EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Coheed and Cambria Open Up About “The Afterman: Descension”
By: Rick Florino
Coheed and Cambria open up their own gateway into rock ‘n’ roll’s most curious spaces. In fact, every album feels like an otherworldly trip, making multiple listens infinitely satisfying and worthwhile. The group’s ambitious new set The Afterman: Ascension and The Afterman: Descension up the ante yet again, forging a sprawling epic two discs. Songs from these as well as Coheed’s impressive catalog will be lighting up the stage every evening on the Rockstar Energy UPROAR Festival all summer.
In order to get a little closer to the group’s new album, UPROAR’s Rick Florino spoke to Coheed and Cambria guitarist Travis Stever about the music, what’s next, and so much more.
What was the curation process for which songs would end up on the respective halves of Afterman?
That had a lot to do with the way it flows conceptually. I definitely think the music was heavily taken into consideration though. It was a balance of feeling the music should flow and having the concept go with it. It worked out perfectly the way it was lined up with the concept too. We wanted to drift more towards becoming weirder at the end. If you think about the concept, Sirius Amory comes home in the second half and has to deal with all of this insanity and losing his wife in the accident. It’s almost like the music is this crazy, psychedelic madness going along with the madness of this character’s life. That’s how it moves as a record. It’s more concise. There’s definitely weirdness to the first half, but it gets weirder and weirder as the story gets weirder. At the end, we tie it back up with more straightforward songs. Even though “Iron Fist” is longer and has more of an experimental side to it, the basis of the song is an acoustic ballad. With the soundscapes we explored, it’s a little weirder. Next, you have “Dark Side of Me” and “2’s My Favorite 1”. You hear what you get. They’re songs you can connect to. It worked out perfectly in that sense. You’re giving the listener a musical journey.
The music can go untraditional routes, but you still maintain hooks and song structure.
Thank you! That’s a huge compliment. That’s what we try to do. We like experimenting and stretching in all different directions, but we never want to lose where the song initially came from, especially with the melodies Claudio built out in his vocals. I think those need to be the standout characteristics of the song. As with most bands, those are what people are waiting for. I think that’s what carries the songs and gives them their hooks. You can connect with those vocal melodies that are happening. That’s a big part of it. Whatever weirdness or experimenting we’re going to do, the song is the first thing that matters.
What’s your favorite song on the album right now?
I loved it the first time Claudio played it acoustic for me. However, the band version of “Key Entity Extraction V: Sentry the Defiant” seems like it’s a landmark in the set right now. It’s really cool because we’re mixing a lot of our new songs in the set. There was a familiarity for kids when they heard the demo version and live version of “Sentry” Claudio did acoustically a year ago. We began doing it live last spring, knowing it wouldn’t be until this was released that people would hear it as a band. They were hearing it acoustically. They had no idea of the nuances we were adding. It’s cool to have it out there. When something is played live, it registers, but you don’t really get it until you hear the studio version. I’d say that’s the song I’m most excited about and stoked to play. Then, of course, there’s “Dark Side of Me”. We just played it on Conan. I enjoy playing those two, and I’m really proud of them.
“Dark Side of Me” does stand out.
Some material started to flow. I was messing with a riff on ‘Dark Side of Me’. Claudio really liked it. He went back to his hotel room that night and worked on melodies for that riff. The next morning, we were working on a completely different song. We started talking about it, and he had all of these days. We started working together. We were playing the riff and messing with melodies above it. Then, Josh came in. He was playing on his knees. We pretty much tracked everything in a day. Everybody was so proud of that song and how it came naturally. It sounded thought-out, but it flowed. We had enough material for a double record from the get-go, but we kept making more and more stuff. Then, it became really apparent we wanted to make a double record. Conceptually, it works for what Claudio was going for with The Afterman.
Have you been writing lately?
Absolutely, I’ve been working on new Davenport Cabinet material. Generally, I see where Claudio is at. If he’s written some material, I can generally see where his mind is at and start messing around. That doesn’t put restriction. He’s writing too lately. As you can tell with The Afterman, even if there is a theme, we want to stray and go and every direction possible. We don’t like staying stagnant. Everybody is continuously playing.