Two Decades in, Coheed and Cambria Brings Storytelling to New Heights

Travis Stever (from left), Zach Cooper, Claudio Sanchez and Josh Eppard.
Travis Stever (from left), Zach Cooper, Claudio Sanchez and Josh Eppard. Jimmy Fontaine
Twenty years into its career, New York-based rock group Coheed and Cambria — which is playing Levitt Pavilion on August 31 and is made up of Travis Stever on guitar, Zach Cooper on bass, Claudio Sanchez on guitar and vocals and Josh Eppard on drums — is neither outdated nor holding on to an old dream. That's because the band's one of the most versatile and creative in the industry.

Frontman Claudio Sanchez recalls beginning to write music as a teenager on a four-track cassette player. Now most of his songs come to life on a computer. But while the means for creating a song might be different now, the core of his songwriting itself will never change. It's still all about telling a story or conveying emotion through sound.

Back then he was writing about being a teenager growing up in the ’90s, as well as the emotions and experiences of being the son of a recovering addict. Two decades later, he's writing about being a father himself, even saying that his son is what influences his music the most these days.

The band's 2018 album, Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures, follows the story of a boy named Vaxis, a character based on Sanchez's son. But in his work, Sanchez does something few musicians are able to do well: He creates a fictional universe full of characters, different scenes and a complex storyline.

Vaxis - Act I: The Unheavenly Creatures tells the story of characters Nostrand and Nia as they are imprisoned by the Dark Sentencer. The story of these characters and the world they live in is complex. The band's fans, known as the Children of the Fences, even take to online forums to discuss and explain the complex storylines of the albums. Some have requested an accompanying comic book.

"There's no one like the Children of the Fences," Sanchez said. "Every aspect of their enthusiasm when we play is special."

Since that 2018 album, the band hasn't released anything else...until recently. Sanchez says the latest single, "Shoulders," is about the idea that "the thing that you love might not be for everyone, but it shouldn’t make you any less excited about it or make you stop pursuing it. ... Just be empowered by your oddity."

He hopes that the song will be embraced by more than just the band's fan base, and that it will connect with people who aren't totally familiar with the music.

Says Sanchez: "We try to keep an open mind when it comes to creating music and not restrict ourselves."

Coheed and Cambria plays with the Used and Carole's Daughter at 6 p.m., on August 31 at Levitt Pavilion.
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Katrina Leibee, a recent graduate of Colorado State University, is an editorial fellow at Westword, covering politics, business and culture.
Contact: Katrina Leibee