"We didn't want to be perceived as intellectual or cool or poetic or artistic or anything. We just wanted to communicate how we feel" – hmv.com talks to Cage The Elephant
Kentucky rockers Cage The Elephant exploded onto the scene back in 2008 with their fiery self-titled debut and they've since established themselves as one of indie rock's most exciting and supercharged acts.
We caught up with singer Matthew Shultz to take about their new album Melophobia, saki-influenced lyric writing sessions the departure of guitarist Lincoln Parrish late last year.
Your new album Melophobia came out in the US in October, but it's only just coming out in the UK, why's that?
"I think it was probably something that was decided by management. To be honest, my brother just had a baby when it came to supporting the record, we had to be careful when we toured because he needed to be at home. Now we can focus on it."
You've always had a special relationship with the UK, you've played here a lot...
"Oh yeah, we moved to London back in 2006 and we lived here for two years in a flat in Leyton. We love it here."
So when did you start work on this record?
"August, the year before last and then we finished we recording it in May of last year and finished mixing by about late July."
What kind of record was it to make? Easy? Difficult?
"It was very difficult. We'd been touring for five years solid and it was the first time we'd ever had time to be apart and actually the first time we ever wrote as individuals. When we came back together we'd already formed pretty solid ideas of what we wanted to do and it was a challenge to marry the ideas, some of which were polar opposites. In the end it worked out for the better, there's more depth and variety."
Was it very different to making your previous albums?
"It was a also a totally different process of making this record to our others. I always feel like it's a battle against fear-based writing, a battle against yourself, you want to cater to particular sounds and images and you have to find yourself in that. If you do that you end up writing songs that sound like what's current and we didn't want to be so directly influenced this time. "
What attitude did you take into the writing of the record?
"We didn't want to cater to cool and we didn't want to be perceived as intellectual or cool or poetic or artistic or anything. We just wanted to communicate how we feel. We just wanted to get across how we felt to people in the most direct way we could."
And what about lyrics? How did you approach writing them?
"I wrote lyrics in a very abstract way. I stopped listening to audio recordings the whole time we were working; I didn't want to be influenced like that. A close friend of mine said to me once 'Matt, you should stop trying to write to sound poetic, write the way you speak, that's way more poetic, when you're trying to project an image you move away from the truth'."
"At first I was very offended by that, but that's because I knew he was right. I then experimented by inviting my friends over, and I was super into Saki at this point, so we'd open a bottle and I'd get my typewriter out and note down what they were saying, little phrases and I'd try and elaborate on that. It was a very interesting experience."
You worked with Jay Joyce again, is he a producer you really trust?
"Yeah, he's super talented. He's got this ability to pull more out of you than you knew you had. He's very direct, very confrontational, he'll tell you straight, he's great like that."
You made the record with Lincoln and he's left the band now, has that made touring it odd?
"We love Lincoln. But the thing about him is that he joined the band at 15 and his parents had to sign over legal guardianship to the band so we could go to London, so we basically became his parents and we were horrible parents. He seemed like he was so mature and so we just felt like he was one of us and we didn't notice how he was, which we really regret. So, the last time we went home, he actually realised he loved being at home, he'd missed out on so much. We wish him well though."
How's Nick (Bockrath – new touring guitarist) getting on?
"Great, both he and Mavin, the keyboard player we've brought on to tour with us, have been great to have around."
You're touring with Foals at the moment, how's that going?
"It's been great. Foals were one of the first bands we befriended when we moved here so it's been great to catch up. In the US, we're kind of on the same level as they are here, so it's nice to have that balance."
So what happens after this tour?
"We're going back to the States for more touring and then we're doing Lollapalooza in South America. Then we come back to the States and tour with Foals again in May, then we have Coachella and that kicks off festival season, then it's festivals from there on in."
Cage The Elephant's new album Melophobia is out on Monday (February 10). They tour with Foals across the UK this month.