Cage The Elephant has been hard at work. Their album Melophobia has been out for three weeks now, but their schedule only gets more hectic in the coming months. After a string of U.S. tour dates, they'll be heading overseas to headline many already sold out shows. I had the pleasure of catching up with the road warriors to ask them a few questions.
EARMILK: I read recently that you had a few fears to overcome while recording Melophobia. What were some examples of those fears?
Cage The Elephant: Well, with every record we make, overcoming fear-based writing seems to be the greatest obstacle. We human beings are very strange little creatures. Beautiful, but strange. We work tirelessly our whole lives creating and projecting premeditated images of self. Constantly honing our crafts, hiding away or changing any detail about our being that might be deemed socially unacceptable. Trying to project the perfect image we would like to be perceived as rather then relying on our natural reflection. This behavior bleeds over into our creative works as well. At times the desire to be accepted over powers the desire to communicate in naked honesty. To cater to cool or write to be perceived as “artistic” or “poetic” or “intellectual” or “vulgar” or “commercial” etc. Therein lies the battle. Our fear has always been fear based writing.
EM: How was it working with producer Jay Joyce during the recording process of Melophobia?
CTE: It was very intense, Jay’s never been one to shy away from confrontation, always pushing you to your very limits. He’s a very talented lovely man and we consider him a brother. All-in-all it was another wonderful experience.
EM: Were there any bands that you felt inspired by when recording this record? Which ones, and what about them inspired you?
CTE: Not really in a style sense. I almost cut myself off from listening to musical recordings completely while we were making this record. I didn’t want to be so directly externally influenced as we have been in the past. We thought it would be interesting if the process was comparable to drawing a childhood friend purely from memory. To allow emotional ties to memories fill in the sonic blanks rather then referencing sounds from song writers and songs that we highly admire.
EM: How have you changed as a band since releasing your self-titled debut album in 2008?
CTE: When we first set out as a band we were very impressionable and didn’t really know exactly what we wanted. We were wound tight and kind of just went with the first thing that came out. Today, we tend to have a more solid awareness of the general direction we want to move in, while trying maintaing the innocence of not completely pining the direction down right out of the gate. We still start with the first idea that arrives but we have the courage now to allow ourselves the time to relax and become more transparent. Hopefully doing so creates more depth and honesty in our works.
EM: What do you think about the current state of rock music?
CTE: I can’t really say I think of music in that context. I appreciate the convictions of any type of creative fundamentalist but I try not to compartmentalize music. To me rock’n roll is more of a feeling and approach and less of a particular sound anyways. But I will say this, if Jimmy Hendrix was around today I believe he’d be doing exactly what he did in the 60’s, innovating. using the newest technologies available along with new ideas of musical approach and pushing the limits.
EM: You guys tour a lot. Do you think it’s possible to do that much traveling and keep a sense of normalcy in your lives?
CTE: Well, I guess that all depends on how we perceive normalcy. Most of the time when we head out for a long trip I’ll start having feelings of separation anxiety but the reward (performing) is enough to still get me out the front door. After I buckle down for the experience and I know what I’m in for that feeling usually dissipates and life on the road becomes normal.
EM: Is there one song on Melophobia that you as a band are most proud of writing/performing?
CTE: "Cigarette Daydreams", "Spider head", and "Telescope" are the three that probably strike the deepest chord with me. Mostly because they’re the songs that I was able to become the most transparent on this record.
EM: What is the most unusual thing to happen while you were performing on stage?
CTE: I don’t recollect feeling it happen but, once after a show I was backstage toweling off when it was pointed out to me that I had been bitten on the back. When I looked in the mirror much to my surprise there imprinted into my skin, seemingly in perfect detail was someones full dental records. They had broken the skin and everything. Every since then, I keep my eyes peeled for potential cannibals lurking about the crowd.
EM: What is the hardest part of being Cage The Elephant?
CTE: The same kinda things that everyone deals with I suppose. Struggles are manifested differently from person to person but its all part of the same human struggle. In other words It’s hard to sum up with any explanation thats less then a ten page rant so I’ll spare you the gritty details, but basically as people I think all of our struggles are interconnected.
EM: If you were to describe Cage The Elephant in one word, what would it be? Why?
CTE: Hopeful. As a band it's our hope to continue pushing ourselves to become more transparent in our creative communications. To become better song writers, writing songs that live in peoples hearts for a life time do to the naked honesty within the songs. To shamelessly peruse a childlike state of playfulness in our creative works by unbiasedly using all technologies (instruments) that are available to us in any current situation, according to the thought or feeling or story that we’re attempting to convey. As far as subject matter is concerned, while we try and touch on as many different shades and colors of the human experience as we possibly can, from the dark under belly of humanity to joyous love that supersedes and transcends that under belly, hope always seems to be present. If some how people are able to derive hope from the songs we create as Cage The Elephant I think I’ll be able to die a happy man.