Preview: Progressive band Coheed and Cambria keeps sci-fi concept going through seventh album
February 7, 2013 5:00 AM
Coheed and Cambria: Travis Stever, Josh Eppard, Claudio Sanchez and Zach Cooper.
By Scott Mervis Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In this seventh volume of the series, "Afterman: The Descension," Sirius Amory, the astronomer/scientist namesake of the mythology, at last discovers the energy source of the Keywork in the alternative universe of Heaven's Fence and is rewarded with the knowledge that one's life energy echoes in the afterlife.
Now, before you decide to flip the page and stay a mile away from that, understand that Coheed and Cambria can be consumed and enjoyed on multiple levels, not necessarily requiring a full-on geeky attention to plot detail.
The progressive/metal band from Nyack, N.Y., led by Claudio Sanchez, launched its sci-fi Amory Wars concept -- featuring the characters Coheed and Cambria -- with the first album in 2002 and has extended it past the expected end date. The band is setting out on tour now with "Descension," the second of a two-volume concept album covering this part of the story.
Sonically, Coheed has been called the Gen Y answer to Rush -- particularly in light of Mr. Sanchez's soaring vocal style -- while also being compared to emo bands. "Descension" boasts a range of styles from epic progressive ("Pretelethal") to crushing alt-rock ("The Hard Sell") to something resembling '70s art-pop ("Away We Go").
In advance of the band's sold out show tonight at Stage AE, the band's frontman talked about "Afterman" and other things.
What originally inspired you to want to write in this narrative format?
For me, I started to create the idea of the Amory Wars as a story to partner up with the record, because with the band that I was working with at the time, when I was 18 years old or so, the songs I would write as a singer of the band, I had this hard time putting myself into the songs. Even though the songs were about me, I was a little shy, a little reclusive, I didn't really want my story to be out there. Yet, I did want that release that comes with songwriting, so that's sort of why I created this narrative -- to essentially still have that release but have that curtain to hide behind so I didn't feel like I was giving too much of myself away in the songs.
Did you think you were going to sustain it this long?
You know, not really. When I created the idea, originally, I thought it was all going to end in a three-part story, but after writing the "In Keeping Secrets" record, I kind of realized there was no definitive conclusion to this big thing that I created, so that's kind of why I started to push into the others. After a while I grew to really like the idea of the concept and the way it partners with the albums. It just feels like a really great artistic release for me to be able to recompose them in another medium with the comic books and with the prose. But did I envision it getting this far? Not at first.
How did you come to concentrate on the Sirius character this time?
When I started the writing the material for "Afterman," I didn't have a concept. With "[Year of the] Black Rainbow," we sort of concluded the Coheed and Cambria story, with their origin tale. So at that moment the Amory Wars seemed to be over. The band started to take some time off, we didn't have a record label, and I just started to write material just for the sake of writing songs.
A lot of those songs, they basically told the story of the two years that I was living at that time. As I was writing the songs, I started to get a sense of where I wanted to go, if I wanted to get back into the Amory Wars, but it wasn't until my wife found out [on Facebook] that a good friend of hers passed away ... that that sort of oddity kind of defined what would be the story. I thought, this is what I want to tell, the Keywork is sort of the afterlife, and then the pieces started to fall into place when that tragedy happened.
You have a range of styles here, from pop to progressive. How did that take shape?
Usually in our songwriting process, I'll write the skeleton of the song, and then with the guitar and vocal or whatever synth-generated sequence, I'll present it to the band, and then the band will arrange around it. But this time around, there was no conscious idea of what the album was going to be, so I just let the chips fall where they may -- let me just try everything.
When we were in the studio, there were little ideas that would pop up here or there, like, for instance, "Dark Side of Me" was a riff that Travis was working on in the lounge area of the studio, and I recorded it on a dictaphone and took it back to the hotel, and at like 4:30 in the morning, I started working on the melody and the lyrics, and little other accompaniments. The next day we were in the studio recording it. It's definitely an interesting approach for us.
Most of the time, we'll cut the rhythm section and then all the other stuff around it, and that's usually the process, whereas this time we kind of just jumped around. And I think that helped with the different styles that are on both of the records. We didn't want to fall in line and do it in this traditional way. We wanted to let the energy inspire us what to do next.
Do you think the industry has a hard time handling projects like this?
I didn't have to worry, because we started our own label. There wasn't somebody to really worry about. We got to do our own thing on our own terms, kind of what we've always wanted to do. That wasn't our decision to split and do our own thing. That just happened to be the circumstance.
I meant in terms of the media covering it or radio playing, anything like that.
Oh yeah. It's kind of strange with Coheed, and this is just how I feel, this isn't necessarily like fact. Sometimes I feel there is a misconception of what this band is because of the concepts and things like that. Sometimes it's immediately discarded when it comes to radio, because people have their preconceived ideas of what it is, and sometimes maybe it's because people view the comic books as maybe childish, so therefore this band isn't mature enough to create good music. And that's certainly not how I feel because some of my favorite pieces of literature and fiction happen to BE comics. I think it's a very adult medium, so that's just a generalization.
How are you going about presenting it live?
We're going to try to incorporate the All Mother entity from the stories. We're trying to work out some set designs to make her kind of the feature, and sort of play off of that. We'll definitely do a collection of tunes from the band's discography as opposed to a straight-album [set]. We kind of want to save that for a "Neverender" feature [in which the band plays an album straight through], maybe down the road. I think it should be a fun show to watch.
What are the prospects for the movie version of Amory Wars?
At the moment, we're just sort of looking for the right people to partner up with to make it become a reality, but there's nothing to really report.