“You don’t really write a song," says Cage The Elephant lead singer Matt Shultz. "You let a song find you.”
Sage words, but such a realization was hard in coming for Shultz, his guitarist brother Brad, and the rest of Cage The Elephant (bassist Daniel Tichenor, guitarist Lincoln Parish and drummer Jared Champion) during the making of their forthcoming third album, which they tellingly titled Melophobia, the definition of which is "the fear of music."
“We did have a lot of fears to overcome," admits Brad. "We kind of didn't know what we had as we were making the record, and we had to understand and accept a lot of things about ourselves. And there were definitely times when things got tense. It all came to a head one day when Matt and I got into a fight – there was pushing and shoving. But you have to experience the conflict to get over it. You put everything on the table and move on. Out of fighting, we were forced to understand what we were trying to achieve, and that was to make great music."
As Matt reveals, going into the writing of Melophobia, the band enjoyed their first real time off in five years of working nonstop, a period that allowed them to experiment individually with song ideas that they ultimately brought to their rehearsal cabin in Portland, Tennessee. "It was a good time for growing," he says, "but by being apart, we all formed pretty strong visions on our own about which directions the album should move in. When we got back together, we all had different views."
For Brad, part of the process of marrying those opposing views came from a personal epiphany he had while recording: “When we go to make a record, I’m empty. I have absolutely nothing. I always try to find things that will inspire me. Sometimes that inspiration came from other bands, but on this record, I didn’t have that – I wasn’t listening to anything. My mind was blank; I was starting from scratch. That can be scary, but that’s where the best stuff comes from. You just have to be willing to go there, and that's what I did."
As they did on their first two releases (2008's self-titled debut and 2011's Thank You, Happy Birthday), Cage The Elephant worked with Jay Joyce, the Nashville-based producer whom Matt considers to be something of an unofficial sixth member of the band. “Jay is the type of guy who never lets you see the magic that he works," says Matt. "It all just appears on the tracks. He always has a new way of pulling stuff out of us that we never knew we had, or he pushes us further than we ever thought we could go. Sometimes that’s frustrating, but the results are always worth it.”
According to Brad, the album's triumphs (and they are many) ultimately stem from a commitment to embracing musical purity. "When we first came out and had success, some of the blogs wrote us off as some kind of radio band," he says. "I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a chip on my shoulder about that. Our music has always come from an honest place, and that's especially true now. We never write songs just to get on the radio. We want every song to take you to a new place. I think we got there on the new album."
Cage The Elephant's Melophobia will be released on October 8th. You can pre-order the album at iTunes and on Amazon. On the following pages, Matt and Brad Shultz walk us through the record track-by-track.