Progressive rock band, Coheed and Cambria, are currently out on tour promoting their companion albums, The Afterman: Ascension, which was released in October, and The Afterman: Descension, which came out last month.
For over ten years now in the course of five albums, Coheed and Cambria have been narrating the tale of "The Armory Wars", which tells the story of an epic battle between the forces of good and evil and is the brainchild of Coheed vocalist Claudio Sanchez.
Now with the two-part Afterman albums, the band is taking a step back in time in "The Armory Wars" story by focusing on its namesake, Sirius Armory.
Making the albums was a long and hard process as the band dealt with personnel changes (the band parted ways with long-time bassist, Michael Todd, who was replaced by Zach Cooper, and welcomed back former drummer, Josh Eppard) while parting ways with their long time label Columbia.
Coheed and Cambria ended up financing the albums independently on their new label, Everything Evil.
The band is playing a number of songs off of the Ascension albums on their winter tour, which made a stop in Detroit at The Fillmore on February 8 along with openers, Between the Buried and Me and Russian Circles.
The tour runs through the end of March and on Monday I spoke to Coheed and Cambria's lead guitarist, Travis Stever, as they prepared for a show in San Diego at the House of Blues.
The band was having a difficult time as they were dealing with an outbreak of the flu that had been circulating through the crew and band members.
Q: How's it going?
Travis: We are all sick here right now.
Q: The flu is bad this year. Other than that, how is the tour going so far?
Travis: It's going amazing. I mean the tour is probably one of my favorites that we've done. It's visually cool. Visually we have some cool stuff going on that I think really adds to the show whether it be lighting or some other cool surprises. We've been doing video etc. and then beyond that. We've essentially been putting together a set that we think people will love and it seems like they are. They're loving it so it's been cool.
Q: So you are performing a lot of the new songs?
Travis: Yeah we're doing quite a few of those songs. That's been exciting to see the reactions to the songs. It makes us actually know they're good! [laughs]
Q: What's been your favorite date so far?
Travis: I'm trying to think. They've all been awesome. I think Chicago may be my favorite. Chicago was an incredible show. Detroit was a great show too. They've all been really cool but those are the two that stand out right now.
Q: So do you have plans to keep touring after this tour wraps up?
Travis: Yeah we do some New Zealand and Australia dates and then Southeast Asia and then we have some things lined up this summer that aren't announced yet that we are very excited about.
Q: Summer festivals?
Travis: Maybe. Everything's not fully booked yet but we're hoping to do everything that we can again.
Q: What types of reactions have you gotten to your latest album, The Afterman: Descension?
Travis: All of the reactions have been great. It's really, really awesome how many people have stepped up and said how much they really love Descension.
Q: Obviously the Afterman albums are meant to be seen as a package deal but what do you feel is the major difference between the two?
Travis: I definitely think that they stick together as they're supposed to but I think if you had to separate them in order to know the difference I think there's a little more stretching on the second record in other directions. Don't get me wrong, the first one has some stretches in it too. There's a song called "Evagria the Faithful" that I think took us in a different direction. On Descension there's the song called "Number City" that has like a horn section and stuff. That's a big stretch out in a completely different direction. It's got a funky groove. It's almost digital. I call it Super Mario beamed through New Orleans. It's a lot of fun to be able to go in new directions. Then you have a song like "Iron Fist" on Descension which is I think is more of the folky side of the band mixed with the electronic side. Having those two sides is always cool and to be able to experiment with different instruments. There's a lot of that on this record too. Zach played stand up bass on "Iron Fist" and he also played mod bass on the Afterman title track. We were experimenting in all different ways. I think Descension just takes that experimenting in a slightly bigger and different direction.
Q: For people who don't know The Armory Wars story how would you best explain it?
Travis: Well I think that these records are basically a whole new kind of thing. I mean their based on the times where you discover this whole universe that Coheed and Cambria is based out of, the Keyworks universe. Really what you're dealing with is the story of a scientist who goes off to find the unknown and ends up being gone for much longer than expected. Basically it's just a story of love and loss. He goes out into the unknown leaving everybody thinking he's gone and that he's dead, partically his wife back home. Then he's out there basically exploring and discovering things about the afterlife. They turn out to be very trying on him and if you notice on the albums there are certain songs called "Key Entity" and that entity is basically invading his body and trying to I guess experience his life and find out where they went wrong in their life experiences and why they are kind of in limbo. As they invade his body, he sees their life flashing before him and sees what they are trying to do and basically live down what they've done to be stuck in limbo not knowing the only way out is by confessing. He has to go through this process of battling the entity and finally figures out how to take the extension back to his life and his family so he can share his discovery, which he thinks will be amazing. It doesn't turn out that way. His wife has already moved on to another world and he finds that he has lost everything even though he has been put through all of this. It's just the complicated thing of life and loss and the search of the unknown and should it really be attainable. These are things that we all question. Basically he loses his wife and it's how he deals with that and how he wants to go find her entity, her spirit, because so much was undone between them. Song by song is relatable. That's what is most important for our band; that song by song is based upon real life experiences. Coheed is a band that you can connect with. With Claudio, the concept and the comic book series has been a way for him to not have to wear his heart completely on his sleeve. It's just painting it in a different light with a different aspect. He loves telling the story and getting the ideas and building the concepts. Afterman musically and storyline wise has been one big rolling ball gathering up all these influences and our own personalities. We are now mature people and musicians that are now used to what we do. I feel like this is the sum of all that we are as a band. It is really cutting to the chase of what the band is and what it can be.
Q: It seems like the current band lineup is working out well.
Travis: Yeah it's getting back into the groove that the band was built on.
Q: Are you thinking about what's next?
Travis: Yeah there's been things in the works. We're always working on new music. We never stop.
Q: What else do you have coming up?
Travis: More and more touring for quite some time to be honest. With a double record that's really the way it is. We're a band that is always thinking outside the box. You never know, we might have something in the fall that's very unexpected.
Q: You've had success in the past playing full albums live, have you thought about performing the Afterman albums together?
Travis: Well that's what I'm saying, you never know! There's talk of everything under the sun with this band and a lot of the time it comes to fruition.
Q: Do you know what your next single is going to be?
Travis: That hasn't been discussed yet. We're just really pushing forward with "The Dark Side of Me". That song is the song that we're really excited to be playing right now. We're trying to push that out there.
Q: Can you talk a bit about "The Dark Side of Me" video?
Travis: Yeah I mean I think that's pretty straight forward and what the song is really touching upon. The video was actually done the morning after we did that Conan live thing. We had to be up at 6 to go do it [laughs]. So that's one little tidbit there. It was a tired day but I'm proud of how that video came out. I think everybody's really proud of it. The guy who directed it, Robert Schober, is really an incredible artist and he really added something. He has great vision.
Q: Is there a song that stands out for you off of Descension?
Travis: It differs from time to time. I'm really enjoying playing "Sentry the Defiant" live right now because of how much synth it has. I think it's a toss up between that and "Away We Go", which I'm hoping eventually we get to play live because I like the poppy aspect of it.