The Mars Volta is an American musical group founded by Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez. They are generally considered rock, with heavy punk, prog and Latin influences. They are known for their wild live shows and oblique lyrics, which have gained both rave reviews and vehement criticism.
Members of the post-hardcore band At the Drive-In, Cedric Bixler Zavala and Omar Rodriguez-Lopez recruited audio technician Jeremy Michael Ward in 1998 to form DeFacto, seeking to experiment with previously suppressed ideas, and break loose of the image they received from At the Drive-In. DeFacto included Cedric on drums, Omar on bass, and Jeremy with loop/vocal/sound/distortion effects. DeFacto was a composite of sounds, hinging squarely on tripped-out, instrumental dub. Rooted within the realm of dub reggae pioneers like Lee Perry and Dr. Alimantado, the group also dabbled in electronica, Latin/salsa, and jazz, which gave their sound a distinct, timeless quality. The band played local shows around their home town, El Paso, TX, until they moved to Long Beach, California in 2000 and met up with jazz keyboardist Ikey Isiah Owens. Ikey added a distinct new tone to DeFacto and brought forth a new popularity that they had not yet received. In 2001, DeFacto released their first album, Megaton Shotblast on Gold Standard Laboratories, and received instant success. Eventually, At The Drive-In began to collapse, and the band had more time to experiment with new sounds. The band released three more albums, each one showing a distinct new sound. After the indefinite hiatus of At the Drive-In, Omar and Cedric decided to branch out, creating The Mars Volta, a new project they envisioned would fulfill their creative desires. The Mars Volta released Tremulant in 2002, a collection of three songs - including "Concertina", a condemnation of a former ATDI member - that explored prog rock, punk rock, salsa, free and avant-garde.
Following the EP, The Mars Volta continued to tour while preparing for their next release, De-Loused in the Comatorium. Whereas Tremulant was a record with no general theme, except the prophetic mentioning of its follow-up album, De-Loused in the Comatorium was a unified work of speculative fiction that told the story, from the first person perspective, of someone in a drug induced coma. Though lyrically obtuse, The Mars Volta have stated in interviews that the protagonist of the album is based on a friend of theirs, Julio Venegas, or "Cerpin Taxt", as mentioned in the story, who several years prior was in a coma himself. Sometime after awakening, he jumped off of the Campbell Street overpass onto Interstate 10 in El Paso during afternoon rush-hour traffic. He was pronounced dead at Thomason Hospital.
The ten-track LP would become their biggest hit yet, both critically and commercially, eventually selling in excess of 500,000 copies and featuring on several critics' "Best of the Year" lists. The band would later release a limited edition storybook version of the album, currently available to download from Gold Standard Laboratories. The book speaks of Cerpin Taxt (sometimes referred to as the album/story's "hero"), and his suicide.
While on tour with the Red Hot Chili Peppers in support of their album, The Mars Volta's sound manipulator and contributing lyricist, Jeremy Ward, was found dead of an apparent drug overdose. The second leg of the tour was cancelled, and the first single from De-Loused would later be dedicated to Ward.
Currently, the band is touring with System of a Down in support of their second full length album, Frances the Mute, featuring Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, which draws from a diary that late sound technician Jeremy Ward found while working as a repo man. The fragmented diary supposedly details the story of a young man searching for his biological parents. Ward identified with the diary, and was in the process of completing it at the time of his death.
The first single, "The Widow", was released in early 2005. However, in December 2004, a full copy of Frances the Mute was leaked to the Internet from the vinyl version. The rip was of poor quality. Encoded as a 96 kbit/s mp3, other versions were reencoded to 192 kbit/s wma from the source mp3, resulting in even worse audio quality. Gold Standard Laboratories issued a statement decrying the Internet release for its horrible sound quality, and suggesting that fans should respect the band's wish to not share the leaked music.
Despite the leak, and others following it, Frances the Mute was released on midnight, March 1, 2005, and sold over 100,000 copies within the first week of release, and debuted at number four on the Billboard Album Charts - no mean feat for a virtually unmarketable album. The title track, "Frances the Mute", which the band has said "decodes" the album's story, was not included in the album, and was released on March 14th, 2005, in the United Kingdom. This release was a three set limited edition, containing a single with a live version of "The Widow", played at The Wiltern in Los Angeles on June 13th, and the unreleased title song "Frances the Mute." Also in the collection is a DVD that includes clips from their performance at the Electric Ballroom in London on July 8th, 2003, "The Widow" music video, and the "Televators" music video. Finally, the last item is a 12" picture disc vinyl single including "Frances the Mute" and a live version of "The Widow", which saw release from Gold Standard Laboratories. A second single, "L'Via L'Viaquez", also from "Frances the Mute," and a music video following it, were released in June of 2005. Included on this single there was another unreleased song entitled "The Bible and the Breathalyzer".
Midway through their headlining U.S tour, former At the Drive-In member Paul Hinojos joined The Mars Volta and left Sparta behind claiming: "My time with Sparta has run its course, and simply wasn't fun anymore". He is now their 'Sound-Manipulator'. The band is currently organizing a line up for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival, entitled A Nightmare Before Christmas.
Cedric Bixler stated in an interview: "The Volta is taken from a Federico Fellini book about his films, what he characterizes as a changing of scene, a new scene to him is called Volta. Y'know, changing of time and the changeover. And Mars, we're just fascinated by science-fiction so and it's something that ultimately looked as in anything I write, it's meaning is always up to the listener. As the way we write songs and words, if it looks great on paper then to us it's like painting, so if it looks good meaning the second then people usually have a better interpretation than we ever would." Additionally, Omar stated that Mars is a reference to the Roman god of war. The is used to disambiguate the band from a group of European Techno artists that previously took the name "Mars Volta".