Fans and purveyors of
progressive rock are often derided as "Dungeons and Dragons"-playing,
pocket-pencil-protector-wearing geeks and nerds. To be sure, there is an
element of that in underground rockers Coheed and Cambria, but the musicians
couldn't seem to care less about being labeled and appearing "hip."
On their second album, the deceptively titled "In Keeping Secrets of
Silent Earth: 3," the twentysomething rockers pursue a musical vision that
is uniquely their own; it falls somewhere between the complexity of vintage
'70s Yes and Rush at its most progressive and the intensity of the modern
emo or screamo bands.
The group (which includes guitarist-vocalist Claudio Sanchez, guitarist
Travis Stever, bassist Michael Todd and drummer Joshua Eppard) first came
together in upstate New York in the mid-'90s. In 2001, the band reformed as
Coheed and Cambria, taking its name from the Adam and Eve-like characters
who are the subjects of its ongoing series of intertwined concept albums.
COHEED AND CAMBRIA,
STRAYLIGHT RUN, DETACHMENT KIT
*House of Blues, 329 N. Dearborn
You can follow along with high-falutin' sci-fi storytelling in the lyrics
of these discs, or you can simply groove on the band's intricate but
hard-hitting and tuneful sounds. Either way, the quartet is making some of
the most intriguing music coming from the underground today. I spoke with
Sanchez in the midst of a tour that brings the band to the House of Blues
Q. "In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3" is an incredibly ambitious
album for an independent recording. How did it come about?
A. Pretty much all of the songs were written while the band was on
tour [supporting its first album, 2002's "The Second Stage Turbine Blade"],
then we sat down and arranged them. We recorded in Woodstock, N.Y., and the
process was pretty standard. We definitely go live at first. Usually, we'll
get the drums down live, and then dub over the other instruments as needed.
Basically, I'll come up with the main riff, the basic guitar and vocal
melody for the song, and Travis is usually the one who paints around it. A
lot of the lead-y-sounding stuff on the record is definitely Travis, whereas
I'm playing more of a straightforward progression or very percussive
train-sort of sound.
Q. A lot of critics view the band as part of a new wave of progressive
rock. How do you feel about that tag?
A. The band is definitely a concept/progressive rock band. Each
record is a concept record, and they all are just pieces of this one
gigantic concept. That's the thing about this band that's really cool -- we
don't go into the studio wanting to make a record that sounds like us live.
We separate both things: The live show is what it is, and the studio is the
stuff that we can do creatively and archive. I like to think of making a
record like making a soundtrack to a movie.
Q. Progressive rock fans and musicians are almost always mocked
as nerds. Does that bother you at all?
A. I've been a fan of bands like Pink Floyd, and in a weird way, I
think Led Zeppelin could be considered a progressive rock band. I certainly
don't think Led Zeppelin are a bunch of dorky pocket-protector guys. It's
something that doesn't really bother me. My favorite bands are the bands
that influenced me to write the way I do. I don't want to come off as
pretentious; I just want to entertain, really.
Q. You've also garnered a lot of comparisons because of your
vocal style to Geddy Lee of Rush, when he sang in a higher register back in
the '70s and '80s.
A. I know the connection. I'm not that much a fan of Rush, but I
really do admire the things they do. I've heard "2112," and a lot of people
have told me that I need to go out and get "Hemispheres." Honestly, that's
great -- to be compared to a band like Rush is very flattering. There are so
many other bands you can compare this band to, I think, but if there's one
that I think it would be cool to be compared to, I guess it's them.
Q. Back to this progressive rock revival for a moment -- do you feel a
kindred spirit with other groups like Mars Volta, who are doing something
A. I think so, definitely with Mars Volta. But it's hard to say,
because my ear hasn't really been turned to the new music that's coming out.
I've been listening to a lot of older stuff, like Thin Lizzy and Led
Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. The only new thing I've put my ear to is that
Darkness CD; I'm definitely into the Spinal Tap-esque flavor of it.
Q. Tell me about the concept behind the Coheed and Cambria
A. The ongoing concept is that Coheed and Cambria are these Adam
and Eve-type figures in the first two stories, which will be the first and
last records. The records after that are kind of like the things that happen
after the deaths of Coheed and Cambria. It's basically like a sci-fi trilogy
-- or a quadrilogy, actually -- but it's hard for me to describe the actual
concept. Right now, I'm working on putting it into a comic book. Eventually
that will be available to augment it all.
Q. Do you find writing to be as enjoyable as making music?
A. This is actually my first attempt at writing. I don't actually
think of myself as a writer. I've just always had a love for science fiction
and horror movies and comic books and stuff, and I've always played music.
I've played music for probably 13 years now, and I'm kind of done with
writing the generic rock song, no offense to anyone.
I feel like I've got this love for two things, and I want to try to mesh
them together. It's a little hard to explain the concepts, but it will
definitely be available soon. I'm planning on the spring of next year for
the first 22 pages to get released.
Q. Is it satisfying when fans discuss your lyrics and concepts
on the Web?
A. I think it's amazing; I love it. I just did two interviews
recently where there's a rumor starting that if you play "In Keeping
Secrets" along with the DVD of "The Fellowship of the Ring," it syncs up.
Obviously, that's not true, but it's awesome. It's so awesome, that I think
when I get home, I'm gonna do that!