When At The Drive In released their third album, Relationship of Command in 2000, they soon found their heady brew of post-punk, hardcore and memorable riffs was the flavour of the month.
Less than a year after its release the Texan five-piece announced they were going on an ‘indefinite hiatus,’ with burn-out, artistic differences and drugs all playing their part.
Frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodríguez-López formed the prog-tinged Mars Volta while guitarist Jim Ward, bassist Paul Hinojos, and drummer Tony Hajjar formed the more straight-ahead Sparta.
But since then the band’s reputation has only grown – Relationship... has become a regular fixture on best of genre, decade and all-time lists.
Given the dramatic nature of the split, eyebrows were raised when they announced their return for a run of shows in 2012. Then earlier this year they released the new album in•ter a•li•a.
Cedric tells The Guide how things have changed this time around.
‘Coming back together wasn’t strange at all. I think everyone had had enough time away from it to fall back in love with it and feel hungry for it and it became this natural speeding train for us – probably a little fast for some, but when you‘re that excited it just comes naturally. We didn’t realise that we could be that excited about it again.
‘We tend to have group meetings all the time now, which is 10,000 times different to what it used to be a long time ago. We definitely handle any issues right away and never let them become more than anything we can handle as adults. We’re able to do stuff and be comfortable with it and do it at our own pace.’
Was there always the intention for the reunion to lead to new music?
‘There was no way you could ignore that – it was a big elephant in the room. I think the outside point of view was that we only did a small amount of shows in 2012, and that was it, but that was part of the baby-steps. We had to do that and see if it worked, and then take some more time off to see what it was that did and didn’t work, and who it worked well with, that was all part of the process. 2012, that whole run for At The Drive In was part of the process that led to the 2017 record.’
An ability to do things their own way has been key to the band this time. ‘As far as magazines and the media were concerned, everyone forgot that the band were humans, and most importantly that the band were not the next Nirvana. We had already been doing it for such a long time, and finally when our biggest wish came true it was overwhelming.
‘If I didn’t want to wake up in the morning and do press, Tony would go do it, and they’d ask him to wear an afro wig because it was going to be televised. When the world is turning around and noticing you, and that’s what they think of you, after a while you get tired of it. You walk away from it.’
So did they feel any pressure to match up to their legacy?
‘I wouldn’t put it like that,’ says Cedric. ‘The one thing we had a conversation about was, how do we honour what we were? And how do we honour what a fan would want to hear? And that’s why in•ter a•li•a sounds the way it does.’
The band is also keen to emphasise they are a going concern again – there’s a new EP, Diamante, out last Friday.
‘We’re a functioning band now, even Interalia is almost an afterthought, we’re so used to it and playing it comes naturally, when we seek out days off or potential moments when we can be working, we want to remind people we’re still in the game and it’s the natural process of we’ve got the time here – lets do some new songs.
‘It’s our way of saying: “Yeah, we get the narrative that it’s been a 17-year absence, but now even that album is an afterthought.’’ We’re just doing what comes naturally to us.’
Royal Blood with At The Drive In
Wednesday, December 29