What do you do when you’ve created your own intergalactic universe and continuously explored and expanded upon it for the past decade or so? Well, first of all, you can come back to earth. That’s a nice start. But for Coheed and Cambria, they’ve more than just removed the concept that’s seen them unravel the thrilling tale of the Amory Wars bit by bit – they’ve gone personal.
‘The Color Before the Sun’ started life as a solo project for Claudio Sanchez and, bit by bit, came back to the band. “Looking at it now in hindsight, when I was recording the record I didn’t realise I was writing a Coheed record,” admits Claudio. “That was maybe some of the frustrations that I had when I was writing this record, that this doesn’t fall within the sort of lines that Coheed has created for themselves with the concepts. Now, just looking at this as a Coheed piece, it just feels good, it doesn’t feel weird.
”I wrote the record in an apartment situation,” he continues. “Typically, I have a house in the country outside of New York City where I wrote most of the Coheed records, at least from ‘No World For Tomorrow’ to ‘The Afterman’, I wrote in this country house.
”Normally I tend to wake up really early around 4 o’clock, 5 o’clock and that’s the time I feel at my most productive. When I moved to this apartment, I didn’t have that luxury anymore. That’s kind of the difference – I started to write these songs in this apartment and I think there was this sense of exposure that was leaking in to the execution of the songs because I knew my neighbours could hear me. It wasn’t the solitude that I was used to when working on music.”
All these changes in circumstance, some great personal highs, others unfortunate lows, began to infiltrate the creative process. “They can hear me, they can’t hear the music, they can’t hear the context of the song that is being created. They just hear a person’s voice singing the melody so I think that leaked into my consciousness when writing the songs, but then of course the stress and frustration of being in this situation and not having my comfort zone leaked in too.
“You know, when I realised I was going to become a father and some of the thoughts that come with it, before the birth and after the birth, that leaked into the record. My country home that we left got vandalised while we were away so that got in there; just all of these thoughts and experiences and hurdles that I sort of jumped were part of the writing process that weren’t there on previous records. That kind of had a hand on my emotional state when writing these songs.”
With the concept stripped and personal, there are a lot of songs the ring particularly close to Claudio’s heart. “‘Ghost’ is my thinking about what kind of parent I am going to become to my son before he was born,” he begins. “‘Here to Mars’ is about my love and respect for my wife and how limitless I think it is. Although, some may say I pose a limitation by saying I can only love you from here to Mars, but how many of us are really going to Mars? It might as well be the other end of the universe!
“Every song is deeply rooted in something very real. It’s funny – ‘Atlas’ is about my son and the inevitability of having to leave him because of what I do for a living. I wrote that song before he was born and now I do actually leave him for the road and that song couldn’t ring any truer. All of the songs are about something very real and very personal.”
Given its origins as a solo record, ‘The Color Before the Sun’ couldn’t have originated as a defiant statement that Coheed can break away from their concepts, but acts as one nonetheless. It’s an album that fans from all eras can find something in, the band smashing it when it comes to all their trademarks, while treading into new territory with confidence. “When I wrote this record and I looked at it, I didn’t think it was a Coheed album for a minute,” Claudio says, when considering it as a statement. “Every once in a while you can think it’s tough because Coheed is the band with the concept, it’s the band with the comic book counterpart.
”Every human being goes down a path and you always wonder what it would have been like if you turned around, or if you gone down a different road. There are always going to be those moments like ‘What could I have proved if I went left instead of right?’ For the most part it’s like I don’t know, I’m here now, it doesn’t matter. As much as that could leak into your consciousness I don’t know if I really care – I guess that’s the sentiment behind ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’, that it just doesn’t matter. There’s nothing to prove; it just feels good and all I wanted was to feel good.
“ One of the joys of their new album is that they’ve perfected Coheed in a way. With the sound feeling so on point, does the content of their songs actually impact their surroundings? “For me the music is always the thing that steps out first,” says Claudio. “I write the guitar parts before I even think about what I’m going to sing about. The lyrics are the last thing, so the music that you hear is where I’m at emotionally at that moment. It’s really just a product of my surrounding, the music that I write.”
Given his connection to this, it’s natural that he hopes it extends to others. “I hope that something in the record resonates with somebody personally. Concept or no concept, you’re going to feel a certain way regardless – something in there is going to resonate with you whether it’s the tonalities of the song or the theme that’s being expressed in the music or the lyrics. I just look for a connection. That’s all I want is for somebody to find something to connect with and whatever they think that means , that’s right. However you look at it is the right way to look at it.”
So is this perhaps the first of many steps away from the Amory Wars, musically at least? “We might write a record concept-less again,” muses Claudio, but it will never be a permanent move. “I’m not going to abandon the Amory Wars – that’s mine. I have a love-hate relationship with that monster, so I could definitely return to that. I really don’t know what the next step is. Are we going to go down the right or are we going to go down the left? We will decide when we get to that moment.”
Taken from the November issue of Upset, out now. Coheed and Cambria’s album ‘The Color Before the Sun’ is out now.