Cage The Elephant Talks "Thank You Happy Birthday," Playing In Leaves, Movies, Charles Bukowski and More
Mon, 07 Mar 2011 07:40:08
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If you're going to take a page out of someone's book, it might as well be Neil Young's.
"I read this interview with Neil Young, and he said that he'll put his guitar down for years sometimes and then come back to it," says Cage The Elephant frontman Matt Shultz. "He'd rather have his life inspire music than his life to be music. I've been trying to roll with that philosophy. We'll see how it works out."
Listening to Cage The Elephant's second offering, Thank You Happy Birthday, it's instantly apparent that Young's philosophy is working. Thank You Happy Birthday is a hypnotic yet sometimes harrowing collection of dirty but lush alternative rock that draws equally on The Pixies and the '60s. There's a fearlessness to the album that's missing from most modern music, and it makes for a hell of a ride. Cage The Elephant nod to decades past, while proudly stomping out their own legacy. As a result, Thank You Happy Birthday is one of the best albums of 2011, and it'll be looked back on as a crucial offering from the Kentucky rock outfit.It's like Surfer Rosa for Twitter nation...This is just what music needs…
Cage The Elephant singer Matt Shultz sat down for an exclusive interview with ARTISTdirect.com editor and Dolor author Rick Florino about Thank You Happy Birthday and so much more…
Did you have one complete vision for Thank You Happy Birthday, or did it come together song by song in the studio?
Production-wise, we had a pretty consistent vision. However, as far as songs were concerned, we really wanted to make it sound like every song was written by a different band. We really hyper-paranoid about repeating ourselves on this record so every time we started writing in a direction that was similar to something we had done previously, we'd change something about it or stop writing the song altogether and move on to something else. On the first record, we didn't have any money so we only had ten days in the studio to finish it. We didn't have a lot of time to go back and work on anything. With this record, Jay Joyce is the kind of producer who likes for you to go with your gut instincts. We definitely still did that on this record, but we spent a lot more time paying close attention to detail and making sure there were different little things in each song even from session to session inside a song.
Is it important for you to tell stories with the songs?
Yeah, I think so. Sometimes, you hear people say, "Music is life." I really disagree with that because I think that life inspires great music. Honestly, I wrote most of the lyrics on the spot in the studio. I drove our producer freaking crazy [Laughs]. Every day I'd come in and he'd be like, "Uh, Matt, do you have anything for this song today?" I'd tell him I had a couple syllables or something like that [Laughs]. It pieced together that way. I was really into Iggy Pop and how he went with his stream-of-consciousness. It made a lot of sense to do it that way.
Do you aim to create music that you can see as well as hear?
I'm not sure if that was my intent. We were just trying to make songs that we were really into. Maybe it was something that we did subconsciously.
What's the story behind "Flow?"
That was a song Lincoln [Parish, lead guitar] was working on. Every time we'd get together, we'd warm up to it. That was an unexpected tune that worked out. There's a funny story behind that song. I was stuck on the lyrics and just struggling writing them. I went out back behind the studio. There was a little forest. I went there to draw some inspiration from smells. Sometimes if I smell something, it'll give me a memory. I covered myself in a pile of leaves and our producer walked out and was like, "What the heck are you doing?" [Laughs] After that, the lyrics happened. I guess it worked.
Did time allow the sound to develop?
We wrote the first record three years before went into the studio for the second. We finished recording Thank You Happy Birthday when the first record was coming out in the U.S. We actually tried to convince the label to try to release Thank You Happy Birthday instead of the first album. It developed over time. I'd been listening to a lot of Simon & Garfunkel and Neil Young. I was really into all of these great melodies at the time.
Were you reading anything when you were working on the album?
I was reading a lot of Charles Bukowski, Dylan Thomas, Leonard Cohen, and stuff like that. I read Of Mice and Men. I love John Steinbeck. I've got Locked In The Arms of A Crazy Life and The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills—I really like that book.
There's something rock 'n' roll about Bukowski.
For sure! He's super cynical and sarcastic. I love his poetry, but I often say to myself, "He must've been a difficult guy to be around!" [Laughs] He's hyper critical.
If Thank You Happy Birthday were a movie or a combination of movies, what would you compare it to?
Mulholland Dr.! I love that movie, but I don't even know if it would compare [Laughs]. I just love that film. All of David Lynch's films are really great. I'm a big fan of anything that Wes Anderson does. I love The Royal Tenenbaums too.
Have you heard Thank You Happy Birthday yet?
See the band on tour at the dates below!
March 23, 2011 London, UK @ The Electric Ballroom
March 31, 2011 Cincinnati, OH @ Bogart’s
April 1, 2011 Louisville, KY @ Headliners
April 2, 2011 Chattanooga, TN @ Rhythm & Brews
April 4, 2011 Asheville, NC @ Orange Peel
April 5, 2011 Knoxville, TN @ Valarium
April 6, 2011 Little Rock, AR @ Rev Room
April 8, 2011 Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic Lounge
April 9, 2011 Columbia, MO @ Blue Note
April 10, 2011 Tulsa, OK @ Cain’s Ballroom
April 12, 2011 Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater
April 14, 2011 Mesa, AZ @ the Mesa Amphitheatre
April 16, 2011 Indio, CA @ Coachella
June 27, 2011 Vancouver, CA @ Deer Lake Park
June 28, 2011 Calgary @ Stampede Corral
June 29, 2011 Edmonton @ Rexall Place
June 30, 2011 Saskatoon @ TCU Place
July 2, 2011 Winnipeg @ MTS Centre
July 3, 2011 Minneapolis, MN @ Roy Wilkins Auditorium
July 5, 2011 Council Bluffs, IA @ Stir Cove Amphitheatre
July 7, 2011 Toronto, ON @ Molson Amphitheatre
July 10, 2011 Quebec City @ Festival D’Ete
July 11, 2011 Montreal @ Bell Centre
July 12, 2011 London, ON – John Labatt Centre
July 13, 2011 Buffalo, NY – Artpark