It's been a while since concept proggers Coheed & Cambria last guested Danish shores, but seeing the recent announcement of their European tour including a stop in Copenhagen, we of course jumped to schedule a talk with guitarist Travis Stever, about such topics as the recent line-up changes, the on-going exploration of the 'Keywork' universe the plans for an "Amory Wars" movie and other things that you will have to read on to discover. (Sadly, the audio didn't turn out that great this time, so you'll have to live with text only).
RF.net: Right, jumping right into it I know that you guys are coming over to visit Europe and Denmark among other places soon, but what are you doing right now?
Travis: Everybody's just kind of doing their thing. Personally I've been working on some music, and I'm sure everybody's doing that. I know that Claudio has been doing a lot of the comic book stuff as well. Him and his wife have been working on comic books that are going to coincide with "Good Apollo" one and two. Basically we're just gearing up for the touring that's coming up. We'd been touring quite a bit in the months before and now everybody's just kind of doing their thing and gearing up.
RF.net: I don't think you guys have been over here since after the release of "Year Of The Black Rainbow", when you played with Deftones in 2010, and since then there's been some changes to the lineup with Josh and Zach joining instead of Chris and Mic, so firstly can you tell us about how they're gelling as full time members?
Travis: It's great! Zach brings a whole new thing to the table and he's somebody that we would've hung out with as a person anyway. Josh is the original foundation that the band was built on, so it's easy to get back into that groove with him because he literally is that groove. It's nothing against Chris because he's an incredible drummer, but yeah, Josh is the guy the whole thing was built on so it's almost like a homecoming for him.
RF.net: I wanted to ask - and I'm not trying to dig up any drama or anything - but there wasn't ever all that much said about the differences that lead to you and Chris going separate ways, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on what it was specifically?
Well I think in a way he was centering in more on.. He's been doing a lot of scoring and he's been working on that a lot more and we really were just moving towards different directions. The truth is that we had to almost start over as a band with what happened with Mic. That was a part of our foundation that basically broke and we had been working on stuff but nothing was concrete. We basically needed to re-identify ourselves so it felt like the right time to almost start anew, and if it hadn't been with Josh then maybe we'd figured out something completely different that could've worked. But Thank God, Josh and us had started communication, because we were working on songs but things just wasn't gelling and Chris obviously felt that too. And that can be frustrating, it can happen for me sometimes as well. Like I can put guitar on something and I'm really excited for something that I think is perfect, but it's not what Claudio has in his mind.
You run into those things musically all the time and what makes a band is that you can be open to the other person all the time - And it's not that Chris wasn't open to this, he was, but I think it just got frustrated that a lot of the things he was trying didn't gel the way they needed to. Normally it comes to a point where you've created this whole thing together and it works, but it wasn't happening that way with Chris, so both parties just agreed that we should try other things. It's unfortunate because I think a lot of it was painted by what happened with Mic, and if that hadn't happened, who knows where we'd been? I can't call it a blessing because it fucking sucked, but though, obviously it had to happen to create the amazing line-up that we have now, because right now we're the best we've ever been. That's how I feel!
RF.net: Around that time there was also the whole thing about "Black Rainbow" wrapping up the initially intended concept of the "Amory Wars" story, and I know that a lot of people wondered what that would mean for the band - So the question is if there were any considerations about calling it quits?
Well, after what happened with Mic
we definitely considered it. But there was all this material and all this work still going on. but especially after everything happened with Mic, we were definitely trying to figure out "Where do we go from here?". For Claudio and I we just had to sit and decide that we wanted to continue doing this.
RF.net: Did you consider making non-conceptual music?
Travis: Well that's always there. In a way it is non-conceptual because every song comes from a personal experience. Claudio is the lyricist but I do know that it all comes from a personal place. I know where half the songs are coming from and some of them I connect with because it was things we went through together.
RF.net: Actually I had been wondering about that, because I know a lot of people jump to thinking about sci-fi and about concept albums like things that are purely fantasy, when really a lot of it is meant to be metaphors for things in the real world, and I was thinking about to which extend that's the case with you guys?
Travis: Absolutely! Claudio being the lyricist, everything that he does when he writes the lyrics comes from something by his life, so basically the fiction is dictated by the real. What happens in his life eventually goes into a song if it's an important moment. For instance the "Afterman" song itself was written about his wife finding out through social media, that one of her best friends had passed away. I think it was facebook or something and it gave this general feel about how shallow that feels that somebody you cared about and loved has passed away and you learn about it through that network.
The song was written about trying to reach out to such a person, it eventually becoming a theme around Sirus Amory, and his wife longing for his return from space. She feels like he's passed away because in the media they've decided that he's probably died because he's been away so long. So a real life story about his wife longing for her friend that she finds out had died through social media, becomes the fictional story of a wife longing for her husband that media talks about as he's dead because he's been away so long.
There's also a song like "Vic The Butcher" for instance. That one was about a a heated argument Claudio had with a friend of ours and then coming back to his apartment he felt kind of like a "burn everything, fuck the world" kind of feeling. That's the sort of anger the song is initially about but it was turned into one of the evil entities that invades Sirus Amory. In the story Sirus is this scientist that goes out there to discover new worlds and what he stumbles upon is somewhat of a purgatory where all these entities are floating around and they all possess him, trying to live down what they did wrong in their life. And Vic The Butcher is this evil character that had burned a building with all these people in it.
The original thing that happens turns into this story. You can listen to it and think about it as a song about a guy who was really pissed and got into an argument with somebody or you can listen to it and think about how there's so many dimensions to the character. It works in an intriguing way and I really like being in a band with somebody that has such a different approach.
RF.net: Moving a bit on, I've only read part of the story myself and I was talking to a friend about it who asked me if I could ask you how you'd start reading it, if you wanted to understand the whole thing from beginning to end?
Travis: I would absolutely start with "Second Stage..." and I would go from there through "In Keeping..." and.. Right now they're working on "Good Apollo.." so I'd wait a while and then go from that to "Black Rainbow" because that's the way it was intended. You could start with "Black Rainbow", because they did write it so it goes right into "Second Stage" but.. I guess I'm so used to the fact that "Second Stage" is where it all began and then you come back to "Black Rainbow" in the end. I guess it's a matter of taste in a way, because there's a lot of questions that'll be answered when you go back to "Year Of The Black Rainbow" at the end, but you could also start with it and then everything is clear.
You know, actually probably just start with "Year Of The Black Rainbow", because people want to know shit! People want the answers and don't want to be confused, so I changed my mind, foot in mouth, start with "Year Of The Black Rainbow" and then go from there! That also gives you more time because at the time you get through "In Keeping" they might be done with "Good Apollo".
RF.net: One of our staff members was reviewing the "Afterman: Ascension" album and he was talking to me about how "Domino The Destitute" sounded more like older "In Keeping Secrets"-material than anything you'd done in a while. Was that intentional in any way when you were writing that album?
Specifically Domino is like a longwinded song that came from Claudio's mind first, and if you take a song like "In Keeping Secrets", it's the same kind of scenario. It came from his mind first. Then everybody adds their thing to it, and once they do that it's what makes the song, but it coming from his mind and him having set out to write this grand song with the story behind it, I think that's where the connection is for people. That and sounds that they hear going on in the song, like things on guitar and drums, the truth is that those are Coheed & Cambria, and you're going to hear things - no matter how different an album like "Year Of The Black Rainbow" is - you'll still hear those things and go "that's Coheed".
I think that "Afterman" in its entirety is the sum of all the parts of everything we've created in the past few years. I think that every angle is there and I think that "Domino" is a good example of something that could be similar to "In Keeping Secrets", but really I think you can also hear things that are similar to any of the other records. You can hear something that's similar to a "Feathers" or something that's similar to a "Number City".
RF.net: I think that leads into our new question really well, namely do you guys still feel as great playing the older stuff as performing the new material, or does the old stuff feel a bit too simple now?
Absolutely! It's been probably one of the best possible things for us to relive and reexperience the older songs while playing live. That's also helpful to writing! We did a whole tour of "Second Stage" after touring "Year Of The Black Rainbow" and that no doubt crept into our writing "Afterman". So yeah I think playing the old stuff keeps influencing how we play and write now.
They never get tiring. Sure if it's the sixth week out on tour then the set might feel a bit redundant at times but I think that has more to do with touring. Even if we change it up there are going to be ten songs that have to be there when we've made a tour out of it. Because of the internet people know what you're going to play, and if they don't get it they'll be pissed because somebody else did. Some times they're even more mad because not only did they not get to hear what somebody else heard, they also didn't get exactly that thing they wanted. There's only so much you can do, so basically we build a set and try to keep it going for the tour and maybe switch a song or two if we want to change it up, but it's tough.
There's this thing you can listen to from the old Kiss, it's all Paul Stanley's stage banter from all the shows they did back in the 70's and 80's and he'd go "I don't think we've ever played this song before! Might be you're the first ones that get to hear it tonight!" and it's the same song being introduced in the next city. Back then bands could pull something like that, but that doesn't exist anymore. In that sense the internet has limited your showmanship somewhat, but I guess it's brought good things as well so you just have to adapt.
RF.net: Would you say that your influences have changed over time, and if so what would you say inspires you now which didn't before?
Travis: It goes back and forth so much. I don't think that it's ever changed. I think that I just have different times when I'm into different music.
*** Our interview is interrupted for a while because somebody from Amsterdam calls Travis on another line for reasons neither of us ever find out. ***
RF.net: I know for a while that you guys toured with two female backing singers included in your set, and now we've heard that you have been playing without them again. In our staff we've talked about how that often felt like an odd choice for a band like yours, and I was wondering if you could elaborate on that choice - whether it was due to showmanship or to add to the sound or?
Travis: For that time period it was just adding to the sound - It was experimenting with that back then. The funny thing is that now that the band is a four-piece I think we sound the best we ever have, even though we are basically just the four of us. That's awesome and that's the way we want it, but Coheed has gone through many stages and we've always wanted to experiment with everything we could grab hold on. Having the girls on stage that was a moment when we thought that could be really awesome, and it was for that time period but now where we're at we couldn't be happier with how we're gelling on stage and making our songs sound.
RF.net: Okay so I also have to ask you about rumours we've heard about there being an "Amory Wars" movie in the works, and what the status is on that?
Travis: Well they signed up with the Leverage production company, and in that world things just take much longer so right now they're waiting on new updates, which I'm sure will come soon. But as of now the big news is that they've signed up with Leverage. They've been working to push it to that media for a while now, whether it'd be full feature film or a series. So the big news is that somebody came along and wanted to work with it, and that it's Leverage which is a big production company - it's Mark Wahlberg's production company. So that was the big news and the next steps are kind of behind the scenes and when there's another announcement everybody will know.
RF.net: Okay so my last question is simply going to be: What does the band currently have planned for the future?
Travis: I think right now it's just touring more. Everybody's always working on their own stuff, doing their own music and I'm sure we'll work on more music together and eventually that'll turn into us working on newer stuff, but for now there's going to be more touring coming up. More shows that are very exciting for us - like - things I can't even talk about yet. Exciting things are definitely in the works!