When At The Drive-In reformed for a handful of gigs last year, the motive was fairly obvious. The nostalgic pleading from fans and promoters became too great to ignore for the El-Paso pioneers and perhaps more importantly, so did the digits on the paycheque.
But as it turned out, that look back into the past sparked a new chapter of creativity for Omar Rodriquez-Lopez. Inspired by the democratic spirit of At The Drive-In, the guitarist went on to form his latest band Bosnian Rainbows – who performed a special show for RBMA Radio’s Panamérika show on June 28 and then dropped by RBMA Radio Berlin last week – with Deantoni Parks (drums) Nicci Kasper (keyboard) and fantastically named Teri Gender Bender (vocals).
“Ironically, one of the reasons At The Drive-In broke up initially was because I was tired of that democracy,” explains Rodriquez-Lopez. “So I left and started my own group [The Mars Volta], which would be a vehicle for my ideas. But after 10 years, that got boring as well!
“Cedric [Bixler-Zavala, vocalist for At The Drive-In and the Mars Volta] and I hired people to play the music we wrote and the moment they became troublesome or irritating, we replaced them. That’s no way to live. Having seen both sides of it, the collective experience is definitely the way to go.”
That change of attitude is reflected in his new band’s music. In contrast to the expansive and sometimes befuddling sprawl of The Mars Volta’s prog adventures, Bosnian Rainbows first self-titled album is a far more structured affair with instantly recognisable post-punk overtones.
Meanwhile, Gender Bender (who also fronts the Mexican garage rockers Le Butcherettes) has a voice that is not unfairly compared to Siouxsie Sioux. But Rodriguez-Lopez insists this newfound accessibility isn’t an ill-advised attempt to make his art more palatable for a wider audience.
“The majority of people will openly say that they got into music because there was money or girls involved,” he continues. “And then there’s people who had no other language that they felt represented them. I am drawn to those people. Teri was very much like that from the start, which is how I got involved with first producing Le Butcherettes' music and then forming Bosnian Rainbows.
“I remember the first time I saw her was when I went to see a friend’s band play in Mexico and Le Butcherettes were scheduled to play. The electricity went out in the building and all the bands didn’t want to play. She got up there and played anyways, because she had to. That really struck me and that’s how I became interested in working with her.”
It hasn’t been the easiest of births though. Clearly upset at Rodriguez-Lopez’s new distractions with Bosnian Rainbows, Bixler-Zavala issued a statement earlier this year announcing that The Mars Volta were no more.
“I heard about it from other people and it took me by surprise,” adds Rodriguez Lopez with more than a hint of sadness. “But what you have to understand is that we’ve known each other since 1989. When you love someone, you get annoyed with each other and fight sometimes but there’s a lot of understanding involved too. I love him and there’s nothing he could say or do that would ever make me not love him.”
For now though, there’s no doubt that Bosnian Rainbows are where Rodriguez-Lopez’s creative energy is now aimed. The solo albums are on hold, the reunions are done, and The Mars Volta have called it quits, and the guitarist is more than happy with that state of affairs.
“It’s definitely a long-term project,” he concludes. “All my ideas – or all my best ideas anyway – are going into this group. This is where it’s at right now.”