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At the Drive-In

At the Drive-In was an influential American post-hardcore band from El Paso, Texas, that was active from 1993 to 2001.


During their career, At the Drive-In crafted off-kilter, unconventional songs laced with cryptic and strongly metaphorical lyrics. Influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Fugazi, Bad Brains and The Smiths, the band was founded in 1993 by guitarist Jim Ward and vocalist Cedric Bixler-Zavala. At the Drive-In's first studio recording was Hell Paso (Western Breed), an EP issued in 1994. They played their first live show on October 15, 1994 at the Loretto High School Fair in El Paso, Texas. Much touring would quickly develop a following as intense in loyalty as the band was on stage. The band aggressively sought shows and publicity in its early days, even going to the point where members pretended to be a polka chapel band in order to obtain an appearance on a local television show called "Let's Get Real". This reputation for hard work, the release of perhaps their best-known album (Relationship of Command) and their minor hit radio single "One Armed Scissor" (which had a music video in circulation on MTV) received positive attention in the rock press towards the end of their career. The band's first nationally televised performance was on FarmClub, a now defunct television show which aired late at night on the USA network. After that performance they also appeared on Later with Jools Holland, Late Night With Conan O'Brien and The Late Show With David Letterman, performing their single "One Armed Scissor" on national television.

Not only notoriously energetic and wild at shows, At the Drive-In were noted by the music press for the afros of Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López. The hairstyle became synonymous with the pair's image (which was aesthetically reminiscent of late sixties group The MC5.) However, the two have been very vocal about image: Cedric once explained to a crowd, "I'm not the only guy in the band; you don't have to take pictures of me all the time. There's Jim, there's Paul, there's Tony. Just 'cause they don't have curly hair doesn't mean they're not important."

According to some sources, At the Drive-In struggled to recreate their intense live experience in the studio, much like the great hard rock pioneers The Who famously did in the 1960s. At one point they tried to circumvent this problem by recording their second album, In/Casino/Out (1998), as a live studio album.


In January 2001, At the Drive-In traveled to Australia for the Big Day Out. While performing in Sydney, they left partway through their set after telling the spectators in attendance to calm down and observe the safety rules (moshing). After the refusal of the crowd, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala told the crowd, “You're a robot, you're a sheep!” and proceeded to bleat at them several times before the band left the stage around 15 minutes into their set. "I think it's a very, very sad day when the only way you can express yourself is through slam-dancing," he proclaimed. Later that day, teenager Jessica Michalik died of asphyxiation during a crowd surge in the now infamous Limp Bizkit Big Day Out set.

Later in 2001, at the peak of their popularity and following a world tour, At the Drive-In broke up, initially referring to the split as an "indefinite hiatus." The band played their last show at Groningen's Vera venue on February 21, 2001. A combination of excessive hype, relentless touring, artistic differences, and Rodriguez-Lopez and Bixler-Zavala's drug habits all contributed to the demise of the band.

Cedric Bixler-Zavala took responsibility for the breakup of the band, saying repeatedly in interviews that he felt almost as if At the Drive-In was holding him back, and that he didn't want his music to be confined to 'punk' or 'hardcore' – that it should encompass many different genres and be even more progressive, alternative, and "against-the-grain." Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez had stated that they wanted their next album to sound like Pink Floyd's The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, while the other members of the band were intent on progressing in a more typical hardcore direction.

Following the break-up of At the Drive-In, Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez-Lopez started The Mars Volta. This project was a departure from their previous work, as it pursued the progressive rock sound that they had been interested in. Meanwhile, the other members of At the Drive-In – Jim Ward, Paul Hinojos, and Tony Hajjar – started the more traditional band Sparta. Hinojos has since left Sparta to join Bixler-Zavala and Rodriguez in The Mars Volta. Both bands have been very successful in their own right.

Musical style

The music of At the Drive-In is very complex. Although heavily influenced by post-hardcore in the vein of Fugazi, there is a strong progressive rock influence as well. Additionally, ethnic musical styles such as Latin Salsa and Lebanese Chaabi also feature heavily into At The Drive-In's sound. Furthermore, on the Vaya EP and their album Relationship of Command, the band incorporated elements of electronica and dub into their sound. Like At the Drive-In, contemporaries such as Les Savy Fav and The Dismemberment Plan were also experimenting with those same sounds within the context of art punk around the same time. Singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala's lyrics are renown for their surreal, cryptic quality and usage of a wide vocabulary. Although At the Drive-In's lyrics have been interpreted as political, specifically leftist, in nature, Bixler-Zavala has been quoted as saying "We're not Communists, we're not pinko... we can't be, 'cause you pay to come and see us and we sell t-shirts at our gigs".

De Facto

De Facto (formerly De Facto Carde Dub) was Cedric Bixler-Zavala and Omar Rodríguez-López' reggae/dub side project since the early days of At the Drive-In. The group's ten-song full-length album, Megaton Shotblast, appeared on GSL in late 2001. De Facto broke up when their vocalist and sound engineer Jeremy Michael Ward died of a drug overdose in 2003.


Final Lineup



  • Jarrett Wrenn – guitar on Hell Paso (1994) and Alfaro Vive, Carajo! (1995)
  • Adam Amparan – guitar on Acrobatic Tenement (1996)
  • Ben Rodriguez – guitar on El Gran Orgo (1997)


  • Bernie Rincon – drums on Hell Paso (1994)
  • Davy Simmons – drums on Alfaro Vive, Carajo! (1995)
  • Ryan Sawyer – drums on Acrobatic Tenement (1996)


  • Kenny Hopper – bass guitar on Hell Paso (1994) and Alfaro Vive, Carajo! (1995)


Studio albums





Music Videos

From Vaya

  • "Metronome Arthritis" (1999)

From Relationship of Command

See also


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