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Taken from The San Diego Union-Tribune (May 03, 2017)

At The Drive-In roars back to life, with tour and first new album in 17 years

by George Varga, Contact Reporter

At the Drive In combines punk ferocity and prog-rock ambition.
(Photo courtesy of Nasty Little Man)

How many songs will At The Drive-In perform here Tuesday night at SOMA from its combustible “in•ter a•li•a,” the Texas band’s first album of new music in 17 years?

“It really depends on how tried we get at the end of the show,” said ATDI singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala, 42.

Come again?

“There will be point in our set where we play a new song. And playing a new song means retraining your muscles,” he replied.

“Whereas, playing older songs uses natural muscle memory. For example, the song ‘Incurably Innocent’ on our new album is a really hard song to do, and I have to get my body acclimated to that kind of breathing. When you’re as physical on stage as we are, sometimes we get tired.”

Bixler-Zavala co-founded ATDI in 1993 in El Paso and earned attention for its distinctive blend of hardcore punk fury and prog-rock ambition. The band broke up in 2001, then reunited in 2012. In the interim, Bixler-Zavala and ATDI guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez co-led The Mars Volta, an even more daring and eclectic group that still exists today.

Bixler-Zavala discussed ATDI recently by phone from Austin.

Q: It’s been 17 years since the last ATDI album. What does music mean to you now that it didn’t then?

A: I guess what it means to me now is a complete celebration — a celebration of having free time on my hands! And the fact that people actually listened to us.

Q: Whereas, 17 years ago?

A: It was more of a confrontational device to sort of physically act out the frustration that plagues you as a 20-something-year-old person. And that frustration is a combination of hormones still having that trickle-down effect on your body and of not really knowing what you’re mad about.

Q: Do you channel that frustration when you perform songs from back then now?

A: I can just utilize the place I am now, which is just a complete celebration. So now, it’s sort of — in a strange way — an appreciative gesture. It’s just complete happiness.

Q: Your vocal phrasing on “Delivered by Contagions” on the new ATDI album sounds like a big tip of your hat to John Lydon (aka Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols). Are you?

A: He’s always been one of my strongest influences. You can hear it in The Mars Volta, too, even though people accuse me of having a Robert Plant thing with Mars. … I always liked what Lydon had to say as an artist and loved his vocal delivery, which set the Sex Pistols apart from a regular bar band.

Q: ATDI is playing in San Diego at SOMA, a near-legendary, all-ages music venue. A lot of kids today have no idea what a drive-in is. I don’t know about Austin, but there are only two drive-in movie theaters left in San Diego County.

A: (laughs) Who knows? People might want to utilize the super-information highway to see what a drive-in is! Our new album is designed to to be taken in its entirety, as an anomaly that still exists right now in our fast-food culture. But fast-food culture has always been around and there will also always be mom-and-pop businesses that are celebrated by a few. I think, even in this Spotify age, ATDI fans tend to be vinyl-based. We’re just a part of that (vinyl) lifestyle.

Q: You and Omar have been playing together for nearly 25 years, how easy or difficult is it to surprise each other, musically speaking, and how important is it?

A: I’m not sure if it’s important, because we don’t ever see it in that context. It’s just that he starts a sentence and I’ll end it, and vice versa — it’s just this common language we have. It was important that we had a public disagreement for about eight months, in order to take a break from each other and also to appreciate each other more. Especially from my end — every day I am honored that I’m around him.


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