Coheed And Cambria

In an era when “alternative” music is played by meticulously styled mall-punk pinups singing love songs so corny they’d embarrass Leif Garrett, it’s hard to imagine that a science fiction-loving band with heavy prog rock tendencies and a singer who sounds like an emotive Geddy Lee could take off with the kids.

But, somehow, Coheed and Cambria has managed to attract a growing audience of rock fans and kids in ring T-shirts to the point where it is selling out 1,500-capacity venues.

First, the legend: The underlying theme of the band and its output is a murky fantasy story centering around two other-worldly characters, Coheed and Cambria. Something happens to them, and then they do something but, beyond that, the details are sketchy.

“It was something I came up with in ’98 in Paris,” singer Claudio Sanchez told Pollstar. “I had some time to kill out there so I decided to do something a little different aside from the other band that I was in called Shabootie. The story’s getting worked on right now. Hopefully, we’re going to get it into comic book form.”

The concept began with C&C’s first album, The Second Stage Turbine Blade, and carried through with last year’s In Keeping Secrets Of Silent Earth: 3. (See? Prog!)

It’s not a recipe for immediate radio success, so the band has built a following the old fashioned way: touring as if its career depended upon it.

Late last year, C&C headed out on tour with the Thursday/Thrice co-bill, which brought welcome exposure. Since then, the band’s headline dates have easily shot past the 1,000 mark.

“The audience is definitely growing,” Sanchez said. “I don’t know what sparked it. Maybe it’s the live shows. Kids came out to see us with Thursday and Thrice, and I guess we kind of won them over.

“Really, the band heavily relies on word of mouth. For a while, we didn’t have the press that we do now. We didn’t have the video playing on TV.”

But, he said, it’s been a gradual climb.

“It wasn’t an overnight thing. We’d play supporting roles on tours and also play some one-offs on days off; kids would be coming out,” he said. “Our first headlining tour we played in venues with capacities of around 500, and those sold out super quick.

“We were kind of hesitant because at the level we were, we could do a 500-capacity show and it’d be fine, but we were definitely surprised with doing these bigger venues because we weren’t sure if we could sell them out. I don’t know. We’re doing pretty well.”

Coheed And Cambria

Coheed and Cambria’s audience is growing internationally, too. It’s hitting continental Europe for the first time near the end of May, then over to Japan for its second visit. The first trip to Japan was last year with Cave In before either of the band’s albums was released there.

Perhaps the big news, though, is C&C’s mainstage exposure on the Warped Tour this summer. Manager Blaze James (who managed the famously short-lived career of At The Drive-In) said the Warped Tour is a logical step, even though the short set times don’t allow the band to show its full potential.

“It’s hard to critique when you’re playing to 10,000 or 15,000 kids a day,” he told Pollstar. “There’s got to be some good that comes out of that. … I think we all envision Coheed being more with a big light show and all that stuff that you obviously don’t have at the Warped Tour.

“This is kind of their core fan base. It’s where all the kids are. So it makes sense to go out there now and then maybe at the end of the year do a big light show with a full set.”

James has worked with C&C since August 2002.

“I started seeing their name around on message boards and kids talking about them a lot, so I called them and talked to Claudio on the phone,” he said. “They seemed nice and, obviously with my background with At The Drive-In, they were moderately impressed by that.

“I flew up to see them in San Francisco and after about a half an hour, we were laughing and talking about all kinds of stuff for the whole night. I really liked their recorded stuff but I wasn’t completely sure until I saw them play live that night.”

They called to hire him two days later while he was boarding a plane for London. When he returned to the States a few days later, the band had broken up.

“They’d just gotten in a fight and about three days later were talking again,” James said. “It was just a little blow-up, but that was the first thing. I was like, ‘I am plagued.'”

“When I came on board, they were kind of shopping the majors at that time and I thought they weren’t ready,” he continued. “I just thought they needed more time to build a little more before they went that route. It’s a big deal to go to a major. It’s kind of scary at times and unless you have full support, it’s not a smart decision.

“So we just stayed on the road and built fan by fan by fan. It’s just been a really good learning experience for them and they’ve become a much better band too. The new album is just amazing.”