By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Backward, indeed, reels the mind, quagmired in pandemonium one moment, thrust upon Elysian soundscapes the next: This is progressive music not as in the oft-derided term “prog rock,” but as in a unified field of sound, lyric, emotion and intellect; “one big piece of literature,” as Rodriguez calls it, in which the listener is propelled forward into territories not yet imagined.
Nourished by the work of such notable mindfuckers as the German future-rock band Can and Euro film artists Werner Herzog and Federico Fellini, The Mars Volta say they write songs “egotistically,” on a plane of consciousness that depends on available enlightenment.
“Most of us in the band are dropouts who never finished high school,” says Rodriguez. “Our knowledge of the world or words or music or anything else doesn’t come from classrooms. It comes from an unending interest in everything that surrounds us — dialects that people have made through the centuries to communicate with each other, or musical movements that have happened, or artifacts found in weird places, or pollution in rivers . . . It comes from being really in love with how fascinating and violent and unexplainable the world is.”
Since finding each other in El Paso’s music scene as teens, Rodriguez and Bixler have almost merged into a modular unit that currently even shares the same Studio City address. “We’ve known each other since we were 13,” says Rodriguez. “We’ve toured in two different bands together, we’re around each other all the time. We’ve always pushed each other forward through space and through time.”
In their hometown, a dusty bowl on the cusp of the U.S.-Mexican border notorious for its drug traffic, sweltering heat, a population of a million and the mentality of a small town, the two young lads with big curly hair roused dismay and horror among local rednecks. “We definitely got fucked with a lot, beaten up a lot,” says Rodriguez. “I guess we look odd to some. We look homosexual, or we look like a lot of different things that upset people.”
Are The Mars Volta concerned that their young audience might be freaked out by the strangeness of the band’s new imaginary worlds?
“I hope people are challenged,” says Rodriguez. “I hope the kids read the interviews and wonder, ‘Who’s Fellini? Who’s Herzog?’ And I hope there’s some kid out there who’s only known about three-minute love songs on the radio and who’s never heard the rhythms of clave, listening to this in his room and realizing that he just can’t sit still and that he has to learn how to dance to it.”
The Mars Volta play at the Henry Fonda Theater, Tuesday, July 1.