Termination, JP wrote more of the lyrics this time, Dave wrote "Terra Exodus," things like that. For the next album, we all have some ideas for what could go on there, so we'll get them worked out and see what makes the cut.
Traveler's lyrics deal with serious issues and are on the dark side (I like the way you worked in the title of Matt's favorite Judas Priest album, Sin After Sin, on "Starbreaker" from the debut!). Where does your lyrical inspiration come from and I have to ask, what does it mean to be "Konamized," the debut album's instrumental track?
Chad: That was supposed to be the band name too, but it didn't work out logistically because there's a Tony Harnell project with the same name, haha. "Konamized" is basically a metalled up cover of an 8-bit song from an old video game. The lyrical content is mostly Matt and JP. I think a lot of it is based around life experiences for them both that they wanted to pen out. Some is based around our alien doing alien things too.
Matt: There's this game, 8-Bit Killer that I used to play at Jan's house (our sound engineer). The background music ruled, haha. I always wanted to cover one of those songs. So, I was able to track down the song "Konamized" and we learned it and added a little Traveler spin on things. Some of the coolest music was written for those games. Megaman music totally rips too. But yeah, the lyrical themes tend to lean more towards the depressing side of life. I was always drawn more towards those lyrics that hit home. There's always that one lyric that sends a chill down your spine. I'm not saying we accomplished that. But that's what I like. It's a lot more personable to have some kind of relationship between yourself and the listener. But I still like flying off into ridiculous themes like "Starbreaker," haha. Got to have some fantasy in there, too.
I assume that had COVID-19 not reared its ugly head, you would be out on the road playing songs from Termination Shock to fans all over the globe. How frustrating is it NOT to be able to play live with a new album recently released and how are trying to keep the band's momentum going until you can get back on the road?
Chad: Yeah, I mean it's frustrating for sure, especially since our last tour got cut short and we had to miss some really cool dates after that as well. I'm sure we all have an itch to play a gig, I know I do anyway. It's out of our control, and we just have to remember that and try and get other things done. Fortunately, there's the Internet to keep us engaged with people and what not, but we can't wait to get back on a stage. At least it gives us time to write. Glass half-full, haha.
Matt: The silver lining in all of this is it's giving us a lot of time to write new tunes. And there's a lot of the not so fun business side of things that I've always ignored. It's giving me time to get a really good understanding of how to operate everything. Future planning and all of that. But I'm for sure itching to hit the stage. It's what we live for.
It looks like you've had a recent issue with YouTube and streaming Termination Shock. Will the album be up again in the near future on YouTube and until then, where can the fans stream it, or better yet, buy it?
Chad: Bandcamp is a great place to start. Through our page is the North American Market, and everywhere else is being handled by the Gates of Hell page. Hopefully the bugs get worked out, I know Anderson has put a lot of work into that channel, and in all honesty, that page is one of the reasons we got some traction so I know we'd like to see it work out in his favor.
Matt: Fortunately, it's still up on other channels so you can still find it. We'll be uploading it to our own channel as well. But Bandcamp has always been the main hub for our music. It's a real shame that someone would attack Anderson like that. It hurts him more than us. And we owe a lot to that guy. But it's all being sorted out and we should see it back up on his channel soon!
In terms of touring, you recently posted about the Heavy Metal Thunder Festival scheduled for March 13, 2021 in the Czech Republic that you are planning to participate in. Have you been able to secure any other shows that you can talk about? Let's say COVID-19 magically goes away at some point in the near future and everything is "back to normal." What would your hope be in terms of getting back on the road? Where would you start, who would you look to play with, etc.?
Chad: Heavy Metal Thunder would be our starting point. We'd basically stay local until then. There's no way to book anything until further down the road with all of the uncertainty. Basically 2021 is just a reboot of 2020. Everything canceled that we were a part of has been rebooked for 2021, including Up the Hammers, which is where the "Revenge of the Warriors" came into play. Both Riot City and Traveler found the last tour successful, and we all had a great time together, so why not do it again? Both bands also have some other things in the works that aren't fully set up yet, but we'll hopefully be able to announce soon. We want to try and get to every area that has been asking!
Matt: First thing is hoping that the Euro tour will go according to plan. There's some realllllly cool additions to that one that we can't mention yet. And there's another tour in the works as well. That'll all be unfolding within the next year. Regardless of what the situation is, we still have to plan ahead. Everything is so uncertain and it's a gamble. But we have to try.
What are some of the challenges of being a metal band in Western Canada, an area known for wide-open spaces and not being so heavily populated? I'm sure cities like Calgary and Edmonton have thriving metal communities but are not exactly close to one another or any of the other population centers. Lots of overnight drives packed into vans with all the equipment, maybe? 😊
Chad: Calgary and Edmonton have come a long way over the past little while. The scene has grown for sure. Those would be the closest cities for us. They're only 3 hours apart. To the west of us, Vancouver is 11 hours away, with a few smaller hubs along the way, and to the East the closest city is about 9 hours. So, let's just say we know how close everything is in Europe haha.
Matt: Touring Canada is very hard, haha. There's only Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton within 2 massive provinces that you can rely on for a good turnout. Eastern Canada is a little easier with all of those major cities more or less close by. One day, we'll make the trek over there once this whole pandemic blows over.
Where have been your favorite places to play and why? Where haven't you played yet that you really would like to visit?
Chad: I love playing Hamburg. Dave already had some friends there, and we had a couple of days off, so we made our own little family while we were there basically. We always seem to play really well there. London and LA were both great. They were bucket list stops with how much musical history is in each. I'm excited to play in the Czech Republic and Denmark. Our road manager is from Prague, and he's been talking it up, and the people of Denmark have been asking for this show for quite a while now. I think they're both going to be great shows.
Matt: Hamburg is definitely up there. London was insane too. But I'm really excited to play Spain. I know they have some die hard maniacs over there. But I always feel at home in Germany. I love the food, beer, the people. But another place I'd love to play would be Brazil. We'll get there someday.
Being in the U.S., I would of course love to see Traveler play a city near me, but my understanding is that coming to the States from another country isn't simple or inexpensive. Does a traditional metal band NEED to tour the States these days?
Chad: Absolutely we do, but you're right, it is a major pain to get in. It's just so risky because even doing it correctly doesn't give you a guarantee of it going well. I heard of a band that paid for a lawyer to do their visa and it got denied because the border security was looking at an outdated book and they missed their dates after spending large money to try and do it right. I had a friend whose band had all of their merch taken from them because of where the material was made. By the time it all got sorted out, they missed their first date, and had basically no merch to sell at their remaining gigs.
Matt: A US tour is definitely on the bucket list. Honestly, a huge portion of our online sales go over there. Our gig in Chicago for Legions of Metal was fucking crazy too. I think it's important to tour everywhere. You can't beat live music.
Canada, on the other hand, seems like a metal hotbed these days with you guys, Striker, Skull Fist, Metalian, Spell and a host of others. What's going on up there? LOL
Chad: HAHA, not sure man. The best answer I've been able to come up with is it's so cold up here that we just stay inside and write, or because of like we were talking about with the drive times. It's too hard to tour Canada by vehicle. Especially in winter, which is like eight months long, haha. I think part of it too is we push each other. We all know each other in the bands you mentioned or at a minimum know of each other, and when an album comes out that is really good it's like "fuck, better get to work."
Matt: Our main diet is maple syrup and beaver tails. That's the secret. I wasn't supposed to say anything. But I'm spilling the beans. You heard it here first!
How did your participation in Temple of Mystery's compilation, Trapped Under Ice: The New Face of Canadian Heavy Metal Vol. 1 come about? Were you familiar with the owner, Cauchemar singer Annick Giroux, or did you submit a song for consideration? Did your appearance on this compilation help spread the name of Traveler? Will the song "Betrayer," which I don't believe has appeared on any of your releases at this time, show up on a future album?
Chad: Matt's known Annick for quite some time, going back to when he played her festival "Wings of Metal." I think we got asked because we wrote "Betrayer" specifically for that release. I think it helped for sure. The demo had done well, and we were getting ready to start recording the first album, so it was something to keep us out there with people in the meantime and get a track in front of some people that got the compilation for one of the other bands featured. I think that's it for that song though. We've talked about it but for now, it's going to stay exclusive to the compilation.
Matt: Me and Annick go back a number of years. She's the best. When our demo caught some steam, she asked me to contribute a tune. I was in the middle of fine tuning the first album at the time, but I wanted to write something specifically for that release. And if I'm being honest, I don't smoke weed these days but I was very stoned while writing that song, haha. But a cool addition to that track to keep it as Canadian as possible, was I asked JP Fortin of Deaf Dealer to record bass for it. This was before we had Dave in the band. And because of that we've been able to work with one of our heroes and build a friendship. The Internet is cool.
What are you working on during your "downtime" due to COVID-19? Are you writing new material, are you able to get together to rehearse or are you focusing on work and family and maintaining the band's presence online until some of the restrictions are lifted?
Chad: Matt and I have talked about getting together soon. I have a few songs on the shelf that we might be able to turn into something, and he's been working away on a few as well, so we're keeping busy.
Matt: I've been demoing out new tunes. I have some that I'm getting really excited about. With all this time on our hands it's really allowing me to pay really close attention to detail. And we've all been chipping away on our own ideas. We're just going to gradually put all of these together and see what's album worthy. Jams are in the near future.
Silly question; you have to give up all of your Judas Priest albums or all of your Iron Maiden albums forever. Who goes and who stays? 😊
Chad: Uhhhhhhh.....can I still see Maiden live?
Matt: I hate this question, haha. But Maiden stays. That style is way closer to my heart. But let's not talk about this ever again.
Deal! That does it for my questions, thanks so much for taking some time to answer them for the readers of The Metal Crypt. All the best with Traveler and Termination Shock and hope to see you guys on the road in the not too distant future and maybe, who knows, shake hands! Last words are yours and make sure to let our readers know where they can listen to Traveler, buy the merch and keep up with the latest band news.
Chad: Thanks for the awesome interview!
I just wanted to tell everyone to hang in as best as possible. It's a weird time, but we're working hard to make some more new music and getting ready to hit it hard as soon as we're able to. I also wanted to thank everyone that has checked out the new record and offered their feedback. We really appreciate you taking the time. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's available on all streaming platforms, or at travelermetal.bandcamp.com along with all of our merch.
Matt: Thanks for the great interview, man! We want everyone to stay safe and allow things to get back to normal. Hope we can meet one day and melt some faces. And I can't thank everyone enough for all the support. Super weird time right now but we have to stay positive. You can listen to our music and buy merch on our Bandcamp page. Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for news and whatnot.
Long live Metal Crypt!
|Other information about Traveler on this site|
|Review: Termination Shock|
|Review: Traveler / Coronary|
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