For Coheed and Cambria guitarist Travis Stever, the shutdown of the touring industry really made a major impact on his life. The prog rock band prides itself on its compelling live show that comes complete with monster guitar riffs, spectacular lights and theatrical, Freddie Mercury-like vocals.
“You get into music because you like to create, but there’s a whole other side to the live part of it,” Stever says in a recent phone interview as he drove to his Nyack, NY home after rehearsing with the band in Brooklyn, NY. Coheed and Cambria performs with the Used and Meet Me @ the Altar at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica. “It’s a therapeutic thing for a lot of people and for me personally. I can speak for everyone in the band when I say that there’s a release that you don’t even know you’re getting. I don’t care if it’s five people or five thousand, there’s an interaction, and a certain amount of serotonin gets released when you connect with an audience. That was missing from all of our lives, and usually there’s a time in between to make a record, but it’s never been this long. I can’t remember the last time we took this long off from playing out.”
During the downtime, the band started work on a follow-up to its last album, and it also recorded a remake of the Rick Springfield tune “Jessie’s Girl.”
“We did a continuation of the song,” says Stever. “What a song. It’s about wanting to have your best friend’s girl. He gets Jessie’s girl [in Coheed's version]. We did this whole song about it and were super excited about it. Three of us recorded the video together but [bassist] Zach [Cooper] had to do it in front of a green screen. Rick [Springfield] did his part in L.A. That was in the height of all of this. That was a year ago. Everything else we did was different. That should give you an idea of how much of a difference for us.”
The band also got together to cut a music video for its new song, “Shoulders.” More blues-based than other songs on the band's repertoire, the song starts with a gnarly guitar riff that gives way to Claudio Sanchez's soaring vocals.
“That was the first time all of us were in a room together since October of 2019,” says Stever of the “Shoulders” video. “We’ve been rehearsing together for about six days. I just thought about whether I would have stage fright. I probably will, and I welcome it. It’ll be a whole new emotion. It’s like not getting drunk for years and then getting drunk again or falling in love for the first time. It’ll feel pretty new.”
Stever and Sanchez go way back. They became friends with Sanchez when the two were teenagers; Stever says they played in bands together since they were 12. Originally, Sanchez thought of Coheed and Cambria as a sideproject.
“Claudio had all these ideas for the band and had a concept for the songs,” says Stever. “We were looking for a name for the band we had at the time. I remember saying I thought ‘Coheed and Cambria’ would be a cool name. We adopted that name and the songs from that project, which had that other dimension."
In 2015, the band took a break from basing its albums on The Amory Wars for The Color Before the Sun but then returned to it for 2018’s Vaxis Act 1: The Unheavenly Creatures and might return to The Amory Wars for the next album.
“There was no concept connection to The Color Before the Sun,” says Stever. “For Claudio and even musically for the rest of us, we like to have that cinematic quality. We’re just more comfortable that way. But we did ‘Jessie’s Girl’ too. We can really do whatever the hell we want, but I know even lyrically for Claudio, he likes having the multi-dimension. He finds comfort in that. We’re back in that. I enjoy that Coheed has that, and I think we’re lucky for it, and that sets us aside from other rock bands.”
Stever can’t give out details, but he confirms another album is in the works.
“We’re super super-excited for our fans but even the people who have never heard us,” he says. “I say that for every record, but especially for this one. All I can say is that it’s a record we’re all super proud of.”
The band's return to stage means that fans will get to hear “Shoulders” played live for the first time, and Stever says he's excited to see the reaction.
“Live, we’ve been working on it, and it shines even more," he says. "I can’t wait to play the song. For Coheed, part of the magic that’s hard to bottle for us is what we do live. This is a set full of some surprises We’re trying to make it special. We had to miss out on a tour and had to postpone things and miss out on other things. We want to make this like a homecoming to the stage.”
Jeff has been covering the Cleveland music scene for more than 20 years now. And on a regular basis, he tries to talk to whatever big acts are coming through town, too. If you're in a band that he needs to hear, email him at [email protected]