Epic reach

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

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - MUSIC -

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.’”

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