After 11 long years since they disbanded in 2001, At the Drive-In has announced that they will be reuniting for at least a couple of shows. After a cryptic message surfaced on the At the Drive-In Twitter, which was then mirrored by Sparta’s Twitter, the ATDI website, and Omar Rodriguez Lopez’ Facebook page, it has become clear that the band that redefined our expectations of rock in the 90s will be reuniting. As of now, their only confirmed dates are April 15 & 22 at Coachella.
The At the Drive-In tweet read as this:
¡ ATTENTION ! To whom it may concern: AT THE DRIVE-IN will be breaking their 11 year silence THIS STATION IS … NOW…OPERATIONAL.
This message appeared cryptic at first, seeing as their 2005 release was titled This Station is Non-Operational, but after members of both The Mars Volta and Sparta have mirrored the message via their own social media platforms, it is clear that the cryptic message can only mean one thing: that At the Drive-In is back. Although no dates have been officially released except for Coachella, expect to hear more from ATDI soon.
For those unfamiliar with ATDI’s history, they started out in El Paso, Texas in 1993. The majority of their reign from 1993-2001 was spent in seedy clubs with few listeners. After a couple albums, the experimental post-hardcore outfit began to see some notoriety. It wasn’t until their last album surfacec, 2000’s Relationship of Command, that the band saw both critical acclaim and minor mainstream success.
Just after Relationship of Command elevated At the Drive-In into a position where they were finally filling out clubs and “One Armed Scissor” was even being played on MTV, the band suddenly disbanded. According to their report with NME in 2001, band members were involved in a car crash that led to no long-term damages, but caused the cancellation of a European tour due to “complete mental and physical exhaustion.”
When the band officially disbanded, it seemed as if creative differences were the catalyst. Their vocalist, Cedric Bixler-Zavala had become increasingly vocal about feeling restrained by ATDI. He felt like the band was holding him back by boxing him into the category of punk and hardcore. Both Cedric and the guitar prodigy Omar Rodriguez-Lopez wanted to head towards progressive, psychedelic-tinged rock and roll, whereas the other members, Jim Ward, Paul Hinojos, and Tony Hajjar, had become more interested in alternative rock. Because of these creative differences, ATDI was split down the middle, with Cedric and Omar forming The Mars Volta, and Ward, Hinojos, and Hajjar forming Sparta. Since ATDI’s 2001 split, The Mars Volta has put out five studio albums and Sparta, three.
For those who followed the feud between members of ATDI, the news of a reunion might be surprising. For years, there was bad blood between the former members, and even once that died down, it still seemed impossible. This is what Omar Rodriguez-Lopez said in The Skinny two years ago:
“As a human being you just don’t want that kind of karma. We did a lot of shit talking, and they did a lot of shit talking, so I just called everybody up and invited them to my house and said ‘hey, listen, we’re in our thirties now, I’m sorry for whatever I said, I’m sure you guys didn’t mean what you said–you guys were upset because I split up the band and we were upset because of whatever. Let’s be friends again. But do I want to reunite and play fucking 15 year old songs? Well, it would be like asking you, ‘do you want to get back together with your first girlfriend?’ You learn some amazing things together, but I just shudder at the thought.”
Anyone who has kept up with both The Mars Volta and Sparta will notice that there is an underlying truth to Omar’s comment. For fans of The Mars Volta, ATDI sounds like the early days before Omar and Cedric truly found their experimental voices. For fans of Sparta, old ATDI songs may sound like dated, unpolished songs that are unequal in commercial appeal to Sparta songs. But what is most important is that for fans of At the Drive-In, this is fantastic news! An unlikely reunion has taken shape, and it will be interesting to see how the five musicians interact with each other on the stage.