UTG INTERVIEW: Coheed And Cambria talk ‘The Color Before The Sun,’ ‘Star Wars’ spoilers, and more

Coheed feature

We recently had the pleasure to chat with Coheed And Cambria bassist Zach “Super Duper” Cooper about the band’s current tour supporting their excellent new LP, The Color Before The Sun, as well as the writing process for the record, how Zach joined the band, Star Wars, and more.

Be sure to catch Coheed on the road now with Glassjaw, I, The Mighty, and Silver Snakes. You can find tickets here.

UTG: How did the Eurepean dates for the Color Before The Sun shows go?

Zach: The shows were amazing, they were awesome. I think everyone had the same feeling that these were the best shows in Europe we have ever done.

Yeah, you guys had played some one-off dates since the release of The Color Before The Sun but these were the first dates supporting it specifically?

ZC: Yeah, we did a small run in the States. When the record came out we were on tour. The day the record came out we were actually on tour.

Playing these new songs live, do you feel like the crowd has been favoring any specifically?

ZC: Yeah, the crowd has been reacting overwhelmingly positively to all the new stuff, but “Island” and “You Got Spirit, Kid” are the big crowd favorites usually. We’ve been starting the set with “Island,” and there has been a nice big reaction to that, and when we start “You Got Spirit Kid” we get a big reaction – it’s great.

I think the nature of the new record is more groove-oriented; very fun and poppy. I think it would translate really well to a live show with Coheed’s deep roster.

ZC: Oh, absolutely.

Do you have a favorite you have been playing live?

ZC: I think my favorite is “Island.”

That’s such a great way to start the record, I think it introduces what Color is trying to do very well.

ZC: That’s awesome, man. I totally agree with you actually. I think it really sets the tone for the record – what it is, the sound, the approach, and what it’s going for.

Recording these new songs live, did that have a different approach to how you brought bass to the songs, or bring different gear even?

ZC: Not too much actually, to be honest.Recording it that way, the whole approach for me was simplified more. Actually, it did change it. The way I approached it, I used the same amp that I use live, and I brought two basses. A lot of the times when you do a record in the studio- well, my experience for The Afterman, we were using totally different bass rigs on every song, just trying to capture different cool sounds every track. But tracking it live, I just literally plugged in, just got good sound and off we went. I pretty much didn’t touch it the whole time we did the record. The only thing that changed was Jay, the producer, said, “Hey, let’s do a different DI, or maybe change the placement of the mic.” But it didn’t change much for me.

That must have been a huge change in duality for you, considering Afterman is such a big record, a huge undertaking. Going from a huge produced piece like that to The Color Before The Sun.

ZC: Absolutely. The whole thing was different start to finish. Especially for me, coming into The Afterman, auditioning in the studio, then jumping right into tracking stuff. The whole process was totally different. It made it a lot of fun; we all had a really good time. The Color Before The Sun is just a really fun, kind of different vibe.

As a longtime listener it definitely feels more fun, but you still have the big songs like “Atlas” or “The Audience” along with “Island,” “You Got Spirit, Kid,” and “Eraser” – just really fun, pop-rock songs.

ZC: Yeah, that’s awesome, man.

Because this record wasn’t followed with any Amory Wars narrative, did that change any of the writing and recording at all?

ZC: I approached it the way I would approach anything else. I think it changed for Claud, for sure, writing strictly autobiographical lyrics, and obviously it affected the overall sound of the songs, too. But I approached this just about the same I approached anything. Try to support the songs, trying to add some melodic counterpoint every now and again.

I think a lot of the songs on The Color Before The Sun have a lot more room, specifically “Here To Mars” – you are just totally ripping on bass, and I feel like the nature of the songs just give more room to breathe, not being as urgent sounding.

ZC: There was so much room to do all these different things and that made it a lot of fun. Before we went in to track the record, we spent two weeks in Claud’s basement just jamming on the songs, coming up with stuff, flushing out arrangements. That also lent to the fact that you have time to sit in songs a little bit, find ways through, and really find ways to explore all these nooks and crannies. “Here To Mars” was super fun because it was like Josh and I hooking up with rhythmic stuff, and like you said, so much room.

For The Color Before The Sun tour you have support from I, The Mighty and Glassjaw. You had Glassjaw out on the European dates also, right?

ZC: Yeah, back in October we did one show with them in Jersey, the Asbury Park summer stage, which was incredible. Then we did the three shows in the UK with them, which was also incredible. I think everybody—all of us—are such huge fans of theirs that it’s really exciting to go out and watch them play every night, and I’m excited to do that for the next month or so.

I think there is a lot of overlap with the fans, a lot of our fans are into them and vice versa.

Worship And Tribute came out around Second Stage Turbine Blade when I was like 11 or 12, getting really into my own taste in music.

ZC: I had the same thing, discovering both bands around the same time and getting into them.

Yeah, you were a big fan of Coheed before joining, right?

ZC: Yeah, absolutely – they were like hometown heroes, even though I am not from the same hometown. I grew up in Orange County. They used to come up and play shows basically where I grew up. All my friends were into them and turned me onto them.

How did the chance for you to play bass come about? Were they holding auditions in the area?

ZC: Yeah, it was weird. When they started recording Afterman they were doing it up at Applehead in Woodstock. And I was in a band who had done some tracks there as well. Chris, the engineer, took my info and asked if he could call me for sessions, and I said,”Absolutely. no problem.” It was like a year later, and Coheed hadn’t solidified a bassist. Chris threw my name into the mix and I got a call, so I went up and auditioned, and here I am.

Must have been kind of nerve-wracking coming into something like The Afterman.

ZC: It was super nerve-wracking, mainly because of like half of the process of making the record I didn’t know if I was in the band. I literally went in, I’ll never forget—it was like a Tuesday morning or something—they pulled up “Two’s My Favorite One” and “Domino The Destitute,” and I got like a minute snippet of each—just scratch guitar and a little bit of vocals. I just had to plug in and play to everybody in the control room. I had to come up with things and make it cool. So I do that, and the next day, Blaze, the band’s manager, called me and said they liked what I did, and asked if I could come in [the next day] and track bass. Still auditioning, I went in and tracked “Two’s My Favorite One” and “Domino The Destitute,” and what I did two days before was what is on the record. It’s crazy. It was the same thing: “Hey, could you come back next week and do this?” It just evolved from going to the studio once or twice a week, to being there every day. Yeah, it was a crazy process.

Your audition is the album, almost.

ZC: Yeah, that album is my audition almost. Half the songs I tracked having never even heard them before. I just went into the studio, listened to them one or two times and hit record.

For the older material, have you written new stuff to fit your play-style more, or do you generally just go with what they had before?

ZC: You know, it’s tough – Mic is a fantastic bass player and has his own approach, and obviously everybody plays differently and you can’t mimic someone’s play-style. For me, I start by trying to find what is the line and what is a fill and a try to distill it down to my own approach, and I do try to play it as faithfully as I can.

Unrelated, but have you guys seen the new Star Wars?

ZC: Oh, yeah. Everybody has seen it multiple times. When we were in Europe I think some of the guys saw it, in Belgium maybe, for their fourth of fifth time. I really enjoyed it. There is a always a lot of Star Wars discussion on the bus. A lot of Star Wars nerdery on the bus. A lot of theories thrown around.

Like who are Rey’s parents?

ZC: Yeah, that’s the big discussion.

I’m pretty partial to the Obi-Wan’s granddaughter theory.

ZC: Some of the guys feel really strongly about it. Some feel like maybe she’s Luke’s daughter. It’s funny, before The Force Awakens came out, Claud nailed the Han Solo / Kylo Ren theory; he nailed it.

What’s your preferred theory?

ZC: I don’t have a preferred theory, but I lean towards maybe some relation to Luke. That’s kind of where I lean, but I have no idea and I am looking forward to finding out.

To end, what have you been listening to lately?

ZC: I’m a big fan of the new Baroness record, Purple. My daughter is a big fan of the new Adele record, so by default I have been listening to that a ton.

That’s not the worst thing to have your kid be into.

ZC: No, actually. You know, it’s a great record. I like it, but she’s obsessed with it, so I have to listen to it every day.

Anything else you wanted to add about the current tour?

ZC: I am super excited for this tour. Really excited to get out on the road, play more songs off the record. Playing a lot of older songs that we haven’t played in a long time. I am excited to be playing with Glassjaw, I, The Mighty, and Silver Snakes. I am excited to go back and play a lot of cities, and be in those cities.

Remaining tour dates with Glassjaw:

Mar 07 – The Ritz – Raleigh, NC
Mar 08 – The Fillmore Charlotte – Charlotte, NC
Mar 10 – The Fillmore – Miami Beach, FL
Mar 11 – Hard Rock Live – Orlando, FL
Mar 12 – Jannus Live – Saint Petersburg, FL
Mar 14 – Tabernacle – Atlanta, GA
Mar 15 – Marathon Music Works – Nashville, TN
Mar 17 – Revention Music Center – Houston, TX
Mar 19 – South Side Ballroom – Dallas, TX
Mar 21 – The Marquee – Tempe, AZ
Mar 22 – Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA
Mar 23 – The Masonic – San Francisco, CA
Mar 25 – Brooklyn Bowl – Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV
Mar 26 – The Complex – Salt Lake City, UT
Mar 27 – Fillmore Auditorium – Denver, CO

Drew Caruso

Drew Caruso is a Bostonian who, when not writing about music and film, spends his time getting lost in New England, reading books, talking about science whether people want to listen or not, and more. To see the thoughts of a scientist by day and a writer by night, follow him on Twitter.
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