“When­ever we play in Ire­land, peo­ple al­ways say to me that we sound like The Water­boys”

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

in­die rock kid when I was in high school. I’ve been lis­ten­ing to peo­ple like Tom Petty, Bob Dy­lan, Neil Young and John Mel­len­camp all my life.

“There are def­i­nitely things about Spring­steen which I’ve loved and en­joyed since I was lit­tle, like Born in the USA and The River and the synth sounds on My Home­town, and I want to try to get some of that in some ca­pac­ity in my mu­sic.

“Tech­niques have broad­ened. If you’re mak­ing gui­tar-based rock mu­sic in 2012, you prob­a­bly grew up lis­ten­ing to a bunch of stuff from new wave to clas­sic rock. Your frame of ref­er­ence is very broad com­pared to what used to be the case. Nowa­days, you’re look­ing back at so much stuff so it’s in­evitable that the ref­er­ences in­form­ing your mu­sic will be var­ied.”

Putting the al­bum to­gether took three or four years. “It took so long be­cause I was search­ing for a cer­tain sound which I wasn’t able to lo­cate for a long time be­cause I didn’t know ex­actly what I was af­ter,” laughs Gran­duciel.

“The mu­si­cians and the engineers must have thought I was lost be­cause they thought the al­bum was done, but I was just so un­sure. I had images in my head of how the songs should sound and I just couldn’t find a way through. In the end, I went back to ear­lier mixes and drafts to find the feel­ing I was af­ter to blow peo­ple’s minds. I know it’s a lit­tle crazy to re­alise I prob­a­bly spent all those ex­tra weeks in the stu­dio record­ing to then go back to the first record­ing, but what are you go­ing to do? Hey, at least I could pay for the stu­dios.”

Gran­duciel also learned to trust oth­ers dur­ing the Slave Am­bi­ent process. “I’ve re­alised I can never ex­press what I want in the way I re­ally want to the peo­ple I work with. I’ll say to some­one ‘more blue’ and they’ll go ‘what the fuck are you on about? I’m play­ing a pi­ano here’. What I’ve learned is to just get peo­ple to play what they want to play and see what hap­pens. In­stead of try­ing to ex­plain what I wanted from the songs, we just played them and these lit­tle things and sounds and worlds opened up. It’s ex­cit­ing to re­lin­quish con­trol now and then to see what hap­pens.”

For Gran­duciel him­self, the suc­cess of Slave Am­bi­ent means he can con­tinue to make a liv­ing from mu­sic. “This wasn’t the case for a long time,” he says.

“I used to go to work and when I’d come home, I’d jam with friends and record. But once I got my feet in the water and re­leased records and started to tour, the mu­sic took over. I think it be­comes se­ri­ous when tour­ing be­comes se­ri­ous. Your con­fi­dence and abil­ity as a player im­proves. You feel this con­nec­tion to what you’re do­ing and it comes through when you’re work­ing on new songs. If I hadn’t spent so much time play­ing gui­tar and writ­ing songs, I don’t think we’d have made the record we made.”

Thoughts have al­ready turned to the next record, and Gran­duciel prom­ises it won’t take as long this time around. “We went into stu­dio a few days ago and recorded some in­cred­i­ble songs. Slave Am­bi­ent took me so long to do that I missed so many deadlines and so many peo­ple were con­cerned about if I’d ever get it fin­ished. I don’t think I could make an­other record like Slave Am­bi­ent be­cause it was just too much time and too in­tense. But the lessons I learned about my­self as amu­si­cian and record­ing tech­niques will al­ways be there. The songs we’re record­ing sound great, they sound like War on Drugs songs al­ready.”

Those who go to see The War On Drugs in Dublin this week­end can look for­ward to some spe­cial cover ver­sions. “When­ever we play in Ire­land or the UK, peo­ple al­ways say to me that we sound like The Water­boys, so about six months ago, I bought ev­ery Water­boys record I came across and just played them non-stop. A Pa­gan Place is one of the best records I’ve ever heard. I want to cover A Pa­gan Place and maybe The Thrill is Gone live in Dublin.”

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