411Mania Exclusive Interview: Joshua Eppard Of Coheed And Cambria
Coheed And Cambria have openly defied the confines of modern rock – and they could care less.
Spawning from a tight-knit group of musicians in New York, Coheed And Cambria have focused on what makes them happy. In their case, that would be classic rock influences and a love of epic storytelling.
So far, those traits have earned the band a sizeable following. Some come for the music, some to follow the story as it progresses. As a result, the band has gained momentum and actually broken into modern rock’s stifled scene with their unconventional tactics.
With the recent release of Good Apollo, I’m Burning Star IV, Vol. 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness and another manic run on the road, we recently caught up with drummer Joshua Eppard about the band’s music, the ups and downs of the constant storyline, and the band’s possible future.
Michael Melchor: So, you’re on the last leg of your current tour now…are you taking a break after the Holidays after that and going back at it next year?
Joshua Eppard: No, no. Really – and I’m not lyin’ – we get off for two days and then we go to Hawaii and do some radio stuff out there, then we do shows again until December 20 and then take 10 days off before we go to Europe.
JE: They’ve got us really super busy, but that’s what we do.
MM: Yeah, I was gonna say that’s more than I would have expected.
JE: Yeah, man. They’re fucking kicking our asses, but we try to remain positive. We knew it when we got into this and this is what we do, so everyone’s in good spirits. Plus, we get to go to Hawaii and I’ve never been. [Laughs]
MM: [Laughs] Yeah, that’s not a bad deal at all. So how did everybody get together in the band initially?
JE: Down in lower New York [state], there was a whole community of musicians in several towns; like, maybe a 100 mile radius. I met Claudio [Sanchez, Vocals/Guitar] and Mike [Todd, Bass] when I was about 12; we played in different bands with each other for years and years. Really, a lot of guys got to an age where “real life” took over and they started to get jobs and such and I think we were the four guys that wanted to do this and thought we were good enough to do it, so we kept together. We made it a record and it did all right; we made another record and it did better and now here we are.
MM: Nice. So, this goes back to childhood, then.
JE: Oh, yeah. I was actually 11 and Claudio was 13 when we met. We were in different bands but we knew we always wanted to play together. I was in a band that was on Universal [Records] for nine years and, when I did leave that band, I didn’t know if I was going to play again. I think, unless I’d gotten with these guys, I wouldn’t have. A lot of the guys we knew just stopped playing because we were getting older. We weren’t 15 anymore; we were 20, 21, and they went off to college or in the workforce or whatever. I think the four of us shared the mindset that we still wanted to do this; that we weren’t too old yet and we still had a shot. After that, I guess we got lucky. We kinda always wanted to play together and thought we would end up that way and, once the opportunity presented itself, we did.
MM: That’s really cool. So what led to the progressive style that the band does now? Is that something everyone’s always been into as far as influences?
JE: Oh, totally. We always wanted to do things that were nasty. I speak for that whole musical community here when I say we were always trying to out-do each other in the spirit of friendly competition. The competition wasn’t to try and play a 3-minute pop song; we always tried to keep our chops real wicked and make it fun for ourselves. We were into things we thought were nasty when we would write songs. We never set out to do this really long, “progressive” thing. We would just lay something down and think, “Wow, that’s nasty.” [Laughs] All four of us have always been into epic storytelling and super-dark music. It was never a conscious decision; it just went that way.
MM: Right. That’s perfect, because I was going to ask – there’s a story running through all of the albums, correct?
JE: Yeah it is. It’s based on the lyrics, so it’s tough for me to get into the exact story. We always thought it was cool, though, to have another gear to our music; something the fans could dive into and get out of it, and it’s taken on a life of its own. I don’t think any of us – including Claudio – imagined it would be so overpowering. In the first year we were together, no one in the media talked about the band. It would kind of make us mad that everyone would just ask about the story. Much to our surprise, everyone would be into that and we’d think, “Don’t you want to talk about the music at all?” [Laughs] But, yeah, we’ve done the second, third, and half of the fourth part. We’ll do the second half of part four and then go back and do part one. It makes it kind of interesting, because I don’t know what’s going to happen after that. That’s at least four years down the road yet, so I guess we got time. I think it might be cool to just stop and maybe come back a couple years after that; I don’t know.
MM: So, do you plan on still going on once the story’s finished?
JE: I don’t know, and that’s what makes it kind of cool. Nobody really knows what’s going to happen. It’s so many years down the road, though, that we’re just at the point of, “Let’s just finish this fucking story!” [Laughs]
JE: I mean, we’ll be touring on this record for a year and a half. Another one after that will take us out for a long time also. I mean, I don’t know what’s going to happen after all that, and it’s kinda cool. Maybe we’ll do another story, maybe we’ll just make a record. No one’s really sure. We don’t really talk about it too much; we just focus on what we do and how cool it is that this story has given us some longevity. Even if our popularity totally falls off, we have a core audience now based around the story and they’re gonna want to hear the end of the story, so we’ll always have an audience to listen to the art that we make, so that seems pretty cool. It’s just cool that we have this opportunity to become an enigma and just stop after that. Or maybe come back and do something else. Who the hell knows what’s going to happen?
MM: Excellent. Puts a whole new spin on a career. Now, as far as the music itself and the competition you talked about, where do those influences come from? What was everybody into?
JE: Really, a lot of the local guys we played with back then. Aside from that, there’s always the bread-and-butter of music that everybody draws from – Led Zeppelin, The Police, Pink Floyd. I can hear those influences rearing their heads more and more from all four of us the deeper we get into these records. It’s almost a ballsy move to nod your head to those bands, I think, because it’s not like that’s really cool right now. All those guys were into as well as the local guys that we played with and were around us every day. There were some really great players from where we came from.
MM: Yeah. I’m glad [Good Apollo...] is doing well; this is the first one I’ve really heard, and now I’m ready to go back and pick up the rest of them because this is a style I’ve always enjoyed.
JE: Thank you, man. Yeah, me too; I think, deep down, we’re all pretending we’re our fathers. [Laughs] Most of our dads – mine, Claudio’s, and Travis [Stever, Guitar/Vocals]‘s dads are all musicians. They’re still out there – still livin’ the life, still playing the music. It’s what they do for a living, so we kinda pretend we’re our dads and we play a lot of the things that are more old-school and classic rock.
MM: Nice. Very cool. Well, I’ll go ahead and let you get back to what you were doing there. I want to thank you for taking the time out to call today.
JE: Sure – and thank you. I wish they were all that painless.
JE: Oh, you’d be surprised at some of the questions we get! I hear some of this and think, “Are you fucking kidding me?” I almost want to hang up on them sometimes because I don’t know what to say!
MM: [Laughs] Why, what kind of stuff have you heard?
JE: Well, we’ve done these ‘zine interviews where it’s these really young kids, and they ask us the craziest questions that make us feel so weird sometimes. Like, we’ve been asked if we were in a sardine can – only, instead of sardines, it was people – who would we want to be stuck in there with. And it’s like, “What the fuck?“
MM: [Laughs] What kind of shit? Are you serious?
JE: Yeah! So, that was a quick and painless interview and I appreciate your time for that! [Laughs]