When most bands decide to revisit an older album or two for an upcoming tour, the entire focus is on the musical side of things. But when Coheed and Cambria announced their Neverender GAIBSIV (Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, for the uninitiated), frontman Claudio Sanchez knew that they needed to go about it in the right way.
See, the band’s first six albums (and kind of the seventh) all follow the concepts and story arcs of Sanchez’s series of comic books, The Amory Wars. A return to the Good Apollo era wouldn’t be complete without a look back at that storyline, so Sanchez went ahead and created a brand new issue — this one featuring a more intense look at The Writer (the meta-character in the series who’s writing the stories of the other characters in the series) and the romantic and personal struggles he goes through.
“It’s actually been a lot of fun to revisit because when I wrote the record and came up with the concept, I was also having this sort of breakdown because of my love life,” Sanchez says. “When we released the record, we released an accompanying graphic novel, but we could only do so much at the time. We wanted to release them in unison, and what we could do then wasn’t nearly the story we could do now.”
But beyond just having the freedom to expand upon the initial story, Sanchez has also enjoyed witnessing what he and his bandmates were up to musically in the mid-2000s. A full 12 years after creating Good Apollo, I'm Burning Star IV, Volume One: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, the singer, songwriter and guitarist is still impressed with the records he created in his younger years. Not only is Sanchez looking back on the time nostalgically, but it’s also been a new experience for him to hear the entire record from start to finish outside of his own head.
“Even just sitting in the studio and listening to the record front to back while we were pressing it to vinyl, it was incredible,” Sanchez says. “I’d never heard the record like that before. I was thinking about how old we were at the time, and we were in our early 20s when we put out that record. That record is pretty ambitious for a bunch of kids. There are some things happening with the arrangements on there that we don’t even consider doing now. It has so much dimension, and it reminds me of the things I was listening to back then.”
Of course, Sanchez is in a very different part of his life these days than when Good Apollo first came out. In the early days of Coheed and Cambria, the songwriter used the sci-fi concepts and storylines to make the band’s music feel less personal. With 2015’s The Color Before the Sun, Sanchez proved that he could write songs about his own life just as powerfully as the ones he’d cloaked in The Amory Wars, but going back to the first handful of records reminds him of just how terrified he was of getting too personal in his lyrics as a young man.
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“Before the band really became Coheed, I started to realize what being a frontman was all about, and it scared me,” Sanchez says. “Writing lyrics about myself intimidated me, so I started to take my life and morph it into something else just to hide what I truly felt and truly wanted to say. When Coheed became a band, I had this idea of having an ongoing arc. By the time we released Second Stage [Turbine Blade], I always thought it would end with In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3, and then we would go back and tell the story of Coheed and Cambria. When completing In Keeping, I realized there was no conclusion to the story — for that arc, sure, but not this whole thing that I created. I started thinking I could go on from there. That’s when the Good Apollos were created, Year of the Black Rainbow, and even into The Afterman. It became natural to me and more fun to write in this conceptual format.”
As far as the live shows go, Sanchez sees performing the old material as more of a fun challenge than anything strenuous. Considering the depth and levels present on Good Apollo, it’d be virtually impossible for the quartet to re-create the tracks note for note, but Coheed has always put on an amazing live rock show, and that won’t change for the Neverender tour.
“There are some songs we don’t normally perform — the last third of the album is really in that progressive rock world — so that’ll be fun,” Sanchez says. “There are some things we don’t do now that we did back then, so that’s always fun to revisit. It’s also very inspiring to revisit all of these things.”
Coheed and Cambria will be at the Observatory on Monday, April 17. Tickets cost $32.50 and are available through the Observatory’s website.