In 2001, when OMAR RODRÍGUEZ-LÓPEZ (seated) and Cedric Bixler-Zavala walked away from the El Paso band At the Drive-In, few of their fans could have predicted the path the pair’s music would soon take. With the Mars Volta, the longtime friends left behind their previous group’s post-hardcore tendencies for something that transcends categories. Like the five albums that preceded it, the band’s latest, NOCTOURNIQUET (Warner Bros.), is an undefinable amalgam of jazz rock, art rock, Krautrock, and heavy metal. Recently At the Drive-In announced that it was reuniting for a series of concerts, beginning with two dates this month at the California music festival Coachella.
Where are you living these days? It seems like every time I read an article about you, you’re living somewhere different: New York City, Amsterdam, Guadalajara.
I’m in Texas. I’m back with my family, taking care of my mother.
Your new album is called Noctourniquet, which sounds like the title of the great, lost Spinal Tap album. What does it mean?
[Laughs.] It’s a combination of the words “nocturnal” and “tourniquet.” It’s as simple as that. It doesn’t have any particular meaning, it just creates an image in my head when I hear it.
I know that some of your albums are concept albums that deal with heavy themes. But when I listen I don’t really pay attention to that stuff—I just let the music stomp all over me. Would you and Cedric be insulted by that?
Maybe he would, because that’s his territory. I just do the production and the music. I’ve never asked Cedric in twenty years what his lyrics mean, ever. It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t.
The second track, “Aegis,” starts off sounding like Radiohead, but then you blow it up and take it in a different direction. Are you paying homage to Radiohead or making fun of them?
I would never make fun of another artist or imitate them. But I wonder what influences we share with Radiohead that would make