I met At The Drive In when they played with Tongue at Al's Bar in February during the first week of their 15 week (!) US tour. Hailing from El Paso, Texas, ATDI have an incredible sound and mouth-dropping live show. Tailored to the T in all black conservative attire, one might misread them as mods, but upon the first note all misconceptions are erased as they explode forth with a definite DC influenced Punk/Emo hybrid, with the almost nervous energy of a kid's first day at high school. So energetic, but so tight, so serious, but so fun. I caught up with the boys when they returned to LA towards the end of the tour to find out how it went and what they're gonna do next. Pick up their full length CD "Acrobatic Tenement" on Flipside Records.

Interview by Liz McGrath, with minor kibitzing by Blaze James
Photos by Emberly Modine

Tony - drums
Paul - bass
Cedric - singer
Omar Rodriguez Lopez Chevrez:  La guitare
Jim Ward - Guitar (not present)

Liz: OK,  this is a Spanish/English interview! So you guys are on a 4 month tour?
Omar: We're off of it now!
Liz: Off of it?
(most of them): Yeah, we're almost off the tour.
Liz: Where did you start?
Cedric: Tucson.
Liz: And you guys are going where?
ATDI: Everywhere, up the coast, forty states coast to coast.
Liz: What was your best experience so far?
ATDI: Sioux City, Iowa!
Liz: Wow! Why?
Tony: really good people there.
Cedric: 'Cause kids go crazy there, it's like the only place kids go nuts. They go crazy, it's really neat.
Liz: Crazy, like how crazy?
Omar: Like where there's actually dancing involved.
Cedric: They're having FUN.
Omar: Not like violent dancing.
Liz: FUN, people have fun?
Omar: Yeah! It's not the only place, it's just the one that was most receptive to us, and it stuck out to us, and we met a lot of good people and we had a lot of fun.
Liz: You guys have a CD out on Flipside Records that came out about five months ago?
Tony: Yeah, about February.
Omar: We recorded it a year ago.
Liz: So what are the future plans of ATDI?
Cedric: To take a break for the summer, then write new stuff and then hopefully be out again in September for a couple of months...(that's affirmative, they head out September 19)
Liz: Any crazy road stories?
ATDI: tonight.
Liz: For those of you reading this, tonight was a fucked up show that they were supposed to play, from behind the Orange Curtain, but they were not allowed to because they were not all twenty one. So, in their rejection ...Tony?
Tony: Tonight's story ... I was talking on the phone and then a person came up to me and asked me for some change and I gave him eleven cents. And then I was walking up to the van, talking to the guys, and then we all heard a huge skid and I turned around and I saw the man in the air. He got killed. He got smacked by a car ... destroyed. The front end was mangled and he landed on the street and was ... dead.
Liz: Wow ...
Tony: Yeah, that's tonight's story, but the other death stories involve a lot of snow.
Liz: A lot of snow? What states were these?
Paul: South Dakota, Montana ...
Omar: I think it started in Seattle, and we decided to book it before it got worse and then we got caught in a little coming down snow.
Paul: It almost became a blizzard.
Cedric: We almost skidded off the road.
Omar: And then we spun off the road again off into the ditch, and this guy had to come pull us out with a rope, and we had to like dig in the snow.
Liz: So was this like moments before a show?
Omar: No this was like hours before a show.
Liz: That you were hours away from being at ...
Cedric: We didn't think that we were going to make it, cause we were driving like thirty miles an hour because we feared for our lives. I was in shock, it was pretty scary. See, I was in the bunk in the bottom, and I didn't know what was happening.
Blaze: You were getting spunk in your bottom?
Cedric: So, like I didn't know what was happening, but I could feel the van spin around, and I was the only one that let out a yelp cause everyone was sterile.
Omar: They were in terror!
Liz: You guys were all in your coffins ... OK, for the readers, their van is set up in many different coffin levels.
Omar: The top one is deep thoughts, and the bottom one is Rip Van Winkle, especially that name, because, how long was the drive?
Tony: Eighteen hours all together, cause you slept seventeen hours.
Omar: Yeah, see I slept the whole day and then I woke up.
Liz: And this is going from where to where?
Omar: From Missoula, Montana to Rapid City, so I went to sleep and when I woke up, I thought it was six in the morning, and when I woke up I was joking with everybody, I forgot what I said but it was like "Let's go eat breakfast," and everyone was laughing at me and I was serious, and they were like, "Well, we've got to go find the place, you know the show." and I didn't know what was going on. They thought I was joking, but it was like six at night!
Liz: Wow, doesn't it feel weird, like being on a space shuttle or something?
Tony: Totally, sometimes, but it's worth it, it's worth being away from home for that long.
Liz: You guys having fun?
ATDI: Hell yeah, yep! Totally.
Liz: So as a band this must bring you guys closer then ever.
ATDI: Hell yeah yeah.
Liz: You guys are pretty young too, I mean, tonight you guys didn't even get to play because ...
Tony: Because of somebody.
Liz: Underage.
Cedric: I'd say this is like the most emotionally draining if anything, and physically draining too.
Tony: or emotionally torturing.
Liz: How many tours have you done prior to this?
Cedric: Four or three, this one would be the fourth. This one is definitely the biggest one!
Omar: And hats off to Blaze for putting up with booking all those months.
Cedric: He's always apologizing for shows he thought were fuckups which were not.
Tony: We didn't have any complaints!
ATDI:  Blaze bad, B for blaze.
Tony: But seriously it was all good stuff! We love Blaze, he should know that!
Liz: How would you describe your band for people who've never heard it before?
Omar: Oh NO!
Cedric: There's elements of everything in it.
Omar: I wouldn't describe it, I would tell them to watch it.
Cedric: Yeah, let's clear up the emo thing, people that see us come up to us after and say, "Oh is that what emo is supposed to be?"
Liz: I don't really think you guys sound emo, I mean, I can see where people might get that from, and some of the influences, but for the most part you guys sound pretty damned original to me.
Blaze: What about people thinking Cedric's a girl?
Liz: Yeah, what's up with that?
Cedric: I've always thought that with past recordings that I sound like a girl ...
Blaze: There was a review in Scratch where the reviewer thought it was a girl singer, and several friends that didn't know the band and heard it and said is that a girl singer, at least five people have asked me that.
Omar: Since the operation, he's been a lot better hitting higher octaves.
Blaze: Is it because you have a beautiful voice?
Liz: I love your voice!
Cedric: Feed my ego, feed my ego.
Liz: And that Omar kid, can he play or what ...! Outrageous! So Tony, you're going to school?
Tony: Oh yeah, well I'm almost going to graduate with my degree, my chemistry degree.
Omar: But he quit to go on tour.
Cedric: Tell them about the theory!
Omar: Yeah, you have to disprove the what theory now?
Tony: Well I'm working on disproving a theory called the Beckmen Rearrangement Theory.
Liz: Which is?
Omar: Yeah go to it, come on bust out!
Cedric: TONY.
Tony: Um, does anyone have a chalkboard? Ha, well, it's really hard to describe, but there's this theory that, um, it's a quick way to make lactic acids and there's a mechanism that's one way, and the doctor and I that are working on it, we discovered a quicker, shorter way.
Blaze: What are lactic acids for the mentally impaired Censor This readers?
Omar: ... MOO MOO.
Tony: Well, um, lactic acids can be used for, well I don't know how to really define them, lactic acids food wise, I don't know cause I know they put them in a lot of foods but um, they're just...
Liz: Milk?
Tony:  Yeah. How to describe it?
Cedric: They can be derived from fruits though too, can't they?
Tony: It's just it's hard to describe it, it makes me feel dumb because I can't put it into layman's terms at all.
Blaze: What I want to know in a nutshell, is how three months on the road has changed you as a group?
Tony: Definitely a higher tolerance and understanding of each other's individual personal traits and beliefs.
Blaze: And other people's?
Cedric: Right, we've really gotten to know each other, we're not like, well that's how they are, fuck them, I'm not going to try to work around them ... We all try to like totally be lenient with each other. It's worked out a lot this time.
Tony: Paul and Omar have known each other most of their lives and I know Paul cause we've played in different bands together, but I've gotten to completely know Omar and Cedric. It's not like, OK, were in a band together like it was, the tour has been longer than we were together prior and I think we all had to become one.
Liz: How long has ATDI been together all line ups?
Cedric: Three years.
Liz: How did you come up with the name?
ATDI: It's a poison song...... (Laughing)
Liz: Who did the cover art?
Omar: Our friend Emberly. She's always drawing, it was actually a bigger picture it had a girl with her throat slit really dramatic. It was actually just a gift she had painted for Cedric.
Cedric: But I liked it.
Liz: Any last words?
Cedric: Yeah, I'd like to clear up something, a lot of people make comparisons to us and Nation of Ulysses, but we're not trying to copy that style or anything. We get that a lot. We don't sound alike, but it must be the live act.
Omar: We've never even seen them perform. Also, I'd like to clear up that Paul does speak, He's not a mute.
Liz: Oh, Paul you haven't said anything!
Paul: Yeah.