New York post-hardcore prog visionaries Coheed and Cambria are heading back Down Under to promote their eighth studio album, The Color Before the Sun.
After traversing the outer limits of science fiction over seven acclaimed concept albums, The Color Before The Sun marks the band’s first non-concept album and the first to be recorded live in the studio.
What has generated most discussion about the album is the departure of The Amory Wars storyline, an ongoing series of comic books written by the band’s frontman Claudio Sanchez.
Centring the band’s lyrics on the science fiction story, each album has been a concept album telling the next chapter in the series as narrated by Claudio’s lyrics.
The band are heading to Adelaide to showcase the new album at The Gov on May 11, so Nutman from The Upside News had a chat over the wire with drummer Josh Eppard to find out all about the album and what they love about Australia.
The Upside News: How many times have you toured down under?
Josh Eppard: With Coheed? Two or three. I also came over once for… I forget what it was called. Counter Revolution or something, in 2011, with a different band. I think three or four times in total. Enough to love it, you know? I love going to Australia, obviously it’s quite beautiful. It just blows your mind that you have fans over there. You’re so far away from home and you have these amazing shows and it just seems like people give a shit. It’s a really incredible feeling, we really look forward to any time we get a chance to play in Australia.
TUN: What was your favourite part of Australia, did you get to check out anything else while you were here?
JE: Oh yeah, in my living room, there’s a picture of me doing the quintessential tourist thing – holding the koala bear. I kid you not! The picture sits right here in my living room, I’m looking at it right now. It was awesome, it was incredible. Most American girls that you talk to, they’re like “I have to go to Australia!” I think every American girl I’ve dated said that, and my wife was no exception. She’s never had a chance to. From what I understand a lot of places you can’t hold the koalas and we happened to be in the place you could and they let us hold them briefly and snap a picture. It was amazing, she was thrilled, and my step-daughter who was 10 years old loves animals and was thrilled.
I think when we’re over there, we like to take advantage of the time, certainly more than when we’re on tour in America. I remember a few years ago some people from Sony took us out – and this is gonna sound super touristy too – they ordered us kangaroo, and it was just like meat on a stick, and crocodile. When you’re in Australia you gotta go out and see it and be a part of it. That’s what makes Australia so much fun: the whole band is down to go on these adventures and excursions.
TUN: The big deal with the new record is that it departs from The Amory Wars storyline. What was the perception from the rest of the band when this decision came out?
JE: It was interesting, but it wasn’t. I think some of the fans think it was this magnificent, powerful moment. Claude said, “You know I’m not gonna do a story on this record,” and we were like “Right on, brother!” I mean, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I think maybe when we were alone with our own thoughts it conjured up some things.
Me specifically, I worried a little. We have such a close relationship with our fans at this point; we’ve been doing this for so long and I know the fans enjoy the story, but I think what out-weighed it is that I knew where it was coming from Claudio. That he thought this record was too personal to attach this kind of story to it.
He felt such a connection to the songs that he wanted it to just be, “hey these are the songs,” and that’s it. I thought that was a really brave move. He’s expected to do a certain thing – well Claudio will throw you a curve ball – always.
In a sense, this was almost the most progressive thing he could do. I think that outweighed any kind of worry or concern the fan base had. I was proud of Claudio for doing that because I think this story was always a by-product of a shy kid. When he was young, he was afraid. He was afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve, so he said, “No, this is all a story.” That was more of a shock than hearing there wasn’t gonna be a story on our eighth record.
TUN: Coheed and Cambria are known for their experimentation, but what musical innovations would you still want to try?
JE: Nothing that jumps to mind. Something that feels innovative to me can be the smallest, subtlest thing. It’s not like “Oh, for the next record we’re gonna do a rap song.” You just kinda let the song take you there. When we’re writing, there’s no boundary really and I think that’s always been clear on songs like ‘Number City’ or ‘Iron Fist’. So there’s never been a “We can’t do that.” All these innovations, whether small or big seem to pop up with any song because I feel like we cultivated a career where we can go anywhere, so I would expect us to push our boundaries. In saying that, we definitely don’t go in for “Alright we gotta do something new.” The songs just take us there.
TUN: Do you think The Amory Wars will be back?
JE: If I was a betting man I’d say it would be back. I think it was taken to really interesting, unique directions, but one that could spawn a kazillion ideas. I think you could go so many places, I’m not a story writer and I could think of 100 places; they could probably think of a thousand.
Claudio and Chondra, his wonderful wife who he writes the story with; I hope they won’t be mad at me for saying this, but I think they could’ve very easily turned this into an Amory Wars story. I think they’ve turned harder ones into that. The Afterman was really challenging, and this seems pretty easy to lend itself to this fantastic sci-fi story. That’s why I think it’s a bold move not to do a story, because they certainly could have.
TUN: What ideas have you backed away from in your time?
JE: Gosh I don’t know. We’ve never been that type of band that records 50 songs and picks 10. I’m not sure what ideas we’ve backed away. I don’t think we’ve backed away from those ideas; just that it was hard to logistically make it happen.
You know, if I had a minute to sit and collect my thoughts I could think of something really good for you, but I’m having a hard time thinking of something we’ve backed away from. I know there’s been a few songs on The Color Before the Sun. Claudio had a few tunes that were definitely heavier, kind of more progressive. I was really fighting for them to make the record. We never recorded them, Claudio just had the demos of them. I think there was a time where Claudio was considering it, but he backed away from that and kept the record as is.
TUN: So you don’t record many extra tracks for albums?
JE: We’ve just never been that type of band. We just view the songs we create as really special. I hear these bands “Oh we recored 50 songs and kept the 10 best.” We’ve never done anything like that. I think the most is 12 songs and kept 10 and the other two got used on a bonus disc or something like that. Generally, what you recorded is the record. In The Color Before the Sun, not only was it done in two weeks, but it was done in order.
Thinking back, in The Afterman, everything was used on that. We always come in really prepared, sometimes producers are taken back by how prepared we are. Jay Joyce (The Color Before the Sun producer) told us “Bands usually come in with a lyric and one riff and then we write a record,” then we came in and this thing was hashed out. That’s part of the fun for us, being prepared; coming up with these parts and making these songs come to life.
TUN: Has that always been part of the band or has it come with experience and maturity?
JE: Well I think preparation is what we used to call practice; it’s playing together. So yeah, we always were prepared, even when we were stupid kids. It’s not like we’re real work horses playing 16 hours in a row, but we enjoy playing together and I think a natural by-product of that is that you’re prepared.
TUN: Coheed and Cambria started before the social media really took hold. How has your interaction changed with fans in that time?
JE: I think it would be the same as it would for anybody. It’s similar to anybody personally or professionally, pretty much the same. I couldn’t fathom something where I could make a stupid comment and the whole world could see it before, but now it’s part of our everyday lives. Certainly it’s been a unique and powerful tool to reach fans and to just talk to people.
I think I have more fun using Twitter or Facebook than anybody, and I was the last person on earth to get a smart phone. I was sitting here in 2011 with a flip phone still like “Bah humbug, whatever, I don’t need that shit!” Fast forward to 2016 and I’m on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram every day.
It’s enjoyable and I like it. I like looking at people’s posts and posting myself. The band doesn’t go crazy with it, but I think you’d be crazy not to utilize it to a certain degree. I think it’s great.
TUN: Do you take notice of the feedback the band gets?
JE: Sometimes. I’m always checking what people say. I’m so curious, I know there’s going to be comments that hurt. I check from time to time. I try not to much, because I won’t remember the 100 good comments, I’ll think about the one band one. The people that appreciate your work, those are the people I care about, what they think. I couldn’t really give a shit what some dude who’s never heard of our band who only listens to pop radio thinks of our band. What I do care about is the people that have cared about the art and the work that we’ve made. I certainly care about what they think.
And we certainly care that Coheed and Cambria will be rocking the crap out of The Gov on May 11 with doors open from 7:30. Grab your tickets HERE.
Interview by Nutman