I first heard Rage Against The Machine’s “Guerilla Radio” while playing Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on N64, and The Offspring’s “All I Want” on Crazy Taxi for my Sega Dreamcast. I always had an ear for the music that was placed in video games. With the development of peripheral guitars and drums, music became the game. From Donkey Konga to Guitar Hero to Rock Band, video games became a source for me to discover new music. I first heard “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” when a friend of mine discussed the opening sequence of Borderlands. I instantly fell in love with the track, and gave the rest of Cage The Elephant’s first album a listen. They were soon added to my album collection and became one of my favorite bands.
When I found out that I had the chance to talk to guitarist Brad Schultz, I jumped at the opportunity. The conversation occurred a few days after the band performed at Coachella, just a week before independent record stores stocked their shelves full of limited vinyl releases. A track from the sessions from their third and latest album, Melophobia, was released as a 7″ single for Record Store Day 2014. We discussed all things Cage The Elephant, including their latest LP, festival lineups, and drinking with Jay Z. Check out what Brad had to say below:
I’ve been following you guys since the first album. Each record has continued to impress me more and more. Was this any harder or more stressful to make?
I think every album has its challenges and at some point is stressful. If it’s not, then I don’t think you’re really pushing yourself hard enough. We definitely had some growing pains, for sure.
Did you guys take a different approach at all in terms of writing or recording?
Not really. Our approach has always been a more honest one. If there is one thing we did differently, it was that we took a little more time. We didn’t want to rush anything or hurry to finish a song due to time constraints. Taking our time was one thing we felt we needed to do on Melophobia.
You also held a collaboration with The Kills and Dead Weather singer Alison Mosshart on “It’s Just Forever.” Was this collaboration planned for a while or something that came up while in the writing/recording process?
Well when we first wrote the song, lyrically, Matt [Schultz, vocalist] wanted to tell a story from two different sides. It’s almost a grotesque love story where two people are so in love with each other that it’s morbid. We wanted to be able to tell her side of the story as well, and we started to think of people it would be cool to work with on the track. Alison Mosshart was on the top of our list, so we just reached out to her management, and they responded pretty quickly telling us they wanted to do the track. We were all very excited for it.
Oh nice, so it all worked out pretty smoothly, no issues there?
Yeah, we kinda just took a shot in the dark because we never met her before. It’s really cool that she came down to do it and she nailed it.
You also paired up with Muse for a few shows in September. That must’ve been a killer tour for you guys.
Yeah, we had met them a while back and played a couple shows with them then. They also share the same management, so they just brought us back on tour. We were super excited playing big arenas and they have an amazing production team and are a great live band.
Absolutely. It’s gotta be great to play shows at big venues, then get to go back and perform at places like Tidball’s. Do you have a preference in terms of playing big arenas or smaller venues? Are they both their own animal?
Yeah, I think each of them has their own sort of qualities that we like about them. In the smaller venues, it’s great being face to face with the crowd and the intimacy is amazing. In terms of the bigger shows, there is a lot of energy to feed off of because there are thousands of people there. We’re kind of a band that just likes to play and appreciate everything as it is.
In terms of feeding off energy, you guys kicked ass at Coachella. How was that weekend?
Oh, it was amazing. It was our first time on the main stage. I was nervous at first, because I didn’t know if we would fill up the main stage, but there was a lot of people there and everybody was real receptive. Matt surfed to the back of the crowd and climbed the scaffolding there too (laughs).
Are festivals generally a nice way to relax and break up the stress of a tour, or because you are playing a show on such a vast scale and schedule, it is just as, if not more, stressful?
Nah, not really. I mean, in the back of my mind, I’m always thinking worst situation first. You know, “I hope some of these fans show up,” because there are so many other great artists playing too (laughs). For the most part, though, it’s just a good time. I like seeing the other bands and hanging out with them. It was pretty crazy, I actually took a shot of Cognac with Jay Z, and a shot of tequila with P. Diddy (laughs). It was pretty crazy and random; it was really cool to meet both of those guys.
Oh wow, that would make for a pretty great weekend. Did you have a favorite moment/show?
My favorite show of the weekend was Nas. It was amazing to see them play Illmatic. When I met Jay Z, he was in the dressing room with Nas next to ours, and I was looking forward to the show along with everyone else. I had no idea he was going to come out on stage (laughs). And then he came out, and it was freaking crazy! We also had the chance to catch Arcade Fire, Queens Of The Stone Age, and MGMT. They all put on really great shows. We basically went all around the festival.
I caught a clip of your Coachella performance online. It looks like you guys are always having a blast up on stage. Do you have a favorite aspect of touring?
Well, my favorite live moment so far is probably at Lollapalooza in 2011. We were playing “Shake Me Down” and the fans were screaming along to the lyrics, “Even on a cloudy day,” in the pouring down rain. When it came time for Matt to sing, he just let the crowd take over and it was just a whole new experience seeing the crowd become one whole unit. It was something special.
Definitely. It’s been great, as a fan, to see you guys over the years play bigger venues, more shows, and see these moments develop. For those catching their first CTE show on this tour, can you explain what they might come to expect?
You can always expect us to put all of our hearts into the show. We are a pretty energetic bunch on stage. What’s great is that we have more material to choose from for our sets. We are able to play tracks from the first album like “Tiny Little Robots” and “Lotus,” as well as songs from Melophobia like “Teeth” and “It’s Just Forever.” We are actually going to get a horn section so they can come out and perform on the few songs like “Black Widow” and “Hypocrite.”
Nice! So you get to mess around a little more with the setlists this time around. How do you form the setlists?
The main thing is to set the flow in the beginning, and from there, it’s whatever. We definitely want to have different moments within the show though. We also might change the setlist a few times throughout the tour, but usually we like to get locked in to where you don’t have to really think about it.
What’s next for band following the North American tour?
We are doing the whole festival circuit this summer. We are doing Bonnaroo, Firefly, Reading, Leeds, Lollapalooza… We will be touring into the fall and probably start on another record from there.
Finally, for Record Store Day 2014, you guys released a 7” that includes “Take It Or Leave It” and “Jesse James,” an unreleased track from the Melophobia sessions. Can you tell us a bit about the song?
Yeah, it was one of the first tracks that we started writing for this record and it’s kind of a playful track. We were just real cheesy with what we wanted to put on the LP and we really wanted to limit it to just 10 songs and keep it near 40 minutes. We wanted to leave people wanting more instead of the opposite. It wasn’t bad, we just thought maybe it didn’t fit as well with some of the other tracks.
Cage The Elephant will play at Terminal 5 in NYC on May 6 and 7. They will also perform at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, NJ on May 11 for Radio 104.5’s 7th Birthday Show. Melophobia is available now. For more information, go to cagetheelephant.com.