Chatting about Philly Cheesesteaks, the writing process plus a mention of a potential Australian tour!
After several line-up changes in their early days, The War on Drugs have settled in to become a much-loved musical force with legions of fans across the globe. Singer, songwriter, guitarist and frontman Adam Granduciel speaks to us from LA about the writing process for their forthcoming 5th studio album, I Don’t Live Here Anymore.
The band is normally based in Philadelphia, and the conversation starts with one of their home town’s best cultural contributions to the world, those damn tasty Philly Cheesesteaks. “Oh, you have those in Melbourne now? Oh man so good! Try living next to one for seven years! Then they know your name and your order without asking. Which was both a good and a bad thing” he laughs.
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As the main songwriter for the band, Granduciel is a writer that works around when inspiration strikes rather than to a deadline.
“I think if it feels good to me and it’s something worth shaping into something then that’s ok with me. Usually if I’m working on something and I get excited about it for a couple of days and I can’t stop listening to it, then I know that there something in there that is just inherently us.
“You’ve gotta try and excavate as much spirit as you can from the first little idea and then just let it go wherever it ends up going I haven’t; really been writing all that much lately but at the beginning of writing the songs for this record we were on tour in Australia in 2018 and I remember being inspired and recording stuff on my phone in hotel rooms, collecting ideas and sounds, but it’s not something I do every day. I should, to keep the muscle fresh but I made this record and now I’m taking a little break from writing.”
Stronger collaborations with the other members of the band is something Granduciel has been developing in light of the extended time it took to make I Don’t Live Here Anymore due to a freeze on things in 2020.
“I guess one thing I’ve been confident in is that I never want to assume that the 6 people who tour and perform the songs are gonna make a record together that’s any good. On this record I collaborated more with Dave our bass player and our guitarist Anthony is also a really great drummer, so the three of us did a lot of writing together. We had a week in a studio at the beginning of the process, so I showed them some ideas and we set up in a circle and kind hashed out a few ideas to economise the arrangements a little bit and those songs ended up changing. It was nice to have their input. They definitely helped take what was an idea and made those into actual songs.
“Then from there I had a blueprint, so I was like, ok, cool, I’m gonna re-write this in a different key or whatever. I always send stuff to Robbie my keyboard player as well. He’s always really open minded about my demos. So, I sent him the title track ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’ and at the time was just acoustic guitar and some scratchy vocals, drum machine and whatever and he sent it back with that beautiful hook. He wrote that. It sounds like something I might have written but he knew the perfect thing to add and made it something pretty special. I’m open to little bits of collaboration that the guys in one way or another help shape into something. I might have 75 or 80 percent of something and the guys help me to get a song over the finish line.
“Usually, you let the songs grow in their own timeframe, this time around, even though we had sort of that extra year to finish the record, I can’t imagine it would have been the same record if we hadn’t. When the songs sort of all feel like one thing, it’s finished, and then it’s time to go.”
Producing duties on I Don’t Live Here Anymore fell to multiple Grammy award winning Canadian producer Shawn Everett, who has worked with Alabama Shakes, The Killers and on The War On Drugs 2018 record, A Deeper Understanding.
“Shawn engineered, mixed and co -produced this album, so as we worked together on the last record, we know more about each other musically now. Shawn takes great ownership of the record and takes it very seriously. It’s nice to have someone there who feels like it’s their record too and it’s not just you. It’s a great privilege to work with him”
With a new album comes a live tour, is that something possible for them right now? “We’re supposed to go on tour in January and I hope so”.
One of the dates on the tour New York’s legendary Madison Square Garden, where music heavyweights Queen, The Who, Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin and even Elvis have all played. “I know, Madison Square Garden right. It’s crazy! I hope it happens. And we hope to be in Australia in 12 to 18 months’ time”
See you then for a cheesesteak or two.
The War On Drugs new album I Don’t Live Here Anymore is out now through Warner Music Australia.