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Artist Spotlight: Katastro releases new album ‘Sucker’, talks creative process and making their best songs yet

Arizona multi-genre group Katastro was sidelined during the pandemic after their spring 2020 tour was abruptly cancelled. The quartet didn’t let that slow them down- instead they hit the studio and created their strongest album to date. Sucker is 12 tracks that show off the immense talent of the band and promises to translate to a wild live show. Atlas spoke with drummer Andrew Stravers about recording in quarantine, the upcoming tour and writing with deliberation.

Atlas Artist Group: You wrote and recorded Sucker during the pandemic, so what’s the story behind this new album? How did it all come together during quarantine?

Andrew Stravers: We basically were on our spring tour- we were two shows in and we probably had 15 or 16 more dates to play on the tour. We woke up after the second show in Flagstaff and we were about to go play a sold out show in Tucson. Our agent called, our manager called, everyone started calling and being like, ‘yo, everything’s shutting down’. We obviously knew COVID was a thing so even the second show was weird because we had meet and greets. Then the whole country started shutting down, all the tours got canceled, everyone started announcing tour cancellations. So we’re like, ‘fuck it, let’s go home’. 

Basically, we went right into it. We called Matt [Keller]. He brought all the studio gear and met us at this house in North Phoenix that one of our buddies actually owns. He just wasn’t doing anything with the house- it was pretty much empty. We moved all of our shit in there and just set up shop, and we started writing for the new album. We had no idea the pandemic was gonna last as long as it did, but as things progressed, we just kept writing. Once we realized that shit was gonna take forever, or learned that this was not going to be a very short-lived pandemic, we realized we could take our time. We started taking our time writing songs and for the first time ever, we had a lot of time to write an album. We had a lot of conversations about what kind of album we wanted to make. And that is how Sucker was formed. For us, it was really nice to spend a lot of time on one album. We even had a couple songs that we recorded and mixed and everything that just didn’t make it on the album. In a nutshell, that’s pretty much how it started. The pandemic just swung us into pure creation mode and still being able to be productive while we can’t tour.

Atlas: One of the downsides of so much downtime is feeling stagnant or stuck. Did you ever find yourselves feeling stuck during this creative process or did things flow really well? 

Stravers: Not at all. I mean, if anything, we had too many ideas. We were like, ‘yo, this is all awesome but we need to pick the best of the best’. Our process always when we make an album has been, we get a place for a week or two and we go there and we just knock out an album. Whatever it is, that’s what it is- which is really cool, because it’s very organic and natural to do it that way. With this album, we had specific conversations of what kind of album we wanted to make, and what kind of sound we wanted [and] how we wanted people to feel when they listened to it. For the first time ever, we wrote songs that were in major chord progressions, which most of our songs are in minor. Purposely writing happier music was actually pretty difficult for us, but we found a way to do it in a fun, dope way. This pandemic, obviously, is a thing that really sucks for a lot of people so let’s make an album that makes people feel really good. 

I do truly feel that it’s our best work yet as far as songwriting and just writing good songs. That was the big focus. We weren’t really trying to emulate anybody, but we did- to a certain degree- we really embraced the scene. I remember us in the studio, and I was pulling up Spotify and I was like, ‘dude, the bands that we’ve toured with- I want to listen to some of that shit and dissect these songs. Why do people love these songs so much?’ We were talking about bands like Dirty Heads. They’ve just been a big inspiration for us since day one, because they’re the dudes that gave us a shot back in the day and brought us on tour. Some of the biggest shows we’ve ever played in our lives have been with those guys and they’re our friends. We have our own style as a band, though, so it’s really easy for us to be inspired by shit and not totally rip it. Everyone in our band listens to different music, and we’re all inspired by different things. We wanted to also make an album that embraced the scene and an album that we think our fans really want from us, because we knew it in return to be so much more fun to play an album like that live. We’re still doing it for ourselves too because we just need to do this shit to feel sane, especially through the pandemic. 

Atlas: Having heard the album, this is definitely my favorite work that you’ve put out so far.

Stravers: Really? Awesome. With the past two albums- when we did Washed- it was a time period where I learned how to make beats and program drums and do a lot more hip hop stuff, so we were really excited about that. The birth of Washed was just [that] we really wanted to experiment and use synthesizers and programmed drums and crazy vocal effects- and it was this birth of this whole new sound and people really fucked with it, which is amazing. Then we put out Tropical Heartbreak and I think when we made Tropical Heartbreak, we were somewhat trying to recreate Washed to some degree too much. It didn’t really translate- I do think the album’s awesome, but I don’t know if it’s necessarily what our fans truly wanted from us. 

With this new album, I feel like it has this insane blend of the roots of the band and where we came from with all the live drums and big sound on the album. I put congas on the album and a lot of the vocals are more dry- it really sounds like Andy and they’re not as effected. Ryan’s basslines are fucking insane. Tanner’s got guitar solos [that] really shows how dope of a guitarist Tanner is. We all felt like we were missing that from the last album or two. This album live is going to be fucking crazy. 

Atlas: Having seen you all play so many times, it feels like you took the live show and put it in recorded form for this album. And you already know what it’s going to feel like in the room.

Stravers: I agree! That’s what I was trying to say. I feel like it captures more of how we sound as a band live on a recorded album, better than ever in the past. That’s where we were going with it. That was one of the main points of the conversation that we had as a band before we even started touching our instruments. We had this very direct and spoken about and agreed upon idea of where we wanted to take the album, which we had never really done before. 

Atlas: You had all these conversations and you really put your souls into these songs- is there a particular track on this album that really resonates with you as a band?

Stravers: So there’s a song called “John T”- like John Travolta. I don’t know- it might be my favorite drum song on the album. The drums just sound so fat and heavy and the guitars [are] insane, everything. At the end of the song, there’s an outro where I’m doing a bunch of crazy drum fills and Tanner’s soloing and it just sounds so epic and huge. When I listen to that song and I’m at the gym, it makes me feel the most badass. Right now, that’s my favorite song.

Atlas: The album is coming out. You’ve announced the tour. What else is coming up for the band?

Stravers: Right now we’re figuring out touring situations for the future. We just started a collab- an endorsement with Sierra Nevada, which is pretty exciting. Honestly, the whole focus right now for us is on the album and getting through these shows. We’re gonna continue to do a lot of cool content online. It’s hard to make hard plans for the future in this kind of landscape right now. 

We have a studio that we just started renting six months ago in Tempe and all of our stuff’s here and this is our new home base. We spend a lot of time at this studio working on stuff. I know I’m not probably not supposed to say anything about it, but I guess I will. We haven’t started it yet, but I know we’re gonna do another Bones album, which is the acoustic album. We’re probably just gonna do a ton of songs off Sucker for that.

Atlas: Is there anything else you’d like people to know about you or this record, or is there anything you wish you could talk about more that you may not get asked?

Stravers: The record- I just want people to listen to it with an open mind. There is something pretty cool that we started recently, which we need to start talking about more on Instagram and stuff. We started our own online exclusive fan club called Pillar. People can sign up for that for a deep dive and inside look to the band. We post a lot more personal stuff on there and there’s a feed where we post behind the scenes content. We do exclusive releases on there, where there’d be exclusive acoustic songs, or vlogs and stuff like that. 

Sucker is out now! 

Story by Olivia Khiel
Photo credit: Chris Colclasure