The Mars Volta have announced details of a 2023 UK tour. Check out dates and ticket details below, alongside an interview with Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López.
The three UK shows will be to promote their 2022 self-titled comeback record, with their new live set-up as much a part of their rebirth as the album – as they explained to NME.
The Texas-formed band released six studio albums between 2003 and 2012 before splitting due to a falling-out between founding members Bixler-Zavala and Rodríguez-López. In the years that followed, the pair formed new group Antemasque and resurrected their pre-Mars Volta outfit At-the-Drive-In for a new record in 2017.
The Mars Volta then released their first new single last June with ‘The Mars Volta’ following in September. Following a US headline tour and ahead of a stint supporting the Red Hot Chili Peppers on their upcoming stadium tour, The Mars Volta will return to the UK.
According to Rodríguez-López, The Mars Volta were always going to tour following their reunion. “The idea was, if we’re going to do this, we’re all in on every level,” he told NME. “New music, a new live experience and a new approach to everything; it was definitely all just part of the same package.”
When their long-awaited headline tour kicked off at The Forum In Deep Ellum in Dallas last year, it was the first time The Mars Volta had performed live in over a decade. The set was full of deep-cuts, rarities and new songs. Unlike most reunions, The Mars Volta skipped the celebratory Greatest Hits tour and wanted to return with new music.
“For me, the death rattle of any band is going out and playing your greatest hits, because you’ve made peace with the fact that people don’t want to hear the new stuff,” said Bixler-Zavala. “That’s just not something we really care about. We have to be super selfish and move forward. If we’re not excited about what we’re doing, then no one gets to hear anything.”
Rodríguez-López continued: “It’s very exciting to have the opportunity to make another record, it’s very exciting that people want to hear new music and it’s very exciting that we can go and play for them.
“There’s this reminder that we can all come together over something that we share in common, which is music. Playing live is really where it’s at for us, because you get to experience it together and it becomes this living, breathing thing.”
After 10 years away, The Mars Volta have returned to a new generation of fans ready to experience their acclaimed live show for the first time. Bixler-Zavala wants it to offer people “church and the playground”.
“Not in the organised religion sense, but in the sense where you’re overcome by the spirit of it and you can’t put your finger on it exactly but you’re moved in some sort of emotional way,” he added.
Rodríguez-López continued: “And togetherness. That’s the playground part. You really are creating something together and there’s this ability to share in the truest sense. You feel part of the universe. That’s what we want for ourselves as well. We don’t want anything for ourselves that we don’t want for everyone else.”
Before the release of ‘The Mars Volta’, the band defiantly said they weren’t afraid of “losing fans” with new material but they needn’t have worried. The Mars Volta’s return has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We’re so used to people being haters all the time that it’s hard to decipher when someone’s showing you love, especially in the internet age,” said Bixler-Zavala. “I just assume everyone’s coming after us. It’s strange to me that anyone ever has a positive thing to say about us now. I’m used to being super defensive, because we’ve both encountered that our whole lives.”
He went on: “It’s real easy for people to make fun of the band with the singer with the high voice, the big hair, the girl pants, and all the other stereotypes of what we are – but it turns out a lot of people have been rooting for us.”
That defiance did mean that The Mars Volta weren’t trying to live up to the expectations of others with their new material. “This band has always introduced people to different colours on an easel,” Bixler-Zavala told NME. “I think that’s very, very, very, very necessary in music. If you get stuck in one era, then you’re going to miss a lot of amazing stuff that is happening right now. And that’s to me what music should be – focused on the present and thinking of the future.
“Nostalgia is death. You shouldn’t worry about whether you can recreate something that you did when you were 20-years-old because then it becomes like a Las Vegas act and that would be really fucking boring. I don’t want to be in a boring band. I want to move forward.”
Speaking of which, how are the band feeling about this new era of The Mars Volta?
“Everything’s always the start of something permanent until it’s not permanent. But if you’re asking if this is a new beginning? Sure. We feel liberated,” said Rodríguez-López.
Bixler-Zavala added: “I don’t think Nick Cave, Iggy Pop or Martin Scorsese ever question when it’s going to be over. They just keep going until life says to them, ‘it’s over’. I’m not trying to compare ourselves to these people, but I definitely think they’re great blueprints for people that are older but are still creating and evolving.”
Rodríguez-López added: “Obviously there’s still so much we don’t understand but we do understand so much more now. Sorry to use these therapy terms but like anyone going through life, the more experiences you have, the more tools you have to navigate certain situations.
“That’s the whole point of this band. Art doesn’t really serve you in and of itself if it has no therapeutic value yet, right? If it’s not therapeutic then it’s just entertainment which is cool but for us, music has to heal something.”
The Mars Volta emerged from the ashes of revolutionary punk band At The Drive-In. While Bixler-Zavala might want their new album to be “that friend that you can confide in, where you can say truly vulnerable and uncomfortable things, so that you can grow as a person and so you can get it out and not keep it inside,” there’s still a political slant to everything the band do.
Their video for 2022 single ‘Graveyard Love’ shows the devastating impact that American control is having on Rodríguez-López’s birth country of Puerto Rico in an attempt “to shine a light on a struggle most people don’t even know is going on.”
“It makes a whole people feel seen and heard, but also by us doing that, hopefully other people can feel safe to honour their roots, whether they be Persian, Glaswegian or whatever,” said Rodríguez-López. “People should sing about their roots, write about them and dance about them as well. That goes right back to our Latino culture; the idea that to live, is to remember.”
First time around, The Mars Volta toyed with concept albums that toyed with sci-fi, jazz and prog. ‘The Mars Volta’ is their version of a heavy, pop record, as the band continue to defy genre boundaries. Where do they see themselves fitting in the musical landscape of 2023?
“I think it’s cool if it’s that, where you can’t put us into any one particular place,” said Bixler-Zavala. “If we continue that in 2023, that’s really nice because it means we get to play with a lot of different types of artists. We don’t consider ourselves this or that or the other. We just consider ourselves The Mars Volta.”
Tickets for The Mars Volta’s UK tour go on sale Friday (February 24) and will be available here. The Mars Volta will play:
16 – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow
17 – O2 Apollo, Manchester
18 – Troxy, London