Cage the Elephant is a band with staying power. With four incredibly popular studio albums, the brothers Schultz, along with Jared Champion and Daniel Tichenor, have struck a chord with fans of indie rock around the world. Coming off of their latest release, Tell Me I’m Pretty, at the end of last year, we chatted with Brad Schultz about growing up in a musical family, the intersection of music and other mediums and what he’s listening to right now.
I’ve noticed that a lot of the tracks from Tell Me I’m Pretty have a kind of retro surf-rock influence. Coming from Kentucky, where does that surf rock/garage rock feeling come from?
Brad Schultz: We grew up on a lot of Tom Jones, the Beatles and similar music so maybe that’s where that comes from subconsciously, but we didn’t make a conscious effort to lean towards that sort of genre.
Tell me about working with Dan Auerbach and the value of a good producer.
BS: I think the biggest thing a producer brings to the table is an outside perspective. He helped us strip back some of the unnecessary things we would put into a track before and get a different perspective on thinning out these very difficult riffs. What you’re doing with a guitar is not just playing over a track. It was great working with Dan.
Can you tell me about what filming that was like for the “Trouble” video and how your brother did as a director?
BS: Matt did great. Funny story about the whole context of that video. I got a call from Matt at 4 in the morning, I thought that someone in our band had died or something. I was like “what happened?” And he told me that he had the perfect idea and literally laid out the whole thing on the phone right there. Matt’s really passionate about film and he really enjoys doing that sort of thing. It was really interesting seeing him in that kind of element.
I read that your father was a songwriter, and you’re a musician. I know you have a little kid at home. What kind of music do you play for her? And do you think that because it runs in your family, she has a musical future ahead of her?
BS: I don’t really think about her future. I just want her to find a love of music. Her favorite song right now is “Good Day Sunshine” by the Beatles.
Going back to the beginning of your music career, was there a song or an album that inspired you to quit your day job and pursue music full time?
BS: My dad was a songwriter, so we had been around music our whole lives. My dad also had bands in and out recording, writing songs and playing shows. I think so much of what we do comes from our dad, and our mom as well. We just grew up around it. I don’t think there was a certain day that I was like “I’m gonna do this.” I was just around it from literally the time of my birth I was surrounded by music.
What other mediums inspire your work? I know you said your brother is big into film, but what about books, art, etc.?
BS: I think we take inspiration from all of those things. There are a lot of different art forms that can inspire music.
Is there an instrument that you just kind of love the sound of or wish that you could incorporate into more of your songs?
BS: I don’t know, I think that kind of happens as you’re in the songwriting process. It’s not like we’re like “we have to get a flute on this track” or something. As you’re recording and you’re writing, certain ideas come to you and you try them out. There’s not an instrument that we haven’t used yet that I’m just dying to use.
Is touring conducive to writing new songs or do you need to separate yourself from that environment to write?
BS: We kind of just write as we’re inspired. Whether that be on the road or at home, it never stops. We might go through periods where we don’t really write much, but then the next month we have several things come out. The best thing we could do is play music, play guitar as much as we possibly can until something comes of it. For us, at least.
You guys have been around for almost ten years now. Where does a band get staying power from? Does it come from consistency? Or innovation with each new album?
BS: I don’t know. I’ve never put much thought into that. I think people can make a connection with our band. I think they can feel that we’re trying to be honest through our lyrics. Matt gives a perspective on the way we’ve gone through life. I’ve really never put so much thought into why we’ve been around for this long [laughs].
You add a fifth band member for one night only. Anybody dead or alive. Who are they and what are they playing?
BS: I would have to say Iggy Pop. Him and Matt, going at it on the stage together. That’d be great.
How do you find new music?
BS: All different types of ways. That’s the crazy thing about nowadays. There are so many avenues to find music. I’ve heard bands on the radio, I’ve read about bands in magazines, or just heard about them from friends. That’s the cool thing about Nashville, where we live, there’s a lot of cool things going around. We kinda catch stuff by word of mouth.
What’s the best thing that you’ve recently found?
BS: My favorite thing right now is the new Parquet Courts album.
It’s amazing right? My favorite is the single, I think. “Outside.”
BS: That guitar riff! Yeah that’s some of the best stuff I’ve recently heard in the last couple of years.
Cage the Elephant will be at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sunday, May 15th with Portugal. The Man and BRONCHO. Get tickets here.