The new album from The War on Drugs is a bold blend of classic and experimental rock. Making it was both nerve-wracking and rewarding, frontman and songwriter Adam Granduciel tells Cian Traynor
Adam Granduciel puts a lot of pressure on himself. The musician invested so much in Lost in the Dream, a sprawling rock album hailed as one of the year’s best, that it almost became his undoing. It wasn’t just a case of making the third War On Drugs album his finest. Granduciel wanted to emulate his heroes (Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Neil Young) while creating for others the same comfort and connection he took from his favourite records. But as the deadline loomed, the 35-year-old felt like he was falling apart.
“There were some really dark times where I couldn’t communicate or thought I might have to check myself in somewhere,” he says. “During mixing, I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I don’t even know why. I was holding myself to a pretty high standard but it wasn’t like I was getting flak from the label or like I was in debt for $300,000. I was just wrapping up this record and losing my fucking mind over it.”
After touring the band’s second album, Slave Ambient, for 16 months, Granduciel returned home to Philadelphia at the end of 2012 only to feel disconnected and paranoid. He went through a relationship break-up, suffered panic attacks and, for the first time, took a lengthy rest from performing. Until then, he believed that if his career could just progress to a certain
point, he’d find fulfilment. Now that he’d got there, Granduciel felt like a mess.
“Everything came to a halt,” he says. “I found myself alone in this house I’ve lived in for 11 years, starting to go a little crazy over the writing of the record and wondering, ‘Is this even making me happy anymore? What am I getting out of this? All it’s doing is isolating me from my friends and family and making me second-guess everything.’”
Most of 2013 was spent developing demos alone, late into the night, as Granduciel tried to resolve these questions through music. You can see it in the song titles: Under Pressure, Red
Eyes, Suffering, Disappearing – and in the lyrics too. “Like a train in reverse down a dark road, carrying the whole load,” he sings on Eyes to the Wind, “just rattling the whole way home.” But the longer Granduciel kept at it, the more he sensed an opportunity to create something worthwhile.
“Personally, I learned how shitty things can get. I never experienced certain levels of depression before. That changed the whole way I see my life and everyone else’s around me too. It made me want to connect with people on a different level and put myself out there more. Music has helped me get through some things and I know it’s done the same for others, so at some point a light bulb went off where I thought, ‘Maybe I am supposed to do music, you know? Maybe this is my higher calling.’”