Cedric Bixler-Zavala & Omar Rodriguez-Lopez perform with At The Drive In @ Lollapalooza 2012
The path was set out formally back in 1993. Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodriguez Lopez sprang out of El Paso, Texas with the seminal post-hardcore group At The Drive In, going on to release three albums and five EPS before disbanding back in 2001. Rising from that rubble was a project between the aforementioned duo known as The Mars Volta.
Over the course of the past decade The Mars Volta went on to record some of the most stimulating, experimental, progressive rock music that consistently defied any simple explanation or classification and rose the band to cult icon status. Much like their work in their previous group, Volta’s live shows became the stuff of Zeppelin-esque legend with a hypnotic and ear-piercingly loud sound and Bixler-Zavala’s unmistakable, un-imitatable falsetto soaring over the top of the endless scrum.
Flash forward to the present. Following the tour for Noctourniquet, The Mars Volta’s sixth full length in ten years, and a reunion jaunt with At The Drive In, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez has decided to put his full energies into Bosnian Rainbows, a new group that also features MV drummer Deantoni Parks.
Well, time tests relationships and bands are certainly not immune to that aspect. In response to the Bosnian Rainbows new, Bixler-Zavala went on a long Twitter tirade which served as the formal end of The Mars Volta as we’ve come to know it:
“Thank you to all Volta fans you deserved more, especially after the way you rooted for us on this album. I tried my hardest to keep it going, but Bosnian Rainbows was what we all got instead. I can’t sit here and pretend anymore. I no longer am a member of Mars Volta. I honestly thank all of you for buying our records and coming to our shows. You guys were a blast to play in front of. We could never had done it without you. My dream was to get us to the point where Jon Theodore and Ikey Owens came back but sadly it’s over. Thank you a million times over for ever giving a fuck about our band. For the record I tried my hardest to get a full scale North American tour going for Noctourniquet but Omar did not want to. I guess a break from Mars Volta means starting another band and ignoring all the support the fans gave us. I tried my hardest, guys. All I can do is move forward with my music and just be happy that Volta ever happened at all. God Damn we had a blast! Thank you again. I just feel really guilty for not even really saying the truth because a hiatus is just an insult to the fans. To all our fans all over the world: thank you for giving a fuck. You all ruled! I don’t think I’ll ever hear “A Fistful Of Dollars” the same. My record will see the light of day soon and I’m excited because it sounds nothing like my previous endeavors. I’m not joking about any of this, I owe it to you guys (all fans) to be serious about this. Thank you to all past members who helped Volta along, as well. We blasted through like a comet and left our mark! If you ever see me in person and want to know why I’ll tell you my side of the story. Finally, Please just be happy that it happened at all, remember all the opposition we were met with for just starting a new band back in 2001.”
The Mars Volta are known for their liner notes detailed in Amputechture, The Bedlam in Goliath, Octahedron and Noctourniquet that: “The partnership between Omar Rodríguez-López & Cedric Bixler-Zavala is The Mars Volta. These compositions are then performed by The Mars Volta Group.”
So this time around, whereas creative conflicts doomed At The Drive In, a personal fracture between Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez may keep The Mars Volta on the shelf until Coachella 2023. The latter insists that the partnership hasn’t been strained and that they both needed space to generate new work, while the former seemed pretty committed to continuing onward.
On a personal note, I’ll never forget driving in my car with my girlfriend in high school and blasting “Cygnus…Vismund Cygnus” with a renewed sense of awe and wonder upon repeat listens. Where did this come from? How was this sound even possible, much less imagined by people in a studio? Although years of education and experience have come to relieve some of that previous mystery, the respect and admiration has never wavered even as I type this.
I saw The Mars Volta open for the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their Stadium Arcadium tour in the fall of 2006, my senior year of high school. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts since, and I have never heard a band so roundly booed, ever. They riffed off of “Cygnus…” for forty five minutes with minor segues into other material, but with that song as the central return point. It was absolutely incredible to watch a band feed off of an arena’s worth of negative energy and throw it right back at the audience.
Then at Bonnaroo 2009, I stood at the back of the Which Stage field and caught as much as I could while trying to prop up a friend who took way too much of a drug that was never identified. As Bruce Springsteen would advise only hours later, “Don’t eat the brown acid kids”.
Although it’s hard to believe that The Mars Volta have broken up and that it will stay that way forever, Bixler-Zavala has a track record of sticking to his convictions and seems more than a little bit miffed by this Bosnian Rainbows business. Coachella 2013 can’t come soon enough.
Here’s hoping Cedric finds some chanklas for his Abuelita…
As we always pay tribute in this feature, here are some prime, essential examples spanning The Mars Volta’s career that immediately make apparent the loss we’ve all suffered as music fans.
Drunkship of Lanterns
The Mars Volta – Live at the Electric Ballroom (Full Set)