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Life on Mars

Grammy-winning prog-punks The Mars Volta mellow out on Octahedron.

The Mars Volta is far too weird for its own popularity, but somehow Omar Rodriguez-Lopez, Cedric Bixler-Zavala and their virtual lazy Susan of band members have turned virtuosic, psychedelic prog jams into gold records and a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Nobody is more surprised by the band's success than Rodriguez-Lopez, who spoke with Chatter before Thursday's show at Verizon.

Chatter: People have been referring to your latest album, Octahedron, as your acoustic album.

Omar Rodriguez-Lopez: I referred to it as an acoustic-inspired album, but I never said it was an acoustic album. People take things way too literally and out of context. At the time I wrote it, I was listening to a lot of Nick Drake and Syd Barrett and Leonard Cohen, but I don't consider inspiration to be a carbon copy. Just because I was listening to those albums doesn't mean it's just an acoustic guitar and a voice.

Mellow  down easy: The Mars Volta.
Michael G. Rizzi
Mellow down easy: The Mars Volta.

C: I know that live, The Mars Volta is known as being this chaotic thing. Has performing these songs changed the performance ethic? Do you get a little bit of a breather?

ORL: It does in a certain sense, just because dynamicwise, they're different tempos and different moods. But I still find them challenging, just in different ways. There's a real power in something people perceive as mellow. There's a certain type of intensity in that type of sound and that type of feeling that you can't achieve no matter how hard you bang on a drum or how loud you turn up an amp.

C: I've always thought that Mars Volta performances must be pretty physically demanding.

ORL: Oh, yeah. I think performing is physically, mentally, emotionally demanding. It's demanding on every level, because there's so many layers to it and there's so much depth to it. It is something that's cathartic, but at the same time it's very fun but it's also very physically challenging because I like my music. I'm not up there just playing my music to play it. It makes me feel good so it makes me want to dance. I'm connected to it, and I can't pretend to be indifferent to it.

C: Do you think you were rebelling against At the Drive-In when you started the Mars Volta?

ORL: Not rebelling against it, but dramatic changes are just part of making progress. Any time I make a Mars Volta record, it is juxtaposed with the one that came before it. Bedlam in Goliathwas my most aggressive album, so it's completely natural to want to make this one a mellow record. I would hate if at the end of my life of playing music, that all my endeavors sort of sounded the same.

I really embrace the idea of looking at one end of the spectrum and the other and seeing that they have nothing to do with each other. To me, that's living. I had been writing songs with At the Drive-In for seven years, so finally when I broke up the group, just like if you break up with a girl after seven years, you start over and get to the core of things. What did I learn from them and how do I want to change my life and how do I move forward from here?

NEWS FEED

Congratulations to Houston's Peekaboo Theory and Shina Rae, who advanced to the second round of Dell's "The Sound and the Jury" contest, where the winner gets a spot on the Dell Stage at next month's Austin City Limits Music Festival. Voting in this round continues until Friday at delllounge.com/soundand­thejury, and be sure to check out our daily ACL fest previews at blogs.houstonpress.com/rocks.

Speaking of festivals, Free Press Houston announced the dates for the fall Westheimer Block Party last week. It's November 14 and 15, in the usual location – the blocks around Numbers, Mango's and Avant Garden. Besides the kajillion local bands you can probably guess, the headliners are TBD.

LOCAL MOTION

Top Sellers
Sig's Lagoon
3710 Main, 713-533-9525
www.sigslagoon.com

1.  Lee Fields, My World

2.  Pax Nicholas & the Nettey ­Family, Na Teef Know De Road of Teef

3.  The Monks, Black Monk Time

4.  Various Artists, Bunny Lee Rocksteady Years (LP)

5.  Lester Bangs and the Delinquents, Jook Savages on the Brazos

6.  Various Artists, Legends of Benin (LP)

7.  Various Artists, Psicofasicos de Bolivia: 60's Garage

8.  Various Artists, Kung Fu Super Sounds

9.  The No No No Hopes, s/t 7"

10.  Barbara Lynn, Here is Barbara Lynn (CD reissue)

AIRWAVES

The Boxx
KBXX (97.9 FM), www.kbxx.com
Top songs, September 10
Data from www.yes.com

1. Chalie Boy, "I Look Good"

2. Mario feat. Gucci Mane & Sean Garrett, "Break Up"

3. Drake, "Best I Ever Had"

4. Maxwell, "Pretty Wings"

5. R. Kelly feat. Keri Hilson, "Number One"

6. Keyshia Cole feat. Monica, "Trust"

7. Ne-Yo feat. Fabolous & Jaime Foxx, "Miss Independent (She Got Her Own)"

8. Jay-Z feat. Rihanna & Kanye West, "Run This Town"

9. Young Money feat. Lil Wayne, "Every Girl in the World"

10. Gucci Mane feat. Plies, "Wasted"

(lists compiled by Chris Gray)

 
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