When bands break up, it’s usually with a shout, a big announcement, or a farewell note. But when bands enter the shady and undefined realm of the “indefinite hiatus,” they usually do so with a nothing more than a quiet murmur. In a recent interview with CityArtsOnline, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, the guitarist of The Mars Volta and former member of seminal post-hardcore outfit At The Drive-In, responded to a question regarding The Mars Volta’s hiatus with the type of uncertain language characteristic of bands who have entered the liminal space of their lifespans. When asked about the current status of the band, Rodriguez-Lopez responded:
There’s a pantheon of music constructed of staccato guitars, thrashing drums, and searching, volatile vocals. Some call it emo, some call it pop-punk, some call it alternative. The name itself isn’t important. What matters is the legion of fans who flock to festivals like Warped Tour, snatch up records put out by Fueled By Ramen, and pour their love into every note, every word uttered. Band like At The Drive In, Taking Back Sunday, Motion City Soundtrack and countless others have supplied this demand over the course of two decades. You can add the name All About A Bubble to the list. The Tulsa, Okla. group delivers frenetic, precise rockers like West Coast, with its chugging guitars and monster melody. Impossible to Fade begins with singer Dustin Storm’s innervated croon before kicking into a coursing power ballad. The calm after the storm comes from Paper Planes, a mostly acoustic heartbreaker moved along by”you guessed it”big guitars and drums. Welcome to the pantheon, guys.
The reveal of the Coachella music festival lineup rocked the Internet early last week. As has been the case in years past, a few narratives have emerged from the announcement; which indie darlings would be in attendance, the bands (and this year, DJs) representing whatever flavor of the moment genre that was blowing up the year prior, the handful of rappers mixed in with all of the rockers and, of course, the band reunions. Last year saw the return of noise pop rockers Death From Above 1979, 2010 had the likes of Faith No More and Pavement taking the stage and other heavies like Rage Against The Machine and The Pixies have also come together at the Indio, CA based music festival.
But this year’s big reunions had something special in store for punk fans. The first hints that something special was afoot came from the Twitter of post-hardcore four piece At The Drive-In. On January 9th, the group tweeted that they would be “will be breaking their eleven year silence” and visitors to the group’s band page were greeted with the same message before the Coachella announcement confirmed ATDI’s reunion.
This news might be enough for most post-hardcore enthuiasts, but there was one more bit of news featured prominently in Coachella’s lineup that didn’t receive the same social media fanfare. Sandwiched between the likes of Swedish House Mafia, Arctic Monkeys and fellow reunitees Pulp were none other than ’90s hardcore outfit Refused. The incendiary group broke up right after the release of their seminal album The Shape of Punk to Come and have remained inactive as a group until now.
While word of these two reunions is not completely unheralded, Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Bixler-Zavala, both members of At The Drive-In and prog outfit The Mars Volta, have been hinting at a possible reunion since 2009 and Refused reunion rumors have been swirling since the deluxe reissue of The Shape of Punk to Come in March of 2010. However, to have both reunions announced on the same day was enough to make the punk blogosphere explode.
So, yeah, even though punk is dead it doesn’t change that it is having a big moment in early 2012. Bands like The Promise Ring, Gatsby’s American Dream, The Receiving End of Sirens and Cursive are either preparing for releases, touring or hinting at some combination of the two for 2012.
Very little is known about what ATDI and Refused have in store after Coachella. American tour dates haven’t been established (though if you’re itching to see Refused and you’re in Belgium or Germany, then you’re in luck) and future releases (if there will be any from either group) haven’t been announced yet. All that is know for now is that At The Drive-In’s station is now operational and that Refused aren’t dead anymore.
It’s hard to believe it all started with a ’90s post-hardcore band. Admittedly, At The Drive-In was one of the weirder exponents of that style, but still, even given the relative eccentricity of the El Paso band’s output, it would have been pretty damn tough to prognosticate what would come in their wake simply by analyzing their discography. Of course, as any halfway-serious follower of either band knows, At The Drive-In gave birth to The Mars Volta around the turn of the century, as ATDI’s singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala and guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez defected to follow their own quirky vision.
Soon, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez were turning heads with their new band, blasting out an in-your-face amalgam of progressive rock, fusion and hard rock that would eventually earn them a GRAMMY and a Gold record. Since then, the tireless Rodriguez-Lopez has also unleashed a whirlwind of extracurricular projects that would make even Robert Pollard seem unproductive, including a sideline as a ridiculously prolific solo artist. But there’s a Mars Volta offshoot that boasts one MV member and at least two Rodriguez-Lopezes but does not contain Omar. Confused? It’ll all become clear as we dig into the details of the Zechs Marquise story.
Zechs Marquise was formed in 2003, releasing a live recording in ’06 and their first studio album three years later. Their latest, Getting Paid, is a bold sonic statement from a band that includes Mars Volta percussionist/keyboardist Marcel Rodriguez-Lopez and bassist Manfred Rodriguez-Lopez, both Omar’s brothers. Since the making of the album, yet another sibling, keyboardist Rikardo, has apparently come on board as well. It will probably not come as a huge shock to anyone that Getting Paid inhabits a similar stylistic universe to that of the “big brother” band, and in turn, Omar’s solo work.