The Mars Volta faced a bit of a problem with their new single, "L'Via L'Viaquez." Actually, several problems. Primarily, the song is over 12 minutes long, featuring guitar heroics not heard since the late-'60s heyday of Carlos Santana, four separate salsa breakdowns and soaring vocal yelps reminiscent of Freddie Mercury. Secondly, most of those lyrics are sung in Spanish, and the ones that aren't are about worms crawling out of people's heads ... all of which kind of made it a hard sell to both MTV and modern-rock radio.
But it's not like the Mars Volta were actually worried about it.
"We just let the label cut it down, that's kind of their job. I think it ended up being about four and a half minutes long," guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez laughed. "We've gotten to make our film, so we can care less about these trailers. That's the work aspect of this whole thing. I mean, we get to make our music and have fun and go all over the world and be with our friends, but then we also have to chop the songs down and show our trailer and say, 'Please come see our movie!' "
That "movie" he's talking about is the Mars Volta's epic, proggy, semi-concept album, Frances the Mute (see "Mars Volta's Conceptual Frances The Mute Speaks Volumes"). The album has gone on to sell more than 347,000 copies since it hit shelves in March, which pretty much guaranteed that the Mars Volta would be releasing another "trailer" for a song on that album. Thus, Rodriguez-Lopez reluctantly got to work on a clip for "L'Via."
"Well, the idea of telling a story through a video is kind of a lost cause. The idea now is to show some nice images, and here's a stupid band to watch and here's some images you can digest for yourself," he sighed. "And then here's some that have a hidden meaning. Essentially, I just made another trailer for people to digest."
Fair enough, but it's not like the video for "L'Via" is exactly easy to swallow. Following in the footsteps of the head-scratching clip he directed for "The Widow," the first single off Frances (see "Mars Volta: Pelting Le Tigre With Bottles Is Better Than Listening To 3 Doors Down"), Rodriguez-Lopez has pieced together a video rife with animated vulture-monsters, tarantulas, flying skulls and eyeballs. Add to that some digitally manipulated footage of the band rocking out live onstage, and you've got a clip that harkens back to the days of incense-filled dorm rooms papered with tapestries and black-light posters.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez-Lopez is already busy with another film. "I'm working on a Mars Volta film that includes live footage. It's all shot on 16mm, everything — the performance, the interlude — but that's all I'm going to tell you," he said. "I mean, we really didn't know what Frances the Mute was about when we were making it, but we had ideas. The film is not done, and I have an idea of what it might be about, but it can change while it's happening."
As for when the film will be done, well, it's anybody's guess. He'll have some free time (about a month) after the Mars Volta wrap up a European tour in the middle of July, but then it's right back out on the road, opening for System of a Down (see "System Of A Down/ Mars Volta Tour Dates Announced"), a gig which might seem a bit stifling for a band that's used to two-and-a-half-hour sets. But Rodriguez-Lopez is looking forward to it. It means he'll actually have some time to relax.
"We're opening, so it's just an hour — we'll choose the songs that suit the slot. Sometimes it's three songs, sometimes it's only two," he said. "It's a lot of free time, which will be fun. Because these concerts we play by ourselves are really taxing on us, physically. It really drains you, so to do only one hour with System will be kind of nice."