Interview: Coheed and Cambria

Having developed a discography built off concept albums, Coheed and Cambria have decided to take a different approach for their eighth record. Having left ‘The Amory Wars’, ‘The Color Before The Sun’ sees the quartet offer a range non-conceptual songs that allows frontman Claudio Sanchez the opportunity to produce more direct and personal songs.

However as we find out in our discussion with drummer Josh Eppard, ‘The Color Before The Sun’ doesn’t musically stray far away from Coheed’s past output. One element that Eppard is keen to emphasise is how fun the record is. The record also sees the quartet working with a new producer – Jay Joyce. Having worked with folk and country acts such as Cage The Elephant and Eric Church in the past, for Jay Joyce working with a prog rock band like Coheed and Cambria was certainly different for both parties. Nevertheless it seems the fresh partnership paid off. Recent singles showcase the bands musical range in a strong light with ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’ being an infectious powerpop number with ‘Here To Mars’ taking a more powerful, atmospheric approach.

As part of their recent visit to the UK for the Hevy Fest, Josh spoke in detail to Already Heard about the record. From it being the bands first non-concept record to working with Jay Joyce to revisiting ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’.

AH: So you’re back in the UK. How does it feel to be back here?
Josh: I love the UK what can I say? It feels good to be back. We come here pretty often. It’s not so much a culture shock as some people think it is. This feels very much at home for us. We love coming here.

AH: So the new album, ‘The Color Before the Sun’ is due out October 9th. It’s your first non-concept album. What is the reason behind that?
Josh: For me, it’s not a different process than any other records. The concept for me, as a guy in a band, doesn’t really come into play. That is something that Claudio (Sanchez – lead vocals, guitar) pieces together. I think the broad, general answer is that he felt such a personal connection with these songs that he didn’t want a second concept tier have to infused into the songs. This is what it is, take it at face value for what it is.

AH: Let the songs be as they are.
Josh: Yeah and I think that is beautiful. There is always a lot of personal things in a song, whether it has this fantastic concept or not. I always know there is a lot of personal DNA in the tunes but I think Claudio this were a bit more personal. He had his first kid and some other life things happen. Big life things that are big to everybody. He wanted to make a record that what it was.

AH: Was it a challenge recording a “normal” record or was it straight forward?
Josh: No it was completely different. We went with Jay Joyce, a producer we’ve never worked with before. He’s kind of country guy. We wanted to do something really different. I don’t want to sound cocky but we’re a fucking good band! We cut this record live. A song a day. We did vocals and everything live. We’ve never done a record like that before.

Usually it is the long drawn out process of getting the drums done Monday, bass Tuesday, guitars Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday, start vocals Sunday and so on. With this, we did it all at once. We cut it all together. What you hear on the record, you hear us playing it live. In fact what is ironic is that this record is probably more of a live record then some bands that put out live records.

We wanted to capture the band playing. We’re always very prepared. That is part of the fun of making a record. I think Jay was taken a back by it a little bit. He told me “I’ve never worked with a band that is so fucking good in his life,” so that was a big compliment to us. That is exciting to me. None of us walk around like we’re the greatest, so to have someone like Jay Joyce, who has worked on all these big records, to tell us “hey you guys are alright” was a really big, flattering compliment for us. The process was completely different and hopefully it shows in the tunes. It kind of puts some new energy into the music. It certainly sounds different than any other Coheed record. I would of never made a Coheed record that sounds like this but I’m really glad we did.

AH: The first single, ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’, came out recently. Does that give fans an idea of what they can expect from the sound-wise?
Josh: No like every Coheed record it’s all different. I mean its a very poppy song but we’ve always done. On every record has these almost uncomfortable pop moments, but it’s a Coheed record that leans more on the pop side where as our last two records, ‘The Afterman: Ascension ’ and ‘The Afterman: Descension’ kind of leaned more on the prog side but still had these big pop moments; ‘Goodnight, Fair Lady,’ ‘Number City,’ and ‘2’s My Favorite 1.’ I guess it is more in those terms.

It is difficult for me to do these interviews, because like some of the fans, my favourite part of Coheed is the progressive side and the more interesting side but the bottom line is that it is about the songs, and this is the greatest collection of songs than any record we’ve ever done. I’m extremely proud of it. It’s still a Coheed record. They’re not all like ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’ like the end of that track has this kind of weird Pink Floyd type of thing and that takes you into (‘The Audience’) one of the coolest songs we’ve ever done that is super progressive. It is kind of like the only song like it on the record but it’s one of my favourites in that kind of realm.

AH: So at the core it’s still a Coheed record?
Josh: Oh fuck yeah dude! Totally! It absolutely is. There’s a lot of turns and it weaves. It’s eclectic but to us, it is concise. We keep making these records with these long progressive arrangements. The most progressive thing we could do is make a more concise pop record. I’m sure we will be making other records that are more progressive in the future. It is just part of a catalogue. A snapshot of where we are creatively at that time. That is why we went with a new producer in a new studio in a strange place we’ve never been before. I love it. I think people are going to like it. I think it is a bit of a curve ball but that is what we do.

AH: Tonight you’re performing ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’ in full. You’ve be playing that in States in recent months.
Josh: Yeah about six or seven months ago we did a whole tour. It was wonderful. It was sold out every night. It was really fun. It’s an interesting thing to have a catalogue deep enough to say “hey this record from ten years ago we’re going to play it front to back” and people are excited about it. It’s an ass-kicking record. A lot of the fast songs are up front so it’s kind of backwards. You always put a couple of energetic songs in the set but this is like one, two, three, four, five go go go! It will beat the shit out of you. It’s awesome. It’s been cool, really fun and interesting.

AH: How has it been revisiting those songs?
Josh: Some of them we hadn’t played in years. It was funky like the deep album cuts like ‘The Light & the Glass.’ I was in this band, then I left this band for four years, came back and we haven’t played that song in 11 years. It is like a time capsule in a way. Some of it is hilarious “what the fuck we were thinking?” We’re different people now but just like the fans, that record holds a special place in our hearts too. For all the mistakes and things we would of done differently now in our thirties, I think that is part of the charm. We were just kids making music and there is something beautiful about that.

It’s been fun to revisit the songs and quite challenging. Some of it you have to re-learn from the ground up.

AH: Do any of the songs now take a different meaning now you’re older?
Josh: For sure. I think that happens with any song though. Whether its a song we play or created or one of my favourite songs because as you grow and evolve as a person I think the songs that speak to you they do kind of change, or you learn different ways to have them relate to you. That’s a good question.

AH: Yeah like you pick up on a different lyric that you may have not picked up on before.
Josh: That happens to me all the time. We were just talking about this at rehearsal. Isn’t it funny that at 23 years old this lyric meant this to me, and now at 35 it means completely different but is more impactful than ever. Spot on!

AH: Why do you think fans admire that album so much?
Josh: I don’t know. A lot of fans admire the first, second or third record. Those are always the records but in ten years, if we’re still around, they will be saying “’The Afterman’ is my favourite record.”

Actually a lot of people say ‘The Afterman’ is their favourite records but I think those records, both ‘Ascension’ and ‘Descension’ were just big time victories for us as a band. We re-engaged the audience. To me, it felt like Coheed and Cambria was alive again. I don’t know if that is because I came back or going back to Applehead studio with our original producers (Michael Birnbaum and Chris Bittner) but I’m not sure why. For me, I do the same things to bands. Like if Glassjaw put out a new record but I’m like “the first two are the best” but I always appreciate them. I think when you discover a band it’s hard to recreate that effect. You can’t recreate that. You never get a second chance to make a first impression. We’re so lucky that we have a piece of art that did speak to anybody. We’re lucky anybody gives a shit so I’m not complaining. Hopefully we get the chance to keep making music. I still can’t believe we’re still here now headlining a festival as cool as Hevy Fest. We’re about the luckiest sons of the bitches on the planet.

AH: Besides the album release, what else do you have planned?
Josh: All kinds of stuff. A lot more festivals in the States and here in Europe. Some big long tours. That is pretty much what you sign up for when you put out a record. “Alright I’ll see you guys in a year. We’re going to go and travel the world and play music.” There are times when it’s challenging and you get frustrated but ultimately it’s fun. Like I said, we’re pretty lucky. We play rock ‘n’ roll for a living. So I can’t sit here and complain.

We’ve got a lot of tours. A lot of cool stuff I’m not allowed to talk about yet but some really great line-ups. We’re actually playing with Glassjaw in Jersey and we’re doing some shows with Cursive. We’re just trying to align ourselves with our favourite bands. Just playing shows all over the world, making videos and just having fun.

That is another thing about this record. It’s pretty fun. ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’ is a fun song. People seem to forget ‘A Favor House Atlantic,’ our first big single, had a really funny video. We were just kids having fun and that still lives in us. This record has it’s deeply personal moments that are very moving and powerful, but it also has a lot of fun moments. We’re in our thirties playing rock ‘n’ roll. We like to have fun. I think that is a side that is important and has always been there. We’ve got a song called ’21:13’ that is the hidden track (on ‘In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3’) and that wasn’t at Rush but making fun of how everybody said we sounded like Rush. That is some silly shit.

So yeah this record is a lot of fun where as ‘The Afterman’ records were pretty serious but I think that’s a good thing.

AH: To finish off, why should fans, both old and new, pick up the new album?
Josh: I don’t know. I’m not a salesman. If you like Coheed then you should get the record. If you don’t like Coheed, then don’t get the record. You know what’s funny? I was actually a salesman when I was a kid. I don’t know how to sell music other than “I hope you like it, if you don’t it’s all good.”

‘The Color Before The Sun’ by Coheed and Cambria is released on October 16th on 300 Entertainment.

Coheed and Cambria links: Website|Facebook|Twitter

View more of Already Heard’s coverage of Hevy Fest 2015 here.

Words by Sean Reid (@SeanReid86) Photo by Sam Haines.


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