Clockwise from top left: Cedric Bixler, Omar Rodriguez, Eva Gardner, Ikey Owens, Jon Philip Theodore, Jeremy Ward.
Even though they were a nerdy, teetotal emo rock band, the breakup of At The Drive-In was messier than an X-treme Bukake DVD.
After six years of playing the hardcore backpack emo circuit and then signing a major deal that propelled them onto the world stage, the tensions that were already seething beneath the surface of the group finally broke. While the world’s music press were lauding them as “the future of rock and roll,” the Afro side of the band, Cedric Bixler and Omar Rodriguez, decided that they hated the non-Afro side and couldn’t stand to be around them or their stupid fucking manager any longer. While the non-Afro kids who nobody can remember the names of formed a sad, but commercially viable Fugazi-tribute band called Sparta, Omar and Cedric decided to abandon their vegan, no-booze lifestyles in favor of the dark and exciting worlds of heroin and homosexuality (at least, that was the rumor at the time). The pair of them moved from El Paso to Long Beach and burned all their hardcore records on a bonfire while listening to the greatest hits of The Mahavishnu Orchestra while vowing never, ever again to listen to bands who sing about friendship. This was the beginning of their awesome new group — The Mars Volta. The new project sounds like a punk rock version of Sun Ra with Pink Floyd on remixing duties — all crazed song structures, screaming, yelping, and “galactic outer space” noises. They make At The Drive-In seem completely gay. Which, let’s face it, they were. “Chances are that if you stay at some kid’s house he’ll want to talk about the latest hardcore 7” that’s out and if you’re tired and you really don’t care about that music then it’s difficult” admitted Cedric when I met him recently in Amsterdam. “With At The Drive-In, we were limited in what we could do because of the whole hardcore emo trip that some of the other members were on. We (The Mars Volta) played in LA and there was a kid there — a you-could-buy-him-in-a-factory emo kid — and I just told him, ‘I wanna put you in a concentration camp and surround you with Kleenex boxes, and then you’d really have something to cry about.’” “Emo music is white linear music. I wonder what it actually is that they’re upset about.” Only three of the Mars Volta — cute bassist Eva Gardner, Tom Waits lookalike soundman Jeremy Ward, and drummer Jon Philip Theodore — are bona fide honkies. What with the two Mexican Afro kids leaping about the stage like spastics and keyboard player Ikey looking like a younger, fatter Ray Charles, The Mars Volta are more like a human version of the Dr. Teeth Band than your regular indie rock group. For that alone, you can forgive them for having amazingly pretentious song titles as “Eunuch Provocateur” and “Concertina.” The Mars Volta’s debut Tremulant EP is out now on their own Gold Standard Laboratories label. An album will follow in autumn.