Travis Stever of Coheed and Cambria Talks Davenport Cabinet
Tue, 05 Feb 2013 12:49:56
Coheed and Cambria Photos
Davenport Cabinet Videos
"It's like a window into my world," Travis Stever says of his new Davenport Cabinet album, Our Machine. "You look right into it through the music."
The Coheed and Cambria guitarist opens up a new chamber altogether with Our Machine, and it's as alive as anything he's put out to date. The album, which he wrote and recorded with band mate and cousin Tyler Klose, delicately fuses moments of elegant folk with impressively dark heaviness. There are few mind-bending solos, but the real star remains the lyrics. Davenport Cabinet examine life, addiction, love, loneliness, and heartbreak through a looking glass of their own design. As a result, Stever and Klose create one of the year's best albums.
In this exclusive interview, Travis Stever discusses Our Machine and more.
Did you approach Our Machine with one vibe or vision in mind?
Not particularly, I actually removed quite a few songs. Two of the songs on the iTunes deluxe edition were originally supposed to be on the standard, but I just didn't think they fit. In the end, I guess I approached it wanting it to be something that flowed the way it did. For the songs we did record, Tyler and I agreed we wanted to include the best. There were a couple of tracks where he went, "Why do you want to cut that song?" I don't know. I'd been making songs for this over the past four years. Tyler came in and started working with me. I did a split with Kevin who works with Coheed and Cambria. He has a band called One Small Step for Landmines. Tyler sang on one of the songs. We had been working on music for a while. I hadn't yet decided that we should do this together though. Then, it just happened. I was like, "You know what? I'm really enjoying working with you." That's how I am anyway. I love collaborating and working with people. Tyler came into the fold at that point. There are songs that I've been working on for years and they didn't quite fit anymore. In order to get the album's final flow, I did think about it quite a bit.
What were some of the themes and ideas you wanted to write about lyrically?
Some things are pretty obvious. To be completely honest, "Deterioration Road" is about my experience with people who have substance abuse problems. It definitely deals with that. It came after a time where I was pretty upset. I wrote that two years ago, and I started writing it pretty much right after the shit hit the fan. "Drown It All" comes across pretty obviously for me and even my cousin. It's about drinking. Sometimes, I love to tear it up. A lot of times, that's gotten me in trouble. It deals with the reasoning that goes on in your mind—why you think you deserve to get all loaded up and be an asshole. It's like a message to my wife saying, "Sorry that I do this." They aren't all downers like that though. There are songs questioning religion like "New Savior." I'm trying to think of one without such a depressing theme [Laughs]. The first verse of "Our Machine" is about Claudio and I, Coheed, and the things we've been through. The second verse is about my wife and I. The world is not too small for us. Things are good. We're moving along and keeping shit together. The last part of the song basically says, "The world is too small for the rest of the shit that goes on." It's different from what I do in Coheed. When Claudio writes lyrics, they come from a very personal place, but they have the concept surrounding them. A lot of these songs are heart-on-the-sleeve kinds of songs. That's just the way I am. What you hear is exactly what I'm talking about.
The guitar playing on "These Bodies" stands out. As a player, you continue to evolve.
That's one of the reasons I started messing with this project in the first place. I'm the most proud of the bass line on that one and all of the guitars. I love that song. I'm glad you mentioned it. My wife hates it [Laughs]. I'm like, "Why?" There was a second where I was questioning putting it on the album. I liked it enough to include it. Thematically, that song's a bummer too. It's about a soldier who catches his wife banging someone and kills him. It seemed like something interesting to write about. This project is an excuse to play all different instruments too. It's like therapy. In Coheed, it's the same thing. When I come from tour or recording, I always think, "Well, I've got to be done now. I'm not going to want to do anything else. I've been doing this for six weeks straight. I'm going to go home and chill." That's not the way it goes though! I come home and I still want to work on shit. Even the other day, I turned to my wife and I was like, "We're having great rehearsals with Coheed for the tour. I'm going to keep working on those songs. I'm comfortable with them. We're putting together an elaborate set. I think I'm going to chill." Then, two hours later, she walks upstairs and I've got my guitar in hand in front of the computer like, "I just want to get this idea down!" [Laughs] She said, "Jesus Christ." I can't help it! It's a beautiful thing to be honest. If it was any different, I'd be worried. There have been times where I didn't pick up a guitar for a couple weeks, and it was concerning.
Is Davenport Cabinet the best way for people to get to know you as an artist creatively and personally?
I do honestly. Within Coheed, I get to speak my own way with guitar and be a part of this whole grand world which is incredible. For me personally, I couldn't be more proud to be a part of the vision Claudio has. When he comes home and he records a bunch of Prizefighter, there's something that goes out the window with being able to do that stuff on your own, not worry about where it goes, and experiment. That's what Davenport is for me. I wouldn't have had Tyler join up and collaborate if it wasn't such an easy transition. It is really personal. Tyler was the closest to having a brother growing up. He's been around for everything and he can throw in his world. He sings the first verse "Simple Worlds", my cousin Laura sings the second, and we all harmonize on the chorus. We wrote the lyrics together as we did with "Drown It All." It was such a simple transition. I'd throw a line at him, and he'd have another line. I'd be like, "That's exactly what I'm trying to talk about!" It's amazing to release this three-year therapy session I've been doing. All of the demons are coming out [Laughs].
Where did "At Sea" come from?
Now that I'm starting to explain things to you, I'm realizing that I write songs about a lot of bummers [Laughs]. I was very close to my stepbrother Steve. He passed away of an overdose when I was 21 and he was 22. "At Sea" is about him because he loved the ocean.
What's your favorite song on the album at the moment?
"Drown It All" is my favorite right now. My cousin and I are harmonizing on every word. It's the most intimate. It's about the human condition of wanting to release and empty your mind. Everybody has his or her thing. It could be collecting sneakers. If you do it overbearingly, it gets on somebody's nerves.
What would be the cinematic equivalent of this record?
That's a good question! I like that. I'd do a mixture of The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Short Circuit. I'm Johnny-Five [Laughs].
What have you been listening to?
We did a lot of listening to music. I've got to the basement and collect the numerous records. We had a day off because we've been rehearsing really hard for the Coheed tour. We listened to The Meters Fire on the Bayou, Against Me! White Crosses, Styx The Grand Illusion. I collect vinyl and I have dudes pick things. Then I've got Creedence Clearwater Revival's Gold, Neil Young's Landing on Water, Joe Walsh's Barnstorm, and Bruce Springsteen's Born to Run. Out of new stuff, I've been listening to the newest Dinosaur Jr. record. It's pretty amazing. I collect a lot of classic records even from the '90s. Whether I get a The Jesus and Mary Chain record or a Jimi Hendrix record, I collect what I know I'm going to want to listen to. Every moment in my life needs to have a soundtrack to it. I move in music, if you will.
Have you heard Our Machine?
I enjoy Mastodon. I've seen them before. This show was extra awesome.