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Coheed And Cambria: Creation Inspired By Crisis

Wednesday, 17 February 2016 Written by Laura Johnson

Over 15 years ago, Claudio Sanchez created The Amory Wars, a series of comics set in the planetary group Heaven's Fence. The books tell a complex story that revolves around Coheed and Cambria Kilgannon, their son, Claudio, and the villainous Wilhelm Ryan and General Mayo Deftinwolf. The first seven of Sanchez’s albums with his band, Coheed and Cambria, also delved headfirst into the narrative. Their latest release, ‘The Color Before The Sun’, though, broke the chain of concept albums when it emerged last autumn.

In order to find out how they arrived at this stage, we first need to look back at how the elaborate concept came to be in the first place. “I was an insecure individual who had a hard time being a rock ’n’ roll singer,” Sanchez said prior to taking the stage in Cardiff during a short UK tour. “I didn’t want to sing songs about me. I had to, that was how I was going to feel good and express myself, but it was hard to sort of wear that on my sleeve. So I decided to create a concept, to basically use as a mask and hide behind.”

“It took the band members a long time to understand the relationship between the concept and the music. Up until ‘Good Apollo I’ [‘Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness’] band members didn’t really understand what we were doing. It’s not an easy thing to swallow when you just wanna be in a rock band.”

Sanchez had bigger plans; ideas above his station and beyond his galaxy. With die hard fans branding themselves ‘Children Of The Fence’, it’s fair to say that his multi-disciplinary approach worked. “I always wanted to create something more than just music, I wanted to create a culture and I think that the comic books and all of the other sort of facets and counterparts to what we do help kind of grow that,” he said.

With listeners having been left on a cliffhanger at the conclusion of ‘The Afterman: Descension’ there was a risk that the ‘Children’ would revolt after the next stage of the saga was taken from them. Fortunately for the band, though, the reaction to ‘The Color Before The Sun’ has largely been one of understanding.

“Most of it has been very positive from my perspective,” Sanchez said. “I think a lot of that has to do with our fans growing up with us.  I think there’s also this understanding too, with the die-hard fanbase, that all of the records, regardless of concept or not, come from a very personal place.”

The last year and a half of Sanchez’s life has been so tumultuous that it eventually negated the need to create fiction. He moved from his country house to an apartment in Brooklyn and discovered he and his wife were expecting their first child. This life changing moment coincided with the news that they had seemingly rented their former home to a ghost family, who turned it into a marijuana grow house and near enough destroyed it before abandoning it. This left the family with nowhere to retreat following the birth of their son, Atlas. Plan B had effectively been obliterated. As a result, an entire album spilled out of Sanchez, concept free. The new approach, though, was not an easy pill for him to swallow.

“I started getting frustrated with the music I was creating because it didn’t fall into the lines of what Coheed and Cambria is familiar with,” he said. “So for me, I started to go through this identity crisis, of who I was, where I was at in my life. My wife tells me we’re pregnant and it’s no longer about me anymore, and more about this big picture of family and the sense of change. So that became important to me and started to fall into the expression.”

But it wasn’t just internal factors that the frontman had to battle with. Brooklyn apartment walls do not allow for rock ’n’ roll wailing at 5.00am as a secluded country house does. “I started to feel this sense of exposure, because if I could hear my neighbours I knew that they could hear me and I think a little of that fell into the execution of the songwriting.”

With his wife as his confidant and inspiration, he eventually embraced this concept-free process and began to document the reality that he found himself in. But having overcome that series of obstacles, were Coheed and Cambria going to have to tackle another when they took the new record on the road, merging concept and candid life experience in one setlist?

“Concept or not, when we do these shows it’s really about honouring everything that we’ve done,” Sanchez said. “It’s not really like when we do the Neverender concert series. That’s usually to celebrate the record and celebrate the concept, but for the most part these are really just to celebrate the music and it’s very easy to jump back and forth between the older records and ‘The Color Before The Sun’. When you’re up there, for me personally, I feel transformed and I feel like I’m in the concept up there. There’s a different side of my personality that will come out with playing music that doesn’t coming out sitting here right now talking to you.”

Despite Sanchez believing there is a romantic edge to uncertainty, the big question is: will the concept return? Well, ‘Children Of The Fence’ can rejoice in the knowledge that Coheed and Cambria’s fictional journey is not yet over.

“I like writing conceptually, I like writing comic books,” Sanchez said. “I can definitely see myself going back. But it’s nice to know if I decided to let the songs speak for themselves that’s something we can do in the future. But I can see myself going back into the concept. I miss it.”

Coheed and Cambria Upcoming Tour Dates are as follows:

Mon February 22 2016 - BOSTON Massachusetts - House of Blues Boston (USA)
Tue February 23 2016 - BOSTON Massachusetts - House of Blues Boston (USA)
Thu February 25 2016 - ROYAL OAK Michigan - Royal Oak Music Theatre (USA)
Fri February 26 2016 - CHICAGO Illinois - Aragon Ballroom (USA)
Sat February 27 2016 - MAPLEWOOD Minnesota - Myth (USA)
Mon February 29 2016 - COLUMBUS Ohio - Lifestyle Communities Pavilion (USA)
Tue March 01 2016 - PITTSBURGH Pennsylvania - Stage AE (USA)
Wed March 02 2016 - WASHINGTON District Of Columbia - Echostage (USA)
Fri March 04 2016 - NEW YORK New York - Theater at Madison Square Garden (USA)
Sat March 05 2016 - PHILADELPHIA Pennsylvania - Fillmore Philadelphia (USA)
Mon March 07 2016 - RALEIGH North Carolina - Ritz (USA)
Tue March 08 2016 - CHARLOTTE North Carolina - Fillmore Charlotte (USA)
Thu March 10 2016 - MIAMI BEACH Florida - Fillmore Miami Beach (USA)
Fri March 11 2016 - ORLANDO Florida - Hard Rock Live (USA)
Sat March 12 2016 - ST PETERSBURG Florida - Jannus Live (USA)
Mon March 14 2016 - ATLANTA Georgia - Tabernacle (USA)
Tue March 15 2016 - NASHVILLE Tennessee - Marathon Music Works (USA)
Thu March 17 2016 - HOUSTON Texas - Revention Music Center (USA)
Fri March 18 2016 - DALLAS Texas - Southside Ballroom (USA)
Sat March 19 2016 - DALLAS Texas - Southside Ballroom (USA)
Mon March 21 2016 - TEMPE Arizona - Marquee Theatre (USA)
Tue March 22 2016 - LOS ANGELES California - Hollywood Palladium (USA)
Wed March 23 2016 - SAN FRANCISCO California - Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium (USA)
Fri March 25 2016 - LAS VEGAS Nevada - Brooklyn Bowl Las Vegas (USA)
Sat March 26 2016 - SALT LAKE CITY Utah - Complex (USA)
Sun March 27 2016 - DENVER Colorado - Fillmore Auditorium (USA)

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