Coheed and Cambria on Getting Less Progressive but More Approachable

“The concept is just not there this time.”

Travis Stever, lead guitarist for Coheed and Cambria, lets out an exhale over the phone as he begins to provide an answer to the question his band has been faced with over and over again since releasing its newest album, The Color Before the Sun. After a seven-year run with the “Amory Wars” story line, a science fiction plot detailing the two characters for which the band was named, Coheed and Cambria’s eighth album breaks the streak in both substance and sound. They’ve traded in guitar duels for a more pop-punk approach, and they’ve been asked time and time again why they made the switch.

Now, as the band is in its first month of The Color Before the Sun tour and preparing for its show at the Fillmore on Sunday, March 27, Stever explains the band’s thought process.

“The decision to stray may have taken some of our heavy-duty, cult following fans by surprise, for sure,” Stever says, adding that for the most part the band's fans stood by them. “Every Coheed record is very different, though, and with every record we try to throw a curveball at them. With this one, it’s the lyrics, because it’s coming from a real-life standpoint.”

Lead singer Claudio Sanchez wrote all the lyrics to The Color Before the Sun on his own, and the album is therefore very “autobiographical” for him, according to Stever. Sanchez had just become a father, and while he was working on the songs, he wasn’t even sure they would land on a Coheed and Cambria album. After approaching the band with the songs, they decided to give it a shot. Stever says he connects with the song “Atlas” especially, because it was written for Sanchez’ son and it reminds Stever of his own two-year-old son.

“Even if I’m not a part of writing the lyrics, I always trust that Claudio is the one dictating the main vision and where it’s going to go, because I connect to him,” Stever says. “I wasn’t writing for this album, and I’m more comfortable not writing for that right now. For me personally, just to be involved in the personal end is a release.”

Stever says that by taking a step back and letting Sanchez take the lead on this project, he was able to understand the idea and go deeper into it. “Once I knew his thing and what he was trying to do, I was able to embellish and write my parts,” Stever says. “I speak through guitar, and that’s when I feel the most connection. Sometimes Claudio may already have a guitar part in mind and it’s a royal pain in the ass to learn, but it’s good and it’s important for me to pick it up. Frustrations in art translate to being even more beautiful, and really giving all your blood, sweat and tears. I did that in certain ways on this record.”

The Color Before the Sun was cut live, and combined with the new pop sound, Stever says it is one of their most approachable — if not the most approachable — albums they’ve created. “The average listener that’s never heard the band’s older stuff is going to find this record a little less overwhelming to dive into,” Stever says. “They’ll be able to relate to these songs on a very human level, on every level, really, because it’s straight to the point. That’s just how Coheed is musically. We’re a concept band, sure, but we’re a rock band first and foremost, and we want people to enjoy our band.”

Coheed and Cambria will be performing with special guest Glassjaw on Sunday, March 27, at 6 p.m. at the Fillmore Auditorium. Tickets are still available at
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Lauren Archuletta is a contributor for Westword's arts section, covering Denver's health and wellness scene. Follow her work for tips on cheap workouts and which yoga classes include mimosas and beer.