Coheed and Cambria's Claudio Sanchez talks family life, putting sci-fi songwriting on hold and more
Most of the time when Claudio Sanchez comes to St. Petersburg, it’s for longer than just one night.
“We do find ourselves down there pretty often,” said the singer-songwriter for cult prog-rock outfit Coheed and Cambria, whose wife, Chondra, grew up in Seminole. “We do holidays. Sometimes we’ll rent a small cottage on the beach somewhere around her mother’s — Treasure Island, I think one time we found ourselves, and we hung out there for a month and just relaxed. It was cool.”
Tampa Bay “feels like almost a second home,” Sanchez said — not just because of his in-laws, but because Coheed and Cambria have built up a fan base here through years of touring and playing radio festivals.
And when they return to Jannus Live on Saturday (click here for details), family will be on Sanchez’s mind.
The band’s eighth album, The Color Before the Sun, is a thematic departure for Coheed and Cambria, which rose to prominence with the surging, soaring 2003 hit A Favor House Atlantic.
Whereas their first seven albums revolved around a vast and complex comic book space opera dubbed the Amory Wars, The Color Before the Sun features Sanchez writing openly and personally about his marriage to Chondra, a respected comic book writer, and their 1-year-old son Atlas. It’s so different from the rest of Coheed’s catalog that Sanchez initially considered making it a solo album.
“It fell outside the lines of what is a normal Coheed record,” he said. “There was this struggle of, Well, this doesn’t sound like what I’m used to, so maybe it should live outside the boundaries of Coheed. But that was a contradiction to everything that I’ve always wanted for Coheed. I wanted Coheed to be this limitless creative entity that could try anything it wanted. So why should this concept be any different?”
Sanchez had been struggling with a direction for the new album. Living with Chondra in a New York apartment had forced him to tweak his songwriting process — instead of getting up and writing early in the morning, he had to wait until a reasonable hour and be conscious of his neighbors. The songs just weren’t coming like they used to.
After learning Chondra was pregnant, songs about fatherhood poured out with surprising ease.
On Ghost, he sings of trying not to let past demons mar his relationship with his son: “Here he comes / a clean slate, picture perfect, no mistakes / How am I to keep from blemishing this masterpiece?” And on Atlas, he writes of the pressure to support his family by going on the road: “When your daddy goes off, just you know / that you’re the weight of his anchor / the love that is guiding him home.”
On their face, such lyrics seem far more personal than anything Sanchez has ever written. That’s not totally true, he said.
“All of those records are very personal,” he said of his more conceptual output. “I created the idea of the concept because I was an insecure, shy frontman ... That’s why I created the facade, was to hide behind it. That would basically take the beating from criticism, whereas I would feel like my personal self would remain unharmed.”
Sanchez reassures Coheed and Cambria fans that the Amory Wars aren’t over; he’ll return to sci-fi songwriting soon enough. In the meantime, he hopes they’ll join him for this new journey — which is just as conceptual, he said, only more introspective.
“Every conceptual piece of that story, the Amory Wars, is about a relationship,” he said. “There’s always this relationship between these two people that need to find a way to endure, and this record is no different. It’s about Claudio Sanchez and Chondra Sanchez enduring a life together, pre- and post-parenthood, and trying to endure those hurdles. It’s a concept record, in a way. It’s just autobiographical.”
-- Jay Cridlin