Coheed and Cambria's Melodies Glisten Behind Metal's Dark Cloud
Coheed and Cambria is known for its emotional, narrative-driven lyrics, little-girl-on-helium vocals, and rip-roaring '80s-metal-style guitar solos. But beyond that, Coheed and Cambria has always been a musical anomaly: loved by a diverse crowd stretching from nerd to metalhead. The band has defied classification since its mid-'90s inception, and the April 13 release of Year of the Black Rainbow, Coheed's fifth studio album, won't make slapping a label on the quartet any easier.
"People label things to make themselves feel comfortable," lead guitarist Travis Stever says. "They like things to be black-and-white, cut-and-dried. But we're neither."
The band's dramatic evolution includes tracing a sci-fi story, charming a ton of high-schoolers with catchy tunes like "A Favor House Atlantic," recording a four-day concert, and blurring the lines among prog, emo, and metal genres. In the midst of all that, Stever has kept himself busy working on a variety of side projects and consuming Ben & Jerry's Half-Baked ice cream.
In anticipation of Coheed and Cambria's April 25 show at Revolution, New Times grabbed Stever for some gab on the groundbreaking new album, Guitar Hero, and why shredding while shitfaced is never a good idea.
New Times: You're the guitarist. That means you get the most chicks, right?
Travis Stever: No ma'am. Even before I got married, I didn't do that. We're not really a chick-magnet band. This isn't like the days of Def Leppard, with groupies hiding under the stage or anything. I'm a good boy.
I've heard rumors of your type. But let's cut to the chase: Coheed and Cambria has a new CD, Year of the Black Rainbow, and the chatter I've heard thus far indicates that this album is really different from ones of the past. Words like "unexpectedly melodic" have been tossed around.
This CD ties it all together. We explore all our roots as a band, all our old albums. But obviously, we've been influenced, and we've evolved. Our producer, Atticus Ross, was really involved with this one, so we had some great input. We had a four-night excursion called Neverender where we played all four albums, all the singles, everything. We recorded it and had it released [as a CD/DVD documentary box set]. Playing these songs, thinking about the notes and what really went into them, influenced Year of the Black Rainbow.
"Here We Are Juggernaut" is the album's single. The chorus goes: "We were stupid/We got caught/So what? Nothing matters anymore/Here we are, juggernaut." What is this song about?
Well, all of our music is based around the story of these two characters, Coheed and Cambria. So of course, their story plays a part in this song. But Claudio [Sanchez] is the lyricist, and he kind of hides behind his story concept and writes about his real life through it. Obviously I can't say for sure, but he's indicated that this song has to do with him and his wife. He was married recently, and the song talks about coming together and becoming a force to be reckoned with. It examines parts of turmoil throughout their relationship and is like "We've been through all this, so now we can plow through anything."
That's sweet, kind of. So, Coheed and Cambria has a few songs in Guitar Hero, which is awesome. As the guitarist, does it hurt you emotionally to hear people terribly botching your musical contribution to these songs?
No. That's how people are becoming fans of our music. They're thinking about it — and while they learn to play it, they learn to enjoy it.
What's your best concert experience to date?
Neverender! Watching the fans react to us playing all our albums was awesome. Though, this tour has been so exciting too.
How about worst?
Ugh, I've had a couple. I used to have a few drinks to loosen up before we played a show, and sometimes it would turn from "a few" to many. One time, I was playing the concert a half-measure behind the rest of the band. My motor skills were so fucked, I couldn't keep up.
Well, it's good to learn that lesson early.
It took me a few years, but now I don't drink before shows.
Good plan. Speaking of, you're playing at Revolution on Sunday. What can your Floridian fans expect?
The band's on a roll! We're hungry to play our new material, we've done a lot of warm-up shows, and this is our first headlining tour in years. We're really hungry to play as much as we can — this is an exciting time in our band's history, and so a really great time for anyone who's new to our music to see us play.
You've toured with some pretty extreme metal bands in the past. What was that like?
It's an incredible experience. It opens minds to travel with artists who are great, like Slipknot and Linkin Park, but are different than us. Specifically, playing with Heaven & Hell was like playing alongside our heroes. It was incredible. Besides, for us to get up in front of a crowd of metalheads, you gotta admit, that takes balls.
So, as fans know, your band is based around the story/comic book of Coheed and Cambria, a science fiction adventure from frontman Claudio's mind. In this epic saga, who's your favorite character?
Right now? It's Pearl of the Stars. You know how our symbol is a dragonfly? Well, there's this syringe, and OK, it gets kind of complicated. But anyway, she's a creator/scientist.
Speaking of complicated, my brother's a big fan of yours, and when I asked him to classify the band, he said a lot of "nerds" like the music because of the comic book angle. Your thoughts?
Anybody can be involved. It's safe to say we're rock, but beyond that, I don't know. We have people who like the music first and don't care about the story but get involved with the story after enjoying the music.
Please, in six words or less, describe Claudio's hair.
He just cut it — easier maintenance.
Perfect. Now, leave your fans with a few words. What would you like them to know?
We're on a roll. Get your asses out and see us play.
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