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Coheed and Cambria on new album, cruise life, evolving sound

Photo by Charles Sykes/Invision/AP Coheed and Cambria band members, from left, Travis Stever, Claudio Sanchez, Josh Eppard and Zach Cooper perform at Rough Trade NYC on Friday, June 24, in New York.

NEW YORK (AP) — It’s a rock musical space odyssey. Star Wars goes to Warped Tour, all grown up. And it’ll make you want to dance.

Coheed and Cambria’s “Vaxis II” is a sprawling 13-track prog-rock symphony, out Friday. The latest in a long line of concept albums, set to the backdrop of the comic book series “The Amory Wars,” that the band has been building on for more than two decades.

This new entry features trademark Coheed mainstays — organic riffs, screaming solos and frenetic fills. All wrapped in a decidedly new sound — and new era — for the band.

“A Disappearing Act” feels as at home in a dance club as it does on the track list, and the trippy, gripping “Love Murder One” will get stuck in your head. “Ladders of Supremacy” is pure, classic Coheed, all leading up to “Window of the Waking Mind,” an epic prog-rock coda if ever there was one.

Coheed frontman Claudio Sanchez talked with the AP about what it was like working on the album through the pandemic, the origin stories behind some of the songs and how his fans converted him into a cruise lover, or at least someone who can enjoy the moment.

This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

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AP: What was it like to build this album with collaborators you’ve worked with for decades, but in relative isolation?

SANCHEZ: It wasn’t that different than what I’ve been accustomed to for over 20 years. When writing songs, it’s very much a singular process, one without viewership.

When it came time to record it, there were some restrictions in place. I found comfort in the way we delivered and executed this one. It’s a way that I’ve always wanted to make a record. I’ve really wanted to tribute the inception of the songs.

AP: Is there anything you’ve taken from this time period that you’ve learned you want to keep with you moving forward?

SANCHEZ: I definitely believe in myself more than I think I ever have.

AP: Themes of death and mortality have been a through line in your music for a while, but the pandemic really pushed that in our faces. Did that change anything for you?

SANCHEZ: Absolutely.

We had some passing at the top of the pandemic, when things were uncertain and restrictions were in place. My grandfather had passed away. He was a big inspiration for one of the characters within “The Amory Wars” called Sirius Amory.

One of my choices in the story was to revisit the character of Sirius Amory. And since my grandfather passed away in life and in reality, I chose to bring him back in the story. The “Window of the Waking Mind” literary component reveals that Sirius returns to the Amory Wars as an elderly man. His likeness is taken from my grandfather.

It was quite beautiful and poetic to see that final panel because I didn’t properly get to say goodbye.

AP: The album overall sounds undoubtedly Coheed but it feels different. Is there a track that you’re most attached to?

SANCHEZ: I’m attached to all of them because they very much represent a moment in my life between “Vaxis I” and now.

I love “A Disappearing Act” for how odd it is for Coheed. I also am really attached to “Window of the Waking Mind” because that’s something for the past couple of years I’ve been exploring this idea of writing a musical.

AP: It feels like a musical! Do you have one in the works because this seems destined for that?

SANCHEZ: I don’t, not at the moment.

AP: You need the right person to listen to the album and feel the same feelings.

SANCHEZ: Right, right, exactly.

AP: There’s a stark contrast between the characters in the initial Amory War saga and the character Vaxis. Given the original character was at least partially inspired by you and as you’ve said, Vaxis is largely inspired by your newer identity as a parent, is there a creative catharsis in affording this new character chances Claudio may have missed out on?

SANCHEZ: Yes and no.

I’m getting more clarity as I get older as to what my message truly was with the original Amory Wars saga. I always seem to think Coheed and Cambria are the main characters, but it’s really not. It’s the son becoming a man.

At that time in my life, all I could think about was self-destruction, not wanting to be in Coheed and Cambria. And in a way, I knew that was silly because it’s everything I’ve wanted with my life.

What I realized as I was going was I could allow my avatar to be the one that destroyed everything. And I could be at peace with who I am in reality. That was really the journey for that character.

At this time in my life, I do now see myself — even though it’s in the role of Creature — it’s more of the father figure. Less of a destroyer and more of a nurturer.

AP: That’s good processing. Pivoting a bit, you recently did a cruise with the band. What was that experience like and how was it being immersed with the fan base after so much isolation?

SANCHEZ: Surprisingly, I had such a good time. When the idea was posed to us initially, I was the opposition. I didn’t want to do it. I’m a homebody and I just don’t really like leaving.

It turned out that I had one of the best times in my life. I realized I’m surrounded by friends and people that just enjoy the thing that I do. And I thought that was really special.

I think we’re going to do it again.

AP: Are there any collaborations on your list that you’d really like to do?

SANCHEZ: Trying to adapt “Amory Wars” into some other medium. We get asked it very often: When will we see the “Amory Wars” on TV or in movies or something? But we’ll see.

AP: Lightning round borrowed from Brene Brown. What’s the last show you binged and loved?

SANCHEZ: “Stranger Things.” Before “Stranger Things” season four came out, I have been watching “Seinfeld” for, I believe, almost two years nonstop. It’s insane.

AP: OK next one: Vulnerability is ____. First word that comes to your head.

SANCHEZ: Is scary.

AP: And last one: Give us a snapshot of an ordinary moment in your life that brings you a lot of joy.

SANCHEZ: Sitting here. This is the room I write in. And it’s funny, right before (this), I was working on a song. It allows me to kind of get in my head and lose myself a bit.

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