The War on Drugs is still very much Lost in the Dream of its breakout year. Since the release of its gorgeous, expansive, and undoubtedly brilliant album in 2014, the Philadelphia band has spent the majority of its time dancing on the positive side of almost every critical tongue and clocking miles on tour buses in perpetual support of the record that transformed it from cult favorite to beacon of hope in a veritable sea of trite, emotionless indie rock.
Likewise, Adam Granduciel — the band’s creative force, frontman, and sole permanent member prior to this latest effort — has yet to wake from the reverie of last year’s triumphs.
With the band’s first-ever performance in South Florida looming, we at New Times were fortunate enough to gain an audience with the enigmatic (though always sincere) Granduciel to take stock of the moment and discuss what’s next for the War on Drugs.
New Times: 2014 was a very intense year for you and your music. Now that the dust is starting to settle and a little bit of time has passed, what does it feel like to have had your album elevated the way Lost in the Dream was by the establishment?
Adam Granduciel: Obviously, it’s awesome. We get to go and keep doing that thing we like to do! I don’t really spend so much time thinking about it so much anymore — I just try to keep one-upping myself.
It’s hard to tour for 18 straight months. We pretty much haven’t taken a break since right before the record came out in March of 2012, you know? For the most part, with maybe a few weeks here and there, it’s been pretty much straight-up touring, which is hard. I don’t really have time to reflect because I have to figure out how we can make each tour great for the band, and what do I need to do to keep people psyched, and how do we change it up to keep people interested. That’s my most pressing thing. In terms of continuing to be able to tour, I mean, it’s the dream in some ways, but you gotta find a way to keep it fun and keep it healthy, while also working on new music and staying creative. It’s very easy to be like, “OK, now this is the band. I guess I found the sound of the band!” But not every record we’ve done sounded like Lost in the Dream, and I want to keep getting better in the studio and have time to work on new shit and get weird, you know? Right now, I don’t really have time to do any of that, and I’m trying to keep that in mind too, and not just fall into some trap.
Are there any concrete plans yet to hit pause on the touring and go back into the studio any time soon?
I mean, when we finish touring in the fall, yeah. There is no time between now and October to really record. But I’ve been working on stuff. We spent some time in the studio in L.A. But what do you do? Tour for almost two straight years and then go right into the studio? You gotta take a break. You gotta live. What are you going to write a record about? What it’s like to tour all the time, which no one is going to understand except you?
I’m ready to put another record out, but we’ve got to take a break and let people relax and find out what the sound of the next record is going to be like.
On that note, are there any distinct changes in the band’s sound to be found in whatever new stuff you have begun working on?
I think that’s the thing: I don’t know. There’s no mathematical equation for this record. I mean, it could go any number of ways. You could say, “Oh! Well, this is the first record where we became a live band and became a really, really good band. Why not go into the studio and record that?” But no one wants to hear that, you know? It just has to evolve. I don’t think it’s going to be too esoteric or too distinctly different from this past record. I think that I’m still pretty much interested in writing songs, you know what I mean? I’m not, like, in the back of the bus huddled over a fuckin’ Ableton rig! That’s just not me right now. I don’t even know how to use Ableton. I mean, I want to know how to use Ableton. But some people go buy Ableton and I just bought a two-inch tape machine, so I still want to write songs. I don’t think [the next album] will be that much different.
You know, the sound of this last record was found by just recording all the time. There was a lot of stuff that didn’t make it on the record, like synths and keyboards. A lot of these songs could have been totally different songs! It was almost like finding the sound of it by taking stuff away in the mixes. This will be similar where I just spend a lot of time recording and it slowly reveals itself over time. It’s hard to start working on something because you’re starting from nothing, you know?
When was the last time you played in Florida?
We played a festival in North Florida once last year, but this is the first time we’ve ever played down that far south. I feel like I have to mention Michael Johnson, who was a big part of the last record! Michael’s a Miami native that lives in Philly now and works at University of the Arts, but he’s one of our old, old friends, and he was a big part of the album — so it’s really cool to be bringing this record to his home turf in Miami. I can’t wait to meet some of his friends and I just wanted to give him a shout-out in his hometown paper!
War on Drugs. With Everymen. 8 p.m. Tuesday, June 16, at Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets cost $27.50 plus fees via livenation.com. All ages.