Coheed and Cambria

Coheed and Cambria have returned to the sprawling sci-fi world of The Amory Wars with their seventh concept album (eighth overall), but with a fresh start. Vaxis – Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures, is part of the epic universe Claudio Sanchez has created, but it’s a brand-new story. In fact, it’s the first of a “pentalogy,” — a new five-story arc which introduces bold new characters and intense new locations brought to life in fifteen songs that match the scale of the high concept. The new story arc follows the non-fictional sojourn of their previous record, 2015’s The Color Before the Sun. Hi Fi Way spoke to Claudio Sanchez about the album.

These days when you’re touring do you prefer playing festivals or your own intimate club shows?
Let me tell you something, at forty one year’s old I’m not going to lie to you. I’m not a fan of the festival. No, no. You know, the festival is cool. You know, you get a chance to reach some fans that you wouldn’t necessarily in any other situation. So in that regard, I do appreciate the festival, but I think for Coheed to put on a show that I think is really all encompassing of what we do it’s kind of tough, it can be a bit of a challenge. So, if I had to pick one over the other, I’ve got to be honest, I’d be picking a club show. We’re going to have a good time, nonetheless.

Is it hard to putting together a festival set given how much the songs are all connected as a part of The Amory Wars?
Well, we don’t really live and die by the concept when it comes time for moments like this. I think the real challenge is trying to just get something that encompasses both the new stuff that we’re trying to promote as well as, for lack of a better word, like the classic songs that we know people want, they don’t really get a chance to hear it all that often and that want to see it. You know what I mean? The fact that we don’t come to Australia all that often, I mean I’m sure there are people that want to hear the songs like Welcome Home and In Keeping Secrets, like those mainstays. So, it’s really about trying to find a balance between what we’re out there trying to promote and what what people want to hear because they don’t really get to hear it all that often.

I’m always intrigued by Coheed and Cambria and I’m curious about how the new album Vaxis – Act 1 fits within the story or does it have its own story?
Well you know that’s the thing, we haven’t really revealed yet where this story fits in with some of the pre-existing ones that we have. So that will actually happen over time, but it is related to what fans have followed everything we’ve done up until now. It is related to that but by the third album of Vaxis Pentalogy we’ll start to get a sense of where we are in the whole timeline.

How did you go about mapping out that timeline? Do you have a pin up board placing post-it-notes mapping out how it’s all going to connect together or do you let it take its own life or its own shape?
It’s a little bit of both. I mean, with this record or with the story, my wife, we’re mapping it out, we knew that Unheavenly Creatures would introduce us to the new players of the mythologies. Like who are these characters? That’s the big question. Who is Vaxis and where do they connect to the Coheed and Cambria story and so for that I start to map out exactly what the big climax moments of each part are.

It isn’t until I start actually designing the story around that, that I know exactly what’s supposed to happen, if that makes any sense. I know what I need to attain, I know what goal I need to reach, but how to get there is dictated when I actually start to write the record and start to write the music. They both work hand in hand with writing the music and the concept and play off each other. Most of the time the music is derived from some place very real. That helps inform what the fiction is. Sometimes, when I hit a wall and I don’t have the natural inspiration of life and experience, the concept will tell me what it wants, what the song wants to be.

How much does your own personal experience, and even becoming a dad, how much of that becomes a part of the story? Or at least influence it in some way?
It’s a huge part. I mean the whole relationship between Creature and Sister Spider, Nostrand and Nia, their real names sort of mirrors the relationship I have with my wife, and their son Vaxis who gets loosely introduced to in the first story. You can see the similarities and I think that’s what makes this arc so special is that, this new phase of my life is now, forming this new piece of fiction from ground zero. Whereas, maybe in the past, piecing together The Amory Wars is a little bit more confusing for me because as a song writer I didn’t necessarily know who I was and what messages I wanted to put across. Whereas now, again, it just feels like there’s been a metamorphosis in where we’re starting from the moment from that change.

At what point does the band become involved or are they creatively right from the beginning?
In terms of the song writing on this record, I primarily did it alone, it was very much an isolated creative experience. When it came time to start recording it and fleshing out the songs, that’s when the band gets involved and this time around I thought it’d be important to include them in what the concept actually was going to be. In the past it’s always been in my head, it’s never been something I shared. I kind of held it close and I was a little apprehensive letting everybody in at the start, whereas this time around because it was a new story I felt like this is the chance to include everybody.

I had a bunch of concept artists start to create characters, create landscapes and things like that. I also had an extensive outline which I started to share with the band. That way when it came time to work on songs, everybody had a grasp on what the visual were, what the picture that we were trying to paint in our minds with music was so then everybody had a chance to express themselves. That’s where everyone gets involved, which is cool because again, in the past they’ve never felt that inclusive.

What’s next for Coheed and Cambria?
At the moment I’m not entirely sure. We have some things that we’re talking about as we lay out what next year looks like, but I don’t know. I don’t know if now’s the right time to bring them up, but yes, something’s going happen. I just don’t know if I can bring it up.

Interview By Rob Lyon

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