Interview: Travis Stever from ‘Coheed and Cambria’
Intergalactic wonderwizards of prog-rock Coheed and Cambria have devoted their 20 years together to create conceptual-themed tunes based on ‘The Amory Wars’ – a sci-fi transmedia series written by frontman Claudio Sanchez, well until now! Their eighth studio album ‘Colour Before The Sun’ is the first time the New Yorkers have broken away from the usual format, Sanchez choosing instead to write from his own perspective. While the boys are preparing for their epic tour to our shores in May, we caught up with guitarist Travis Stever to chat about their new album, the future of The Amory Wars, and what we can expect from their new live show.
Coheed and Cambria are coming to Australia in May, are you excited to be back to Australia?
Yeah! I hear people are getting excited for the shows and that’s what matters. We love coming there, and especially if people are happy to have us. We always turn it into a kind of vacation because there are so many cool things to see. The long flight is worth it, the shows are worth it, so yeah I’m super excited!
Are there any specific places you want to visit while you’re here?
Last time I took a ferry in Sydney and went over to snorkel in ah… what’s the beach you take? It’s not Manly. There’s a beach special for diving and stuff. I went and did that last time. I would love to do it again, but I don’t know if we’ll have time.
What can we expect from your live shows this time round?
I think you can expect a mixed batch of songs. We’ve been changing it up quite a bit, switching songs back and forth. It’s a long set but therefore people get everything they want out of it. We also throw in some surprises, song wise!
Are there any types of Australian foods you try to stock up on while you’re here? Like Vegemite or Tim Tams?
I don’t mind Vegemite. I tried crocodile once and that wasn’t bad, but I don’t know if I would eat it again. Funnily enough Australia isn’t so different from America in a sense. I’ve had a delicious steak over there. I don’t have any particular cuisine from Australia I can’t get here, so maybe I need to explore more of that. Maybe I need to explore Australian cuisine…
Why did you decide to break out of your conceptual theme and go in a different direction with new album ‘Colour Before The Sun’?
It was Claudio’s decision more than anything obviously. He had a group of songs written prior to us deciding it would be a Coheed record. He didn’t know what he was writing for but when everyone heard the material they really liked it. Once we decided it was a Coheed thing and we worked on the rest of the material, it just fit for it not to be a conceptual record. I think he was less shy about talking about his own life. The concept has always had so much real life dictating what it lyrically becomes but I think on this record he just wanted to be straightforward. That doesn’t mean the concept’s over though. I feel like it’s an intermission.
This time round was it difficult coming up with guitar parts?
On a couple of songs [Claudio] had a few guitar parts and would have a general idea of what he was looking for. Once I understood the vibe it was really fun for me to get involved and add my own flavours and embellish. On prior albums it’s been more off the cuff. A lot of songs were built off certain guitar parts but on this record he knew what he wanted. With finding that out and fitting my parts into that vision, I was able to stretch, but it was more about getting into the grove he already had going.
As your band is named after characters from of ‘The Amory Wars,’ did you feel there was a certain expectation to keep the theme going for so long?
Absolutely. There’s always the fear that because we did an album outside the usual concept, a lot of our fans would be mad but they’ve been very welcoming. I think they realise no matter what the music’s coming from the same band, the lyrics have been written by the same person. Whether the concept’s there or not, they’re going to get a similar product in the music. In every album Coheed changes so it was really fitting for us to change in the sense of not having a concept. As much as that might have thrown some people off, it’s just what we do. I mean what better way to show change than to try something without the concept.
Have you ever tried your hand at writing fiction?
No, I’ve not. I love reading books. Right now I’m reading a book by Gillian Flynn who actually wrote ‘Gone Girl.’ It’s called ‘Sharp Objects,’ which I’m getting into. I rarely read novels like this though, I usually read biographies. When I do get into a novel and it catches me, it becomes somewhat addictive, but I’ve never tried my hand at it. Not to say I won’t someday. Maybe I could get something going. I respect people who can sit down and build a concise story. It takes a lot. As of now I’m just the person who enjoys it.
I’ve heard apart from guitar you can play banjo, lap steel, mandolin, and dobro. What would you like to learn next?
I’d like to play those things better! I wouldn’t want to move on to anything else because I’m not an aficionado, I’m not a virtuoso on any of the things I play counting guitar. I’m centring back and relearning some things on guitar right now. Then maybe, I’ll move back to experimenting with all the rest of the stringed instruments I love playing. It’s always experimental.
What’s the most embarrassing music you have on your iPod at the moment?
You know I’m really behind on everything. There’s a band called Silversnake that we’re touring with right now. They released a new record and it’s great. Other than that, we were up the other night listening to a bit of 90’s metal and alternative for some reason. I grew up with 80s metal and 70’s classic rock. My father is a musician and mum was in music so I’ve had a variety of musical wind around me. Now though, all I’ve been doing is touring with Coheed or working on my own stuff, so I haven’t listened to anything new. Sometimes I’ll go out searching for new stuff, so if you talk to me when we’re out there in a month, I might be listening to all new bands.
Are you still planning to work with Mark Wahlberg in bringing The Amory Wars onto the big screen?
It’s kind of something still in the works. I don’t think they’re working with Mark Wahlberg’s production company anymore but it’s not to say they won’t do it again. We haven’t heard anything new as of recently but it takes so long in that world to have anything happen. I think it would work great as a mini or big series, like an hour-long program, whether it be HBO or something. I know Claudio would tell everyone right away if there was any big news so it’s still there but nothing happening right now.
What does the future hold in store for Coheed and Cambria?
We’re always working on stuff individually and together so something will be coming up but as of now it’s all about touring – coming out to you, coming out and doing it wherever people want to hear it. The album is still pretty new to us so we’ve really got to go out there and play those songs.
To find out more details about Coheed and Cambria Australian tour in May click HERE