The Color Before the Sun, the latest album from proggy, poppy post-hardcore outfit Coheed and Cambria, marks the first time one of the group’s records has broken from telling the story of the Amory Wars, the ongoing science-fiction saga penned by frontman Claudio Sanchez from which the quartet derives its name. While it wouldn’t quite be fair to say that this is the first time Sanchez has gotten personal — indeed, he has always been adept at working the details of his own life and relationships into his characters — it’s at least the first time he’s done so without fictional trappings to hide behind.
If that would seem like a scary prospect, for Sanchez, after 15 years of writing to a storyline, the lack of strictures was both liberating and a little unmooring. “I knew I could be honest,” he says. “These songs were kind of driven straight to the point as opposed to getting really out there and conceptual. So in that way, it was easier. But for the same time, difficult, because I didn’t see it for a good portion of the time as a Coheed album. I started having this confusion of identity: Who was I on this record? Was it a Coheed record? Was it a Claudio album? I didn’t know.”
It took a major life event for Sanchez to reconcile the album’s place in the Coheed and Cambria universe — the birth of his first son. “When Atlas was born, I focused in and realized, why should this be any different? Why should the concept be any different when it comes to Coheed? We try to be so open-minded with the music we approach and the bands we tour with; why can’t there be a Coheed album without the concept?”
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Beyond just album directions, becoming a father has realigned Sanchez’s thinking about all aspects of his career. He says that Coheed and Cambria is becoming more selective with its touring (which brings the band to the Fillmore Miami Beach on Thursday, March 10), opting for less extended time away from home. Still, there’s no easy way to resolve the tensions of wanting to be present in his son’s life versus wanting to provide for him, which necessitates his absence.
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“We’re sort of lucky in that way that we have Facetime and I can somewhat be present,” he notes with clear ambivalence. “It’s still hard, but it could be worse, I guess.” Sanchez recognizes that the band’s success has afforded him the opportunity to bring his wife and son on the road with him for stretches. “But I don’t want him to be out here for these extended periods of time,” he counters. “I just don’t know, because I’m so new at this — what is the right thing? It’s a confusing, perplexing moment in my life.”
Sanchez has already begun writing for The Color Before the Sun’s follow-up, which will resume telling the tale of the Amory Wars. But as far as he’s concerned, now that a beachhead has been established, that other territory will always be open for exploration. “I think Coheed and Cambria is all-encompassing now," he says. “It can do whatever it wants.”
Not that it hasn’t before too. In many ways, the band is just doing what it’s always done — even when cast in fantastical, alien worlds, Sanchez’s songs have always focused on his characters’ humanity. “At the end of the day, a lot of these songs” — both those cast in a sci-fi tinge as well as those more clearly about his own life — “are about a man and a woman and the things they endure together. Ultimately, I think I’ll always write these songs about relationships.”
Coheed and Cambria, with Glassjaw, Silver Snakes and I the Mighty. 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10, at the Fillmore Miami Beach at Jackie Gleason Theater, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets starting at $25 to $40 plus fees via livenation.com.