Coheed and Cambria isn’t your usual hard rock band.
It has hits. It has popular songs.
But it also has a story.
Every piece of music released by Coheed and Cambria is a part of “The Amory Wars,” a science-fiction story about Coheed, Cambria and their son, Claudio. The band’s latest album, “Vaxis — Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures,” takes on a new story arc and a little bit of a new sound.
If it all sounds a little intense, it is. But it goes along with the band’s aesthetic, a cinematic blend of hard rock, punk and prog that’s apparent in the band’s oeuvre, including popular songs “Welcome Home,” “A Favor House Atlantic” and “The Suffering.”
We caught up with frontman Claudio Sanchez to talk about the latest installment in the band’s long-running story and discography.
Q: This record kicks off a new story, right?
A: At the moment, it is the first of a five-part story. Where within the mythology of Coheed and Cambria the story fits will sort of be revealed as the records come out. It’s an introduction for a new cast of characters and their ascension out of this prison planet, The Dark Sentencer.
Q: How far out is the overall story planned or written?
A: There’s definitely some premeditation involved, but for the most part, the songs help guide it. For parts two to five, I sort of have an understanding of what story I want to tell, but that won’t really get detailed until the songs actually happen. Life sort of dictates what the art is going to be. Once I find something that inspires me, that emotion helps paint the picture of what the story is supposed to be.
Q: Your personality fits into the story, right? Because you’re a dad now, and that’s a big part of this album.
A: Yeah! Absolutely. A lot of the characters in this story — Creature and Sister Spider, those are our main two protagonists — they very much echo my wife and I’s personality. Vaxis, the namesake of this series, that being their son and us being new parents, a lot of that spilled into the songs and the experience of new songs and being guided by this person who essentially doesn’t know the world yet. I’ll take them and mold them into this science-fiction fantasy that’s more fun to digest.
Q: What’s it like having so many passionate fans?
A: To see those that want to be involved and invested in the larger scheme, it’s really cool. I’m such a fan of world-building. “Star Wars” or “Dune” or “Game of Thrones,” I’m a fan. It’s fun to receive what I do on any level, and I’m really appreciative of that.
Q: When you bring it to the rest of the band, where do they come in?
A: Usually, I’ll bring them the skeleton of a song. Everybody brings their flavor to the mix. More so now than ever, the guys have been getting invested in the concept side of things, wanting to have that as fuel for their delivery.
On this record, I presented demos, but I also presented an outline of the story. I had gotten some concept artists involved early on to start conceptualizing the world, and I presented that to the band. Everybody got behind it. When certain songs reflected certain moments in the story, guys would bring up ideas. How can we reinforce the visual here sonically? We love embracing the concept more within the music. It makes us feel more like directors, in a way.
Q: You sound like directors making a movie and figuring out what it’s going to sound and look like.
A: Yeah, totally! What I like about this record so much is that this is how Coheed should have been from Day 1. But I was too immature to get all my ducks in a row. When you look at the album artwork and it’s three panels spread giving you a sense of how big the world is, man, I wish I had that maturity almost 20 years ago. But it’s cool we’re getting to do it now.
Q: Musically, there are a lot more digital sounds and synths, especially on songs like “Night-Time Walkers.” And the intro to “Unheavenly Creatures” almost sounds like an old-school video game song.
A: I’ve always been intrigued by synths, and synthesizers have always been a part of the Coheed DNA. But in the beginning, it was much smaller. Around the time of “No World For Tomorrow” is when I really dove in. It’s always sort of been there, and it’s always been a detail in another project I do, The Prize Fighter Inferno. But it was just something cool to start incorporating more of because we are at the beginning of a whole new arc. In a way, “Night-Time Walkers” is a good example. I wanted to do something else. I didn’t want to play guitar. It was just an opportunity to say, “You know what, this is how I’m going to approach this song.” We had so much fun writing that.
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