Coheed and Cambria release their new studio album this month. In the lead-up, skinsman Josh Eppard talked to us about his love for Deftones, what it was like recording the band’s first non-concept album and most importantly, gave us a crash course on gardening.
Hey Josh, what have you been up to?
This past week has been just getting ready for tour. It’s always a prcess when you have a wife and kids and all. We know it’s coming, so [just] tying up some loose ends. For me personally, I do a lot of work in my yard. Why? I’m not really sure. I’ll leave for a month and come back and see that it’s all gone to hell, but maybe it helps to find my zen. I don’t know, I like to work in the backyard and rehearse the tunes on my own before we all get together and rehearse the tunes with the band. So yeah, that’s been me this past week.
What kind of stuff do you do in your yard?
Oh man, well let me tell you. When I moved into this place, there was maybe, and I kid you not, about ten feet of weeds. All the weeds had grown for years, no one had ever cared for it. The yard was just a jungle of all kinds of crazy stuff. So first what I did was I went back there and cut down all the weeds, and then we realised that we had this enourmous backyard. So then, I made a woodpile fence, chopped all the wood myself, chopped down two trees, built two different fire pits, a stone walkway, a stone patio that I put in myself – all this stuff was DIY- a professional would come in and tell me it looks like shit, but I think that it looks great! We like to go out and make a fire in the fire pit at around 10 or 11 at night when it cools off a bit, and look up at the stars. There are all kinds of birds, we’ve got Christmas lights on the trees…it’s my version of Return of the Jedi back here. It’s pretty cool. I never thought I would be into something like that. Never before as a young man did I think that I would be into that stuff, but you get a little bit older and you find things, like new kind of hobbies. I’m into it, I like to cook, I’m really into fire places and chimneys and how they work, it’s just wild for me. I was never into that kind of stuff before, but it just speaks to me. Something about it just excites me nowdays.
In a sense, is it like a really good release when you come off a tour?
Yeah, man! You hit the nail on the head. It’s a nice kind of thing that is all my own. I come out here and I think of something that I need to do, I look up how to do it and I find different professionals that can do it and watch what they do. It’s really a satisfying feeling when I come in the house and look out the window, which is what I’m doing right now, and it looks pretty damn good! Sometimes I can’t believe that I did it myself. I think it’s just something that is all your own, it’s just you out there. And it’s fun! You go outside and you get some sun. It’s good for you. You’re sweating and getting some exercise in. As far as it speaking to me because of the pressures of the road, I don’t know. The next thing I’m going to do is have a big garden back here. I’m gonna have it fenced off and raised up off the ground. I’ve been reading up on it, and I would love for my wife to be as into it as I am, because then maybe when I get home from tour, it would be kept up a little bit. We’ll see. Everyone needs a hobby. Everyone has their professional life, and if you’re lucky you love that. But then you have to have other little things that don’t come with the seriousness of your job. So you can go ‘This is just fun’. If there are days that I don’t feel like doing it, well then I don’t have to. I never have those days, but if I did, I could choose to go inside and nobody is going to yell at me about it. It’s on my own time and it’s just something that I really enjoy!
When you started out being a professional musician and playing full time, did you always have something like that you could do? Or did it develop?
Definitely [it was] something that developed as I got older. Let’s just say that the things I did to relieve stress as a young man, if I continued to do them I would either be dead or in jail. I had to find something that was a little bit more healthy than drugs and alcohol. As a young man, I don’t think I really thought. I was just a young dumb kid doing what young dumb kids do. But as I’ve grown older, I’m just more interested in things. As a young man I was just like, “Oh whatever man, gardening!” You know, a young punk and stupid kid. Whereas now I just get interested in things more. I wish I could go back to school, because now history just really interests me. I tell some of my friends in bands that are young and in their early twenties to tap into that, because I enjoy the way my brain works now more than ever before.
How do you guys balancing family life with touring?
I think it’s a lot of take it as it comes. The management and booking agents know, “Well hey, these guys aren’t going out on the road seven months in a row.” But if the opportunity comes that’s the thing. Going back to what I said about enjoying the way I function now, I also love touring now more than ever before. Which makes absolutely no sense, because now I have a wife and kids. All that stuff that makes touring really hard. But just like I’ve learned to love myself and the way that I operate, I’ve learned to really love being on the road. As far as any rules, we don’t have any strict rules. I would imagine that if the opportunity presented itself for us to be out touring for seven months straight, then that would mean that things were going really well for the band. That people were really enjoying the record that we made. As far as balancing family and touring, that’s different for everybody. Claudio and Travis have brand new babies at home. It’s gotta be rough on them. But they’re with their brothers out on the road. You know, we are all best friends and have known each other for so long that I think just having the people around you be aware that, “Hey it must be tough to leave your babies at home”- that helps those guys. I think that at every opportunity they will fly their wives out, but that’s not all the time because both of their wives have lives of their own. Every family is different man, every family finds a way to make it work. You have to find a way to make it work because this is what we do. Shit sometimes it can be tough!
What does your family do to make it work?
Pretty much stay in touch this whole last week. The week before I leave, they all know I’m leaving so I kind of get to pick what we do for dinner. Tonight it started raining a bit here in New York so we might have to do it tomorrow, but we like to have nice fires outside and sit around. Since I’m leaving we took a family trip today. We just spend a lot of time together. Every time it’s different. We just make sure we get in that extra little bit of time, but nothing’s going to make you not miss your family. Ultimately, in a week and a half I’m gonna miss my wife, my wife’s going to miss me and I’m going to miss the hell out of my step daughter and hopefully she’s gonna miss me. She’s getting a little too cool for school now, a little grown up so she’s a bit cool for old Josh (laughs). We just spend extra time together. That’s really the nutshell of what we do. It’s part of the process. I don’t know how I’d feel if I didn’t get that last couple of days or so at home. I’m making dinner right now for the girls, so they’re on their way home, we are going to do tacos and then sit outside and have a fire and roast marshmellows.
What’s on the tour schedule for the band for the rest of the year? I noticed that you are doing some dates around the states and in Europe as well. Where else are you going?
We are just all over the place. As far as specifically for the rest of the year, I don’t know what I’m allowed to say and what I’m not allowed to say, but I know after we are all over the place with these festivals and stuff, the plan is to hit some pretty big tours leading in to the winter. We are going to be busy, so there is a lot on the horizon and a lot coming up.
Do you guys prefer festivals or headliners? What’s the difference?
There’s a big difference man. I think it’s fair to say that historically, Coheed at festivals, sometimes you get a real mixed bag. We are a real weird band. Sometimes you get people who are swilling beer and vodka watching us play songs in 6/8 with a bar of 4/4 at the end of a phrase and they can’t figure out whether or not to bop their head to it. Festivals can be a mixed bag for us. We’ve been lucky to play some really awesome festivals recently. We played Rock in Rio with Deftones, Linkin Park and Metallica. That was awesome. [However] if you’re asking what I prefer, I prefer a Coheed headlining show over a festival. But some of the festivals have been some of my favourite gigs, and some of them sucked. What are you gonna do man, that’s just life. Hopefully these shows coming will kick ass.
When you are at those festivals do you try and catch bands from the side of stage, or do you try and give yourself a break?
Oh, for sure! When you are there it’s hard to not get caught up in the excitement. We are also fans, so we are all excited trying to get as close to the Metallica stage as we can get. I got to watch Deftones from side of stage and I will never forget that. I was like, “Holy Shit!” I’m a huge Deaftones fan along with everybody else in the band, so watching their set from side of stage was a bit of a pinch yourself moment. I’ve been a fan of that band since I was a kid. And plus, they just just fucking killed it. Oh my God. They just destroyed it, they where so good man. Here we are before they go onstage, and they were all laughing together going, ‘Yeah, we havn’t really rehearsed enough!” Then they get up there and just absolutely murder it. What a great band! I was inspired. Not a day goes by where I don’t think about watching that Deftones set from side of stage. I hate to sound corny but I was really inspired by it, and I can’t wait to get out there and play again. Just from watching their drummer [Abe Cunnigham] play. The energy and the way he was hitting the drums. The second I got behind the kit, I was playing Deftones tunes and he is one of my favourite drummers. We always try to check out what we can. Sometimes it can be tough, but you just have to make extra time and not forget that you are a fan of music too.
When you are on that circuit, do the drummers of bands hang out much and give each other tips and lessons? There’s no competiveness or anything?
I mean, I think at this level it’s pretty well understood. Nobody is coming out like, ‘Oh this is my first show!’ We are all professionals and I think there is a real camaraderie. If there is any kind of competition or competiveness, I think that it’s healthy. But at this level you get a sense that every drummer is different, and there is not a drummer playing at this level that you can’t learn something from. No matter what you think of their band or them personally, there isn’t anyone you can’t learn off. That’s what I am, I’m trying to learn everyday. I don’t think that was true when I was a young man. You get a little bit older and you get a taste of being in your thirties and go, ‘Man, if I’m done learning, why the hell would I even want to play anymore?!’ That’s the most fun part about doing this. To watch other players and be inspired. But I’ve certainly felt more of a camaraderie than a hard nosed competiveness. What is better? Most bands we play with have been around long enough to realise that there is different styles. This guy might be faster, but can he put down a groove? I think that everybody has their strength and weaknesses. But one of the best parts of being in a band and touring is that it’s such a unique lifestyle, and the only other people that understand it are the people that do it. Through that you make friends and brothers because sometimes it can be really tough. We have the greatest jobs in the world and everybody in the band is thankful for that every day and you have to lean on each other. There is a real kinship that comes with being a band.
With the new record, it’s the first non-concept record that Coheed has done. Did that change the way it was written, and did it feel really strange that it was wasn’t relating back to the Amory Wars?
I’m sure for Claudio that it did change things. I think the fact that it’s not a concept record was born from these being really deeply personal songs. I think that it was too personal for Claudio to make up a story that could exist in that story. To me it’s about the music first and foremost. When we make a record, I’m not thinking about the story or what the story line is going to be, because usually it’s being crafted as we are making the record. The band’s not really going to be privy to all that information, and it’s constantly changing and evolving anyway. It didn’t change it for me, but I think it’s fair to say for Claudio that this was something so close to him as a man, and as a person, that in a sense he didn’t want to water it down by having a side lane story that coincides with it. I was excited about that. I thought it was a bold and brave move, when you’re known to do something, to kind of flip a total 180 and go the other way. That’s what Coheed is all about.
‘The Color Before The Sun’ is out October 16 via 300 Entertainment. Read our album review here.