EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: PILLOW TALK WITH COHEED & CAMBRIA’S TRAVIS STEVER
Photo credit: EmpyreLounge.com
My interview with Coheed & Cambria guitarist Travis Stever got off to a bit of a slow start. I believe I was his first interview of the morning in a long line of many, and he was audibly a bit groggy after a rough night of sleep on the bus. But after a few questions Stever got into the flow of things, and started talking at length about his band’s new record Year of the Black Rainbow, their current tour with Circa Survive and Torche, working with ex-Dillinger Escape Plan drummer Chris Pennie, the Neverender series of shows and the thrill of playing Madison Square Garden.
We only had fifteen minutes to talk before Stever was whisked away to his next interview, but we got plenty accomplished in that time. Our chat, after the jump.
Where are you calling from?
From New York.
Nice! Home. We’re all excited to come back and play there.
Yeah, you guys are coming through with Circa Survive and Torche, right?
Yeah. It’s an awesome show. We’re really excited.
That’s awesome, man. It’s a cool lineup. It’s not like your typical metal lineup or your typical alternative rock or whatever lineup, but it’s kind of a bunch of bands that each do their own thing. I’m glad to hear that it’s going well.
Yeah, yeah, we’re having a blast. The shows have been selling out. That’s all you can ask for, man. Well it’s not all you can ask for, but in terms of the shows doing well. That seems to be the general outcome every day. It’s pretty awesome.
Were you familiar with either of those 2 bands before starting the tour?
It’s a good show with Circa, and I was actually a fan of Torche. I saw them play, and I have their records. Yeah, definitely familiar with both bands.
How did that come together? Was that something initiated on the management or agent level or was it something that came from you guys?
Yeah [it came from us]; you’re brainstorming and thinking of all different bands and which shows would be good. Then you’ve got to make sure that they’re available and here we are. That’s just an easy way of saying it.
Are you guys playing any of the new material from the new album on this tour?
Yeah, we’re playing about 5 songs.
That’s a lot.
We’re playing numerous songs. Of course we’re playing “Juggernaut.” We’re actually playing 6. Yeah, about 6 new songs, but we’ve got a lot of older tunes too. We play a pretty long set, and we’re trying to fit everything in there. It seems that the people that are coming out to see it are very pleasantly surprised by all our selections. They know them well.
Are people receiving the new material well or are you getting a lot of blank stares?
It’s different from night to night, but I find that there are certain songs that get a great reactions. Then there are certain songs that you can tell that they either just did not listen to that song a lot yet . . . well you’ve got to think about it; [the album has only] been out for 2 weeks. It’s pretty cool to see it growing, to see that they’re just getting used to these songs. They’re just starting to go “okay, I sort of know this one now.”
It is kind of amazing how much we have to choose from now. We did that 4-night “Neverender” thing. We made a DVD and stuff out of it. It’s been really interesting. It’s really helped us to be able to pick whatever songs we want.
Do you ever have to go back and relearn some of the old stuff?
No, we already did that. We have to brush up on it when we rehearse, but for the most part it comes to us pretty easily. It’s awesome. When we first went to rehearse for Neverender, there were songs that we never even played live. Now we can pretty much play any of them.
Can you talk about the new album a little bit? How did it come together and do you feel that it is a growth for the band? or whatever your feelings are on it?
We’ve been working on that album for a couple years. Even though we were still touring quite a bit, we would work on songs during sound check. We would go home and demo stuff out. Then go to rehearsal spots, stop in and just work on stuff. It’s funny there are a lot of songs that we had for the album. It turned out that the more perfect songs came more towards the end. When we finally ended up going to record, we kind of did it in sections. We started with “When Skeletons Live,” and we recorded that one as more of a test run to see how it was with Atticus Ross and Joe Barresi producing. We had a blast, and the song turned out better than we could imagine. We left then to do more touring, got back and recorded 5 more songs. After that we came back, rehearsed and wrote some more. We went back in and recorded 5 or 6 more songs. There were those songs that kind of got dropped that some people were attached to. I know that there were a couple of songs that I wanted to make it on there, but in the end it’s exactly the album that it should be. We all really paid attention to everything – to every note just to make sure that everybody was happy. We’re really proud of it.
That’s great. What was it like working with 2 producers?
They both had their role. Atticus obviously brings a unique influence to the table judging by his prior work. I’m sure you understand what I mean – Nine Inch Nails. He actually did the soundtrack for the Book of Eli thing. He’s very much into sound landscapes and experimenting with sounds and stuff, as is Joe Barresi. Joe Barresi comes more from the background of rock. When you combine those 2 things it’s a really cool formula. Joe is incredible with getting the right sounds and tones and stuff while Atticus will describe what he wants, and Joe will be able to grab it.
It was really cool to have the 2 of them working as one.
Did it ever feel like there were too many cooks in the kitchen?
No, we never had that kind of . . . believe me, on certain albums it felt like that. It never felt like that this time.
It’s funny. We were already working on a lot of the songs, but they definitely changed with the influences of these [producers]. It definitely changed somewhat through the experiences of being in the studio. For the most part, a lot of those tunes that we had demoed out are still the same songs. The direction we were going in, we were going to go in either way. It’s just that those guys sound alike, and being able to help us organize the songs. Of course there will be an opinion on arrangement and stuff. That’s where everything comes through and becomes exactly what it’s supposed to become. I think the direction that they had us going in is very close to what the album became anyway.
That’s not taking away from those guys. If they hadn’t produced it, it would be completely different. At the same time, it’s a collaboration no matter which way you look at it. It’s a matter of the band going in one direction and then grabbing that and saying “alright, let’s continue on this journey and make sure that this transcends [via] the sounds.” That’s what happened. It’s a pretty cool experience when that happens.
I wanted to ask about having Chris Pennie in the fold this time. Did it affect the writing in any way? How active was he during the process?
Absolutely. You’re taking into consideration someone who is a talented drummer. There were parts on the album where you can just hear Chris’ influence. The album wouldn’t be the same if Chris wasn’t behind the kit. It was really relieving to be able to write together and have him be able to record with us, unlike the last album. We are a 4-piece band, and we’ve been playing together for however many years. It was kind of heartbreaking that he couldn’t play on the last record. Having him here now, you get to hear the band as really what it is now.
Yeah, he’s great. We’re a metal website primarily, so we know him from Dillinger Escape Plan.
That’s what I was saying. The way that it turned out and being able to play with him — not only is he an amazing dude, but it is an honor. Just because I’m in a band with him, it’s not like I feel obligated to say it, but he’s definitely one of the best drummers walking this earth. It’s funny, he just walked passed when I said that.
Basically being able to work with somebody like that is an honor, and you can hear it in every fucking note that he’s influenced.
That’s great, man. Last question because we’re running out of time: what’s up for you guys after the current tour?
It’s going to be constant for a couple of years, man. It’s the way it goes. We’ve got to go out and play, and that’s what we’re really excited and hungry to do right now. We’re going to be playing for as many people as we can for as long as we can for this record. We go to Europe directly after this U.S. run. Then we have some more exotic places that we head to. We’re going out to Japan. I think we’re doing Singapore. I don’t know if they’re confirmed yet, but we’re going to hit everywhere that we can. Then we come back, and I imagine that we’re going to do the whole thing again. Nothing is booked, but I’m sure that the way that it works (and the way that we want it to work) is that we’ll want to do the U.S. again in the fall and Europe in the winter. Just keep hitting it. That’s the name of the game. We love playing, and we love being able to come out and play for people.
Sounds like a plan. Good luck with everything.
Thanks, man. If you come to any of the shows, please come up and say hello.
Absolutely, man. Thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it.
We’re going to NY in the next few weeks. Come up and say hello. We’re doing that Central Park thing in NY. That’s going to be really interesting for us. Usually we’ve always played all the same places. It’s either Irving Plaza or Roseland, so it’s going to be cool to play something different.
Yeah, and it’s cool. You’ve guys played Madison Square Garden already, so you can cross that off the bucket list.
Yeah, it’s pretty funny. We did the Madison Square Garden thing. We did it with tours that we were opening, obviously. It was still a dream come true. I can admit that. That was incredible. To be playing our own shows and see it still kind of growing, to be able to play a place like Central Park is pretty incredible. I’ve seen some shows there. I actually played there for this Latin Day years ago. It was huge. It was a blast. It would be a cool experience to kind of go back on that memory and at the same time being able to play one of our own shows in a cool place.