The War on Drugs recently released their occasionally transcendent synth-heavy fifth studio album I Don’t Live Here Anymore, and as part of the promotional push that included a pretty great Tiny Desk Concert at NPR, bandleader Adam Granduciel recently sat down with the ALT CTRL Radio programme on Apple Music 1 to discuss the album’s conception.
Granduciel is a gregarious presence, part stoner Jedi and part focused musical auteur. As he pieces together how the album took shape, he freely goes off on tangents that may or may not have to do with whatever he was just talking about. Still, when it comes to organising and cataloguing the physical recording of the album, Granduciel is lucid and concise. Some of that conciseness was part of the album’s philosophy.
“It was definitely a decision to try and write stuff that was more concise than stuff we’d done before,” Granduciel explains. “We were writing a lot and then demoing and then I would go back and rewrite, maybe this could be in a different key or this could actually need to be shortened, or trying to make things really kind of direct, more direct than they had been. And just spending a lot of time on the songs and the arrangements before we kind of commit to something in the studio. Because I’ve done that part too, and you just end up kind of chasing your tail a lot.”
Granduciel also explains that having a new offspring at home changed the way he worked, adding: “I think also just having a young child and that sense of time – it’s like when me and Shawn would be working, I would kind of just have to really use the eight hours that I was going to be out of the house. So I’d be really focused and I’d know pretty much exactly what I wanted to accomplish when we were at Sound City or over at Shawn’s studio.”
He continued: “I would demo basically everything at home before I went over, so we could kind of just step up to the mic and have a lot of fun, you know? So kind of when you’re working on… or even ‘Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Like when you’re working on something and it starts to kind of reveal itself as having potential to be… like have a big chorus or have like a big bridge or whatever, have all these movements, be like really dynamic, I never shied away from trying to go as far in that direction as possible.”
Also discussed was the increased usage of synths on the new record, but Grnaduciel dismissed the idea that he was abandoning rock: “I know obviously it’s like a cliche to talk about the death of guitar music and all that stuff, but it does feel cyclical,” he said. “It feels like we’re on the upswing of one of those cyclical moments. I feel like it was just yesterday that everyone was saying it was the downswing. It’s like, time happens fast now.
“Everyone wants to say like rock is dead or guitar is dead, but it just keeps moving and it just keeps morphing into something new. And young kids are discovering music that I grew up with and that’s kind of influencing a whole new thing. And guitars are back, but they’re recording them differently and processing them differently. But it’s cool. It’s like, it’s awesome to hear how people are just changing the guitar, you know?”
You can check out the full interview over on Apple Music.