The beautiful weather that was outside my window here in New Jersey was also extending itself halfway across the country to where front man for 30 Seconds To Mars, Jared Leto, was stationed that day. He and band mates drummer and brother Shannon Leto and guitarist Tomo Milievi were on break in Chicago from their just-begun U.S. tour in support of new album, This Is War.
But a day off is never really a day off. It can be a time for catching up on things surrounding the record, as revealed by Leto, who between interviews was also catching up on meals with some organic granola.
There was a bit of a sigh from Leto when asked to comment on the length of time between this and their 2005 release, A Beautiful Lie. Obviously, it was a question that must have been asked a million times before as most fans had been impatient waiting for last year’s This Is War. He reaffirmed the passion 30STM has for what they do and how he is always writing, so the time between was not due to a lack in music or a break time. But he failed to mention one huge obstacle that did happen.
Beginning in 2008, 30STM banded together to fight Virgin Records, who filed a $30 million lawsuit against them. Apparently, 30STM had not delivered three albums under the length of their contract. All would be resolved within a little less than a year’s time, and they returned to Virgin/EMI to release This Is War.
Leto remained a little elusive when the topic of lawsuit and any disbandment was brought up, but maybe all will be revealed in an upcoming project, a documentary filmed during the recording process titled Artifact. So, while 30STM did not have any hugely publicized “wars” with their labels or each other, they did have a call to arms. They gathered fans on several occasions to record live sounds and voices, which can be heard throughout the album. Most notably as well, select fans and some celebrities made up 2,000 different album covers—as an insert over the standard tiger image cover.
With a break in snacking, Leto spoke on matters concerning the new album from 30STM running with a gang in Los Angeles, lawsuits and a DVD that shows what it’s like behind the scenes and beyond.
In comparing music videos from your last album to this one, you return to your home turf, whereas the previous ones traveled around the world. Is this also a reflection of the album in being more fan-centered and homecoming?
It was fun to turn the cameras on Los Angeles and it really seemed to fit the song [‘Kings And Queens’]. We had a pretty exciting time making that, being in our hometown of Los Angeles and kind of taking over the streets with a big gang of people on bicycles, so that was pretty special. That was a pretty memorable experience. But I think that this album is very inclusive, it was a chance for us to turn the microphone toward our audience. In some respect it’s celebrating the community around the band and it’s also a record about conflict. I think when people listen to this more, they’re going to hear 30 STM in a completely different place. It’s a departure for the band to new territory.
Is there any character from a novel or film that you think could best embody the album’s storyline, though I know you did draw some inspiration from the book Finn by John Clinch?
You know, maybe, a cross between a character in Heart Of Darkness, it inspired Apocalypse Now, mixed with [long pause] Porky’s.
What song do you best relate to or have a connection with?
I like ‘Night Of The Hunter’ a lot. I mean I have a connection with all the songs. They all kind of mean different things, different times and ‘Night Of The Hunter’ is always a fun song to play live. I think that it’s an example of one of the goals that I had in this record was to put the minimal against the maximum in the biggest way possible. And with this new set of dynamics, you have basically that one guitar, one microphone and a vocal and recorded live with the drums, kind of bleeding into the microphone against this, kind of, song that builds into a wall just a symphony of organic and synthetic sounds. That was kind of a goal that we had and I think that song reflects the spirit of the record. I hope.
It is a more progressive sound. Did any of the songs ever take on a life of their own and progress in a way where you guys felt you had no control?
‘This Is War’ is a song that really, that I think represents the fight, the struggle and also our determination, our willingness to fight for what we really believe in and refusal to give in. That’s an inspiring song to play live. There’s always a lot of energy and chaos around that song.
In the recording process of this album, are the rumors completely true that 30STM may have disbanded? Was stress from the hovering lawsuit partly to blame for any problems between the band?
No, the lawsuit never encouraged us to do anything except fight harder. So we’ve never really considered disbanding. There were times when we thought that things would have to transform if we were locked into a name. I talk about it in the intro of the record on a song called ‘Escape’ a little bit. We were pretty steadfast in our beliefs and held to it. But we’re celebrating now, the record’s out and it feels like we’re at the beginning again. A brand new start for us and it’s just a wonderful feeling, it’s exciting, it’s infectious and the shows have just been incredible and this is by far the best tour we’ve ever been on.
With everything that happened with the label, did you guys ever give thought to self-releasing albums or is it too much to get involved with?
Right now it’s too involved to get into, the world is still a very big place, but it gets smaller and smaller because of technology. But you’ll always meet people that help support your vision and help celebrate the work that needs to be done. So we’re really thankful for the people that help us do that.
You’ve brought up how the symbol of the album is a triangle, but also an ancient symbol for air and in a way, it marks a trilogy compiled of your albums thus far. Do you think a chapter has closed for a new future ahead?
It really depends on the next 12 months or so and to see what the future holds. But this could be the end of the beginning, so to speak—or the beginning of the end!
Along with the album, you filmed behind the scenes during its creation. Can you shed light on when fans will get to see it?
It’s being edited right now. We are have high hopes for it, it’s a pretty lofty goal that we have for it and I hope to be with it in a couple of months.
Was time to edit it the reason why it wasn’t released along with the album?
It’s purely due to editing. I mean it’s a great companion piece for the CD in a lot of ways, but it stands on its own as well.
How would you say it’s more than just a band documentary of those we’ve seen before?
I think it goes beyond being music centric or fan-centric. It’s a film that really talks about bigger, broader issues as well.
Looking back on all that has happened during the past couple of years, is there a stronger bond between you guys?
The old cliché—whatever does not kill you, makes you stronger—is true. We found this experience to definitely make us closer as a band and stronger as well.
Catch 30 Seconds To Mars at Roseland on April 21, the Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ, on April 22, and the Electric Factory in Philly on April 24. For more, thirtysecondstomars.com.