“For years I’ve just been this introverted individual. Even though in the past I created the concept to hide behind, it allows me to speak my mind freely. I get to be someone else when I start to create.”
Since forming back in 1995, American prog rockers Coheed and Cambria have been hailed for weaving visceral storytelling through their music. Across their eight studio albums, seven have been based on the concept of The Amory Wars, a science fiction novel written by the group’s frontman Claudio Sanchez. However, with the latest album The Colour Before the Sun (2015) the band decided to take a leap of faith, focusing not on the concept but on personal experience.
We sat down with Sanchez to talk about the shift as well as the heart of the band and how he goes about finding inspiration when things take a dark turn.
Exploring the union of two people
Sanchez didn’t hesitate as he reflected on Coheed’s ingrained concept being present on “every record”.
“This last one, outside the concept, is still very much about the relationship with two people and how they endure life and the circumstances presented to them,” he said. “It’s funny, The Colour Before the Sun is an echo of the past two years of my wife and I’s life together. I think back, and that was before she was my wife. She was my muse for a lot of those albums. The fuel is this very realistic love story that falls wrong, and it’s very violent and dark, and that’s where the fiction comes into play.”
Stimulating creativity early on
When asked whether his childhood or teen experiences shaped his vivid imagination, Sanchez considered his “love for things that were fantastic and odd”. He goes on to mention Star Wars and his love for comic books.
The frontman also contemplated just how much of an outlet making music became for him.
“With art and music, it allows me to have a voice that I don’t necessarily have in my personal life. For years I’ve just been this introverted individual. Even though in the past I created the concept to hide behind, it allows me to speak my mind freely. I get to be someone else when I start to create.”
Sanchez reflected on the importance of individual interpretation when listening to the music, inspiring creativity not only in his fellow bandmates but a wider community of Coheed fans.
“When I started to write music, I always had this hard time just being me in the songs,” he admitted. “When Coheed was created, I thought ‘Here’s my chance to create that overall narrative that would thread through records like chapters’. The concept isn’t force fed in the lyrics, because it all comes from someplace very real. You can take it as you want to, but the comic books and science fiction counterpart is really there should you want to indulge in it.”
Recording an album live for the first time
Working on their eighth studio album in this way was “difficult for sure” according to the vocalist and guitar player. As we chatted about The Colour Before the Sun, he thoughtfully came back to the subject of relying heavily on concept as well as how becoming a father influenced the process.
“For years I’d been creating records with this disguise around them. But now I’m 37, and my first venture into fatherhood with my son Atlas played a huge part in some of the material on the record. There was a sense of confidence that allowed the songs to speak for themselves without the concept. So I think it was a little easier for me at this stage of my life,” he mused.
From disaster to inspiration
Before writing the latest record, Sanchez had decided to move back from the city into the country with his wife. However, he soon discovered that some renters had been using their home as a growhouse, and from talking to the frontman it was clear that the experience both shook him and inspired some much-needed revelations.
“I had to man up. At that moment in time, we were awaiting our son’s birth and decided to move back out to the country. Later we get this cryptic phone call about how people had broken into our house, only to find it was all a hoax and that they had actually turned it into a growhouse,” he explained. “For me, I was like ‘This problem is only as big as I make it’. So that moment in time was a huge source of inspiration for songs like ‘You Got Spirit, Kid’ and ‘Young Love’ on that last third of the album.”
Marriage, fatherhood, love, band
We asked Sanchez to pinpoint his most significant life experiences to date, and it wasn’t hard for him to narrow it down.
“Marriage and fatherhood are the two big ones, but us as a band, getting in our van and taking a risk. Still to that day when we decided to get into our first van and try and promote this craft that we had believed in… that was a huge moment in all four of our lives, and we still continue to do it to this day.”
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Hot-wiring hard rock with high concepts, New York prog powerhouse Coheed And Cambria have carved out a sound that’s as epic as it is ambitious. Over the course of seven mighty albums, this four-man crew have blasted off on their own course, fueled on razor-sharp riffs, thunderous rock theatre and sci-fi mythology (that’s evolved into