The new way of the War on Drugs
Frontman Granduciel talks about comparisons to rock greats and building up the band's sound
Philadelphia band the War on Drugs, who play Emo's on Tuesday, make hazy music often defined by an inescapable layer of fuzz at battle with more clear-cut classic rock tendencies. On their second full-length album, "Slave Ambient," released in August, the dichotomy between the two sounds is more defined than the band's earlier efforts, with moments of spacey chaos brought into focus by chugging rock 'n' roll with road-weary vocals that pick up where the likes of Springsteen and Petty left off. We caught up with War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel last week and chatted about his influences, production and the band's home city.
- Peter Mongillo
Austin American-Statesman: Your music often gets compared with classic rock musicians such as Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen. Do you think that's accurate? Do you count Dylan and similar acts as influences?
Adam Granduciel: Yeah, I mean those guys have huge choruses, so it's difficult to understand sometimes, but I definitely spent a lot of time as a kid singing along to the Petty catalog, so I get that. But yeah, obviously they're great, classic songwriters with a catalog so deep you can cook a stew up in there, so I'd be lying if I said they weren't influences. Sometimes it's their band, though, that I look to more. Mike Campbell and Benmont (Tench, of Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers) are two of my faves, and also Danny Federici's keyboard/synth work with Bruce was always what I latched on to most, I think.
Instrumental sections seem to play a more defined role on "Slave Ambient," and in some cases, such as "The Animator" and "Come to the City," the songs seem to have evolved out of informal moments. Is that the case?
It was super informal, sometimes just listening to some reels and having the sampler out, grabbing little moments, dubbing those out and processing them later. It's just a journey, trying to find the moments as you go and then trying to know when it's there is the hard part.
The new record has a cleaner feel, as far as production. What was different this time around, with production and otherwise?
Well, we definitely did a few songs in a more hi-fi environment, but a lot of the stuff, like the earlier records, was done at my house and at Jeff's (Ziegler, producer) studio. I think I've definitely grown as a home-engineer kind of guy, so the stuff from my modest setup sounds a bit better - definitely not low-fi or anything. Production-wise, we just spent a whole lot of time on every piece of the record, every guitar tone, every drum sound. But it's also important that we didn't obsess over these things. We worked fast and got good sounds and I think because Jeff just knows how to dial that (expletive) in real quick makes it easy.
In other interviews, you've talked about how the band is sort of connected to your home city of Philadelphia. What role does being based out of that city play in your music?
Ah, I don't know. I mean, I have a house where we can record and practice, and that immediately makes things easier than going to a rehearsal space, I guess. I really don't think that there's any sort of "blue collar" connection between our music and Philadelphia. It's where we live, and, like anywhere you live, you're influenced by a number of intangibles. I can't really explain what they are, though.
The War on Drugs at Emo's, with Purling Hiss and Carter Tanton. 9 p.m. $10. 603 Red River St. www.emosaustin.com