Formed after a fight that saw the demise of The Mars Volta, Antemasque are taking things back to basics. They talk to Chris Schulz.

For 25 years, Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez lived and toured together, sharing homes, clothes and positions in two fiery bands called At the Drive-In and The Mars Volta.

With their crazy hair and electric, sometimes unhinged, performances, they were, says Rodriguez-Lopez, "brothers from another mother".

Then, after The Mars Volta released their sixth album Noctourniquet in 2012, something happened.

"We had a disagreement," the guitarist says, matter-of-factly. "We argued about how to move forward. It seemed remarkable to people, but to me its remarkable that we hadn't disagreed in 25 years. " The Mars Volta ended and they didn't talk for months, but a phone call out of the blue from Zavala led to an apology and reunion that's resulted in Antemasque, the duo's new band set to make their live debut in New Zealand at Westfest next week.


The group started much like punk titans At the Drive-In, with Zavala - the singer - and Rodriguez-Lopez writing songs together in a lounge, then moving to a rehearsal studio. They drafted in drummer Dave Elitch and Red Hot Chili Peppers' bassist Flea (he won't be making the trip Down Under; Rodriguez-Lopez' brother Marfred will instead).

The result is what Rodriquez-Lopez describes as a "back-to-basics" rock group that - as last year's rebellious self-titled debut showed - will still please fans of their previous bands.

"It's a much smaller group - it's a simple old school four-piece. It's very raw. It's different but it's fun for us. There's a big amount of freedom where you don't have to play these old songs and have these crazy personalities." The duo reformed At the Drive-In for a series of reunion shows over 2009-2012, but Rodriguez-Lopez says we've seen the last of that band, and The Mars Volta. "It's exciting having to start from scratch and do it all over again and not have a recognisable moniker. That's what keeps you alive and young ... it means a certain type of risk but if you make 30 15-minute-long compositions for 10 years with five different tempo changes and all kinds of crazy lyrics, you're going to be pretty damned bored of that," he says.

That risk seems to have paid off: Antemasque have scored excellent reviews for the album and their live shows. Rodriguez-Lopez believes that's a result of their dedication to touring their previous bands.

"There's nothing more exciting than to have a real honest fan base that you've built up from going and playing music in front of people.

We've been on Universal and Warners but we've never had the push that other bands might have had, or been able to do things that would make things comfortable for us.

"All that manifested itself in loyal honest fans who come and see what we're up to year after year. We're really fortunate."

Who: Antemasque
Where: Westfest, March 3, Mt Smart Stadium
Debut album: Antemasque, out now


- TimeOut