An Interview with Travis Stever of Coheed And Cambria: No Secrets Here

*This article originally appeared in The Aquarian Weekly.

Coheed And Cambria are local favorites. The four-piece band that formed in Nyack, New York, is a sort of staple in our generation’s musical memory box. One of the more versatile acts of our time, the comic book rockers have shared the stages with bands ranging from Taking Back Sunday to Slipknot, and have brought concept albums to the masses with storyboard-based records and supporting artistic content.

Lead vocalist and guitarist Claudio Sanchez, guitarist Travis Stever, bassist Zach Cooper, and timthumb-1.phpdrummer/keyboardist Josh Eppard are marking the momentous reissue release of their second album, In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3, out Oct. 7The guys are taking the record out on tour playing it in its entirety.

Released in 2003, the LP offered a glimpse into the band’s take on imaginative modern rock, and broke Coheed through to radio success with singles “A Favor House Atlantic” and “Blood Red Summer.” The album is even headed toward RIAA gold certification, having sold 500,000 in the U.S. and more than one million worldwide. Coheed’s die-hard fans excitedly embrace the “sonic universe” concept of Coheed, which all started with the band’s name, taken from the lead singer’s Sanchez’s own best selling comic collection, The Amory Wars. 

“This tour is going to be really awesome,” says an enthusiastic Travis Stever, founding guitarist and backup vocalist. “We’re really excited to get back out there. New York and New Jersey is where I grew up.”

Heading back on the road for the first time since the birth of his son, Stever took some time to catch up to talk about the reissue, the band’s conceptual writing style, and the bands that have heavily influenced Coheed And Cambria.

AFB: Congrats on the upcoming reissue release! The album is the centerpiece of a lot of your activities right now. What prompted you to tour playing that particular record?

TS: It’s a little of everything, but the truth of the matter is it had its 10-year anniversary this past year. It’s something we had been talking about for quite some time. Unfortunately we didn’t do it on the exact 10-year mark because we were touring for The Afterman: Descension still, but in order to give it the time to breathe we had planned for quite tome time to do it, as well as the reissue.

I’ve said it before, and I know Claudio has said it before, I wanted to have a reissue of that album for myself, so it’s cool to have it out there for everybody else, and see the development of the songs for a lot of Claudio’s acoustic demos and be able to hear it evolve. The acoustic demos that people can hear—those songs went from that to being songs that people would be able to hear. So it’s a real peek into how it worked out. It’s not from something that came up in the studio back then. You can hear the difference. It’s a cool way for us to show our fans 10 years down the line what that time meant to us and how important it was to the significance of the band.

And yeah, it’s a favorite of the fans! I know myself, as a music fan, when I go out to see an album in its entirety, I know exactly what I’m getting and that’s what builds the excitement. Better yet, if you’re going to see a band that you know what the setlist is—which, let’s face it, that’s what happens now. You don’t have surprises anymore, so you might as well cut to the fucking chase! You might as well just say, “This is what you’re getting.” But there still are surprises on this tour. We’re really setting up a great show to give people. We like to give our fans as much as possible. I think people will be pleasantly surprised with what they get out of this tour. It’s not just going to be In Keeping Secrets… but it’s the component that everything is orbiting around. In that case, everybody knows what they’re getting.

I’m sure we’ll make our fans very excited. There’s been high demand for it. People want a reissue and we also want to revisit that time period for the band because it’s good for the soul. That time period for us was much more innocent as a band. We’re all older; we’ve been doing this for a long time, and to revisit that music and where we all were at that point is a nostalgic factor. I wouldn’t have written half the guitar parts I have on In Keeping Secrets… now, maybe it’s better to go revisit those things and get some influence or perspective, even though it’s our own stuff. It still provides inspiration.

AFB: You and Claudio each are working on perhaps the most significant little projects of your lives: new babies! Congratulations. How has being a parent influenced you?

TS: It’s incredible. And it’s been this amazing experience. I can’t wait to go out and play and I know Claudio feels the same way, but it’s probably going to be the hardest leave for us. We’ve had tough times leaving just home and family, but this is a whole new level. That’s why it’s cool that we’re doing In Keeping Secrets… because it’s a comfort. It’s not something so anxiety-provoking. It’s going back into something that we were already a part of and had already done years ago. It’s a real great way to put our feet back in the water. This album has been a part of our lives so we’re going out to do something a little more comfortable than playing all new material. It’s nice to have In Keeping Secrets… be what everything else revolves around. It feels good. But it doesn’t change how hard it will be to go. The passion to go out and play is going to at least help out with the fear and anxiety of leaving these guys behind.

AFB: What’s interesting about Coheed And Cambria is that each album is a concept record part of a unique story that you guys pair with a comic series. What is the inspiration for doing that, and will you continue to do that in the future with other records?

TS: I think that’s really a genuine passion and love that Claudio has for telling a story. He writes the lyrics of the story, but he has almost “hid” behind the concept of the story because there’s so much of it that’s been inspired by real life emotion. With all that complication I don’t think that he is per se comfortable in any other way than writing in a conceptual fashion, which, thank God it turns out so well when it does. Some people would try to put that together and it could be disastrous.

He has a knack for telling a story with it and creating these works people like to decipher and decode, and therefore figure out what’s going on with him and his life personally. I think somehow that style always will continue. The story will always be told as long as it’s Coheed And Cambria. There are songs that are just straight songs but they fit into that concept somehow. You can enjoy that as a song and whether it be a love, or a love lost, or now a child, or just a scenario of feeling uncomfortable in a certain situation, and somehow he has a way of describing that. You can enjoy the band either way, but there will always be a story told along the way.

AFB: Who have you been most influenced by as a musician and then collectively as a band?

TS: Collectively you get a lot of the usual suspects, classic rock bands that most people would mention: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. What’s funny is now that we’re older, what’s actually considered classic rock; The Police and The Clash are probably considered classic rock. Bands that we like in the newer era—we grew up listening to punk music and metal when we were in high school—that definitely had an effect on us. Whether it’s Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Bad Brains, Dinosaur Jr. There were some bands that hit us in our adolescence. With every member—even Josh being so involved in hip-hop—it’s very different. What he creates and loves is a very organic, alternative hip-hop. That kind of groove he creates fits into the way he plays, so that’s an influence on Coheed And Cambria. Zach is a jazz aficionado and perhaps the most musically knowledgeable in the band. He’s well schooled and he reads music very well. When it comes to theory he knows everything, so you can find out things from that guy you can’t find out from the other three of us. That all comes into play and works for the band.

AFB: The rumor mill is buzzing! Fans are talking about a new record for next year! Any truth to that?

TS: There have been ideas all around. We’re not necessarily “in the studio” but we’re always on creative mode. That’s always happening. By no means is there a lack of creativity, but we want to choose the right things. This is going to be a whole other level after this. Even the recently released acoustic song “Atlas” started as a work of the whole band and it turned out incredibly awesome. I couldn’t be more excited about it. We did an electric version and the acoustic is completely different. As a band, we put our pieces on it. There are other things in the works. What will be the next record? I don’t know. But I don’t want to see the stuff we’ve worked on go away.

Coheed And Cambria will play the Tower Theatre in Philadelphia Sept. 24, The Wellmont Theater in Montclair, NJ Sept. 25, and Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City Sept. 27. For more information, go to coheedandcambria.com. 

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