It was the suc­cess of their sec­ond al­bum, that re­ally put The War on Drugs on the map. Adam Gran­duciel talks psy­che­delic reels and blue-col­lar rock to Jim Car­roll

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Music -

THE HARD SLOG is al­ways worth the ef­fort. Just ask Adam Gran­duciel. Since he landed in Philade­phia around a decade ago, he has been mak­ing records, play­ing shows and hang­ing around in bands. Up to now, Gran­duciel is a name stu­dious (or nerdy) mu­sic fans will have seen bandied around in as­so­ca­tion with Kurt Vile as well as his own ve­hi­cle Thewar On Drugs.

He was never one of the names in bold print, just an­other in­die rock sol­dier in the game. But last year’s Slave Am­bi­ent al­bum has pretty much changed all that. While The War On Drugs’ 2008 de­but, Wagonwheel Blues, was a de­light on ev­ery level, not enough peo­ple got around to dig­ging its fan­tas­tic, colour­ful roots rat­tle to spread the word. Slave Am­bi­ent is a dif­fer­ent mat­ter: it’s the record which peo­ple ac­tu­ally have heard, loved and, best of all, rec­om­mended to other peo­ple.

Slave Am­bi­ent was for the peo­ple who had re­sponded so pos­i­tively to his de­but al­bum, says Gran­duciel. “I worked as much and for as long as I did on Slave Am­bi­ent for the peo­ple who got be­hind Wagonwheel Blues. The re­ac­tion to Wagonwheel Blues blew my mind. When that record was re­leased, you had a bunch of peo­ple all over the place who were re­ally into it so I wanted to make sure when I re­leased the next one that they could see the progress and evo­lu­tion be­tween the al­bums. I was re­ally happy when I fin­ished the new record, but I’ve been amazed at how far it has got out there.”

Slave Am­bi­ent made hay with its grand, hazy, epic, big mu­sic jams. It was as if Amer­i­can heart­land he­roes like Spring­steen, Petty or Dy­lan had got caught up in a Krautrock ma­chine. A com­bi­na­tion of psy­che­delic reels and blue-col­lar rock fired up the imag­i­na­tion and added to The War On Drug’s fan­base.

Gran­duciel has al­ways had a strong sense of how clas­sic rock’s weather-beaten shapes can be re­cast in a much more vi­brant, nu­anced and mag­nif­i­cent way.

“I’m just try­ing to write songs which are full of heart, and maybe the themes are a lot broader than other bands,” he says. “Maybe there is some­thing in the mu­sic and in the feel­ing and the pas­sion of those songs which con­jures up those ref­er­ences. It’s com­ing from a place that I know. I was never a huge

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