Claudio Sanchez is relaxing with his 15-month-old son Atlas in their Park Slope apartment. The Coheed and Cambria frontman/songwriter and his wife have settled back into Brooklyn life after spending some time upstate at the house that they have been trying to sell for almost a year and which had previously been vandalized. The only form of vacuum they currently have is a Roomba-like cleaning robot, and Atlas wants to play with it rather than let it do its thing. There is no hint of frustration or tension in the singer’s voice. Despite the residential shuffle, adjusting to fatherhood, and the pressure of a forthcoming studio album and tour, he sounds calm and pensive.
Coheed and Cambria’s eighth studio album in 13 years, The Color Before The Sun represents the first release by the group not connected to Sanchez’s Amory Wars sci-fi saga that literally unites their entire musical universe. The storyline had come to a conclusion. Some fans may be surprised or disappointed that Sanchez and his Coheed bandmates Travis Stever, Zach Cooper, and Josh Eppard are not chronicling The Amory Wars anymore, but it seems that no matter what he does, whether on album or in a comic book series like Translucid, family is always at the heart of his stories, with the newest ones being plucked from his own life.
“I think that’s a great observation,” says the frontman. “I’m not exactly sure why that tends to be—where it comes out of or why that’s a starting point. For me, it’s just an important thing. This move that I’ve made in my life right now with Atlas and my wife, I’ve never experienced anything like it, so for me it just made sense to allow the songs and the emotions to speak for themselves without the guise of fiction. It’s funny, maybe that’s why here I am now with a family of my own, whereas before I was just part of one with the story of The Amory Wars. I don’t think there’s ever been a motive behind doing it that way. It’s just what’s ingrained in me and just naturally becomes the starting point.”
The Color Before The Sun fits in perfectly with the group’s musical continuum, assimilating myriad influences into a hard rocking but versatile sound that often draws inspiration from the ’80s. Genre tags like prog, emo, and metal have been tossed at the quartet over the years, but they are not that easy to pigeonhole. “Sometimes we’re unsure and uncertain of where we fit in as a band,” admits Sanchez. “I think that through the years we’ve always adopted some of these titles because they just made sense and maybe were thrown out there towards the band as just an idea. We’re a little unsure of what we are at times. [The new album] isn’t that big of a departure. The idea that there is no concept is the big shift for people.”
A standout track on The Color Before The Sun is “Peace To The Mountain,” an epic, Beatlesque number that closes the album out on a contemplative note. “It was our chance to play the Beatles,” affirms Sanchez. “The record comes full circle and resolves, and what seemed like the right thing to do certainly for the theme of the song and the record was to do that symphonic brass section in the vein of the Beatles. A lot of those [closing] songs always felt like conclusions to me when I would listen to them. I wanted to emulate that and punctuate the record with that.”
In contrast with that tune is the lead single/video “You Got Spirit, Kid,” which offers a sarcastic bent on the sense of entitlement that has certainly been insinuating itself into modern culture.
“I just realized that human consciousness now—maybe with the way technology is and how everything is so immediate—I just felt like there was that attitude,” muses Sanchez. “I was in a Wal-Mart with these completely open aisles and nobody in them, buying tinfoil, and as my hand was about to touch the tinfoil, this woman almost slapped my hand away to grab the thing. She couldn’t wait a second for me to just grab it. I didn’t really care so much, but even with that smallest interaction you’re just getting it everywhere. It’s definitely not how I want to be, but at the same time in context to the record and all these trials and hurdles that I jumped, I came to this realization that my problems are really no bigger than the next person because everyone is really racing for time. I think really that’s the only thing of any value, what you can do with your time before you go.”
Sanchez’s time is certainly taken up with many things lately, most importantly his young son Atlas, who figures prominently on the new album. The Coheed frontman began writing the album while he and his wife Chondra began living in Park Slope and before they knew she was pregnant. The writing continued after the time he was born, so a whole range of emotions are cataloged on The Color Before The Sun. Naturally, juggling fatherhood, music, comic books, and marriage is enough to reduce his sleep quota.
“The thing is before him I would wake up super early at four or five in the morning because that’s when I was my most creative,” says Sanchez. “Now I find it hard to do that because I’m just more active, running around with him and trying to stimulate him with life. Five o’clock rolls around and I’m still up before he is, but I can’t get up. I’m completely like a piece of cement at the bottom of the river. I’m not going anywhere.”
His wife Chondra, a collaborator in marriage and art, has also been an important part of his life, and when asked about their strong bond, Sanchez pauses to reflect on why it exists. “Maybe it’s because we’re so different and complete a spectrum together,” he offers. “Where I stop and can no longer reach, that’s where she begins. I don’t know. I’m not exactly sure. Like any relationship, we have our ups and downs, but there are way more ups than there are downs. And the downs don’t ever last very long.”
The duo has co-written many comic book series together through his Evil Ink Comics company—the psychedelic adventure Kill Audio, the NYC zombie saga Key Of Z, and the dark superhero take Translucid—and they have teamed up for a new maxi series in, surprise, The Amory Wars series. Fans might wonder how that will work since that sci-fi epic has come to a close.
“It’s going to be a redo of Good Apollo [Volume] I that we had done as an accompanying graphic novel with that record,” he explains. “This time it’s going to be a 12-issue maxi series. We’ll get more detail and be a little more clear with the story. So far, so good. We’re about two issues in with the art.”
Sanchez admits to having a love/hate relationship with the series that has guided his musical and comic book endeavors and inspired his band’s name. “It’s funny because for years and years now I’ve always had people help me through it because after adding myself in the story, it gets a little bit difficult writing yourself,” he says. “It’s just weird and a big mistake on my part, so now with my wife involved and Blaze our manager taking on a bigger role we’re trying to make it the best story that we possibly can. There are a couple of other titles unrelated to the Amory Wars that I’m anxious to get working on, but this is a big undertaking that is taking up a lot of our time.”
A big influence on The Amory Wars series is obviously Star Wars. As soon as that famed franchise is invoked, Sanchez has goosebumps shooting up and down his arm. He is “totally excited” about the seventh movie arriving in December. “Of course, there would be no Amory Wars without Star Wars,” he acknowledges. “I’m really thrilled. I like everything that I’ve seen, and some of the concepts that I’ve read about are kind of cool.”
Fellow Amory Wars and Star Wars geeks will be able to meet Claudio and Chondra at the Evil Ink booth during New York Comic Con, which takes place between October 8 and 11. Due to the first shows of Coheed’s club tour taking place on Friday night in Asbury Park and Sunday night in Cincinnati, the singer will only be at the booth on the afternoons of Friday the 9th and Saturday the 10th. The twosome have been a regular presence at NYCC every year for the past several.
The forthcoming Coheed tour of more intimate venues will be a warm up for a bigger trek next year, and Sanchez estimates that they will play about a third of the new album this time out. “Next year we are going to do a super proper tour on it with more songs and more production value, whereas with this one I think we want to let the record live for a minute, play a few songs off it, and just reintroduce the band to the world,” he remarks.
On top of offering a new album, 2015 also represents the 10th anniversary of the group’s third album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness, which was also their second to be certified gold for sales of 500,000. Thinking back on that milestone, Sanchez is proud and grateful.
“We feel so fortunate and lucky that we still get to do this,” he proclaims. “Even the idea that we got to do the first record. Really? Somebody cared enough about the band that much to put a record out. It’s just awesome.”
Coheed and Cambria will be playing Oct. 11 at the Stone Pony Summer Stage in Asbury Park. Their new album, The Color Before The Sun, will be released Oct. 16. For more information, go to coheedandcambria.com.