“Has it really been ten years?” questions Claudio Sanchez. The Coheed And Cambria frontman has just had it confirmed to him that his band’s third, and in many people’s eyes best, studio album Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through The Eyes Of Madness is celebrating a decade since it’s conception.
In a way it’s no wonder that Sanchez sounds surprised, this is an album that still sounds as fresh, exciting and brimming with vigour as it did on the day of its release. But, on the other hand, how can Sanchez doubt a whole ten years has passed when so much has happened to his band in the intervening period? From DIY punk outsiders to Golden God winners in the space of one album, it certainly was a hell of a time to be in Coheed And Cambria.
“Oh, I have a lot of memories of that time,” laughs Sanchez, “but they aren’t all necessarily good ones. There was a lot of in-fighting and drunken drama. We were basically falling apart.”
If that was happening behind the scenes then on the surface it was an exciting time for the band. For a prog influenced, post hardcore act like themselves to leave a hardcore punk label to sign to a major was not only an achievement of note, it was practically unheard of.
We were on Equal Vision before we started that album,” Sanchez begins, “and the reason we played with hardcore bands so often is that they were our label mates. We didn’t have any scene to fall into, we just got put on tour with the heavier punk bands that we shared the label with. I enjoyed it though, it was tough sometimes, no doubt about that, but we liked the challenge and we liked to stand out from the pack.”
And stand out from the pack they certainly did. With a collection of songs that melded Zeppelin-style guitar riffs, alt-rock crunch and the kind of epic prog song structures that made Rush one of the biggest bands of all time, particularly on the now classic Welcome Home, Coheed were intriguing enough a proposition to attract the attention of the massive Columbia Records.
“That was exciting for us,” Claudio remembers with a smile. “Our first album on a major label. And that was when people were still buying albums… buying CDs. I know it was kind of the end of that, but we did get to experience the whole mechanics of a major label in full effect for a while. Which, we have made no secret about, we loved. We grew up on pop and we didn’t feel that we compromised our sound or ethics at all by having that.”
But, even with the giant choruses that were unavoidable on the album, it isn’t too much of a stretch to say that the success of Coheed And Cambria was certainly unusual in the climate of a rock scene that obsessed over emo and metalcore at the time. Does Claudio feel that his band, along with the likes of Mastodon, Muse and Between The Buried and Me (who were also embarking on similar journeys) should take any credit for their role in opening avenues for more progressive acts to flourish as they are now?
“Did I feel like there was a scene or a groundswell of acceptance of this type of music?” he muses. “Not really. Not a scene, no. I mean, we noticed that more people were coming to our shows. And it was different people too. We were used to a lot of the hardcore guys coming to see us, and I guess we were their attempt to branch out into new stuff, but suddenly we had people of a variety of different ages and who were all quite hard to pinpoint as one particular thing. They just became Coheed fans – that’s just how we saw them. I was into a lot of those others bands, I respected them, but, and I think that they would say the same thing, we were just doing what we wanted to do.”
Released on 20 September 2005, Good Apollo… earned rave reviews from all corners of an ecstatic rock press and turned the band, if not overnight then incredibly quickly, into bona fide rock stars. With festival appearances and headline tours taking in everything from the main stage at Download to Brixton Academy, it all culminated in the album being awarded the Metal Hammer Golden God for Album Of The Year in 2006. Not that Claudio has any particularly fond memories of the event… or many memories at all in fact.
“That was one of those nights that…” he pauses. “Did we win…? Things had got kind of bad between us after touring it for so long. I thought that we were up for best live band, but Josh (Eppard, drums) couldn’t come… or wouldn’t come because we had fallen out. And so I felt like such a phoney, like ‘Don’t give us this award! We can’t even play the ceremony!’ Ha Ha! It meant a lot though. I still have that award at my house. I’ve had it in the same place now for…”
Ten years, Claudio. Time flies when you’re having fun.