“You Gotta Let Us Be Humans”: Cedric Bixler-Zavala on At the Drive-In’s New Album

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Would you say it’s a political record or simply a reaction to the times?
I think it’s a reaction to the times. It’s done what I’ve always done. I’ve called myself the court jester of the band. I’ll give you a bunch of fucking riddles and they’re not always going to be so immediately-in-front-of-your-face. There’s going to be a lot of word associations, there’s going to be a lot of combinations of words that will paint images that will come back to haunt you later and [you’ll] go, “Maybe he means this or maybe he doesn’t mean that.”

To this day, I still think about what an “ecto-mimed bison” could be [from The Mars Volta’s “The Haunt of Roulette Dares”].
[Laughs] I mean, I can break that down for you, but it’d be so stupid! It’s the ghost of something extinct haunting you, you know? And now that I say that, like, why didn’t I just say it that way? No, I’m not going to say it that way! I’ve had a grip of art school teachers invalidate me as a kid. If I don’t say it like I say it, it’s like coloring within the lines.

When did the band decide to write new music? You were shutting down rumors until last January’s announcement about a new tour and new music.
We just wanted to make sure that it came out right, we wanted to make sure that everyone was down to do it, and we wanted to make sure that it didn’t come off half-cocked. It takes a lot of planning to do something that you hadn’t done together in 17 years. You’re figuring out if it can be done, you’re figuring out what does the band remember that they liked, what are we trying to say, what are we trying to do, and it takes time — since 2012 actually! Some of those songs from 2012 ended up on the record. It’s a human quality that people perceive which, naively and romantically, I think that’s what people like about the band. We’re not pushing spacebars and we’re not a Las Vegas act. If we have a bad show, you’re going to see it. If we have a bad song, you’re going to fucking hear it — but you gotta let us be humans.

Read more at LA Weekly Music.

Antemasque Wrap Debut Tour With Energetic Set At The Roxy

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala performing with Antemasque
Omar Rodriguez-Lopez and Cedric Bixler-Zavala performing with Antemasque

Note: This review was originally written for another publication three weeks ago. That website never published it nor did they ever inform me as to why they didn’t publish it despite previously accepting the pitch. In the industry, we call this situation “bullshit.” So I’m publishing it here.

The concert at The Roxy in Hollywood this past Wednesday, August 13th was a homecoming and a public display of reconciliation for singer Cedric Bixler Zavala and guitarist/producer Omar Rodriguez Lopez, the founding members of Antemasque, who wrapped their debut US tour that night. The duo had been here before 14 years ago with At The Drive-In as the opening act for Rage Against The Machine.

A lot happened during that time. Zavala and Lopez left hardcore outfit At The Drive-In and formed the much more experimental The Mars Volta a year after that show. That much-loved, Grammy winning band came to a sudden end in 2013 when Zavala lashed out against Lopez on Twitter and officially ended TMV. Two lifelong friends were suddenly enemies much like Morrissey and Johnny Marr.

But then, earlier this year, the two reconciled and announced Antemasque, their new project together. They quickly released their debut self-titled album online and announced their first tour featuring Le Butcherettes as the opening act.

If anyone ever had any doubt as to the duo’s reconciliation, those doubts were put to rest the instance Antemasque stepped foot on the stage. Zavala and Lopez, flanked by drummer Dave Elitch and Lopez’s brother Marfred on bass, performed together as they have for years.

If there’s one word to describe Antemasque, that word is “freedom.” The duo have long been tied down to one genre or another for much of their careers: Hardcore Rock/Punk with ATDI, Dub with short-lived project De Facto, and Progressive Rock with TMV. As Antemasque, they’re free to do as they wish jumping from Classic Rock to Pop-Punk/Pop-Rock to Punk to Acoustic ballads.

Age has yet to slow Zavala down as he jumped, shimmied, leapt off Elitch’s drum kit, and smashed his cymbals on the floor as he’s done since his days with ATDI. Lopez joined on backup vocals a few times throughout the hour-long set where the band played all but one song from their debut album. They performed an untitled new song in its place.

Lopez, who in the past had a reputation for noodly guitar antics, kept the guitar solos to a minimum until the second-to-last song of the night, “Providence.” Halfway through the song, the band gave its Volta fans a nod with a drawn-out jam session during which Zavala ad-libbed new lyrics on the fly.

Openers Le Butcherettes set the tone for the night as singer/guitarist/keyboardist Teri Gender Bender (Teresa Suarez), drummer Lia Braswell, and tour bassist Chris Commons fired up the crowd for an hour playing a mix of tracks from their latest album, Cry Is For The Flies, and their debut, Sin Sin Sin.

Q: When is The Mars Volta NOT The Mars Volta?

A: When it’s the Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group feat. Cedric Bixler-Zavala OR when Omar says it isn’t.

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The backstory: The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group headlined the Sargent House Showcase last Saturday at SXSW at Emo’s Annex, an impromptu stage and concert area built in a small lot on the corner of 6th/Red River. Fans lined up as early as 2 p.m. for a show whose doors/gates opened at 7 p.m. Zavala appeared on stage about 10 minutes before opening time to soundcheck with ORLG. Predictably, Twitter, Facebook and many a carrier-pigeon were sent into the skies of Austin to carry the news prompting the line to stretch out like an intestine up the street and behind the “venue.” The group (Rodriguez-Lopez, Bixler-Zavala, Deantoni Parks, Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez, Juan Alderete and Lars Stalfors) took the stage at 12:50 a.m. to a capacity crowd that included fans who filled up the alley behind the stage and down the sidewalk.

Here’s a clip of the madness and the music by Refused TV:

Continue reading “Q: When is The Mars Volta NOT The Mars Volta?”

How I Came to Love the Lone Star State: SXSW 2011 in Pictures

I made my first trip to Austin, TX last week to attend the South by Southwest (SXSW) festival and though I only spent 48 sleepless hours there, I’m already making plans to return next year. Coachella, I love you and we had great times but I’m now in love with another music festival.

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I saw a lot of great bands, made some new friends, bumped into some old friends and drank some great local beers (hello 512 Porter). The only bad memory I have of the trip is of the non-existent taxi service at night. Hooray for (almost) being left stranded in Austin at four in the morning!

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Head over to my Flickr for photos of The Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group feat. Cedric Bixler-Zavala (sort of The Mars Volta but not technically The Mars Volta), Adebisi Shank, Polock (interview with Polock coming soon), Fang Island, Little Red Radio and many more.