NOTRaising a child can be a grueling task for any new parent, but for Adam Granduciel and his partner, actor Krysten Ritter, a name for a boy has clearly established itself as a favorite. In 2018, the year before their son was born, the couple met Bruce Springsteen backstage at one of his Broadway theater shows. Springsteen is a longtime hero of Granduciel and a notorious influence on epic rock music and ready for the road trips he takes with his band The War on Drugs. No wonder then that Granduciel and Ritter decided to name their child Bruce, or that The Boss himself gave them his approval. âI haven’t told him before, but he now knows it for sure,â says Granduciel of his son’s famous namesake. “He takes a hit!”
In 2021, The War on Drugs is something of a rarity: a massively successful modern guitar group. Their latest album, 2017’s A deeper understanding, won the Grammy for Best Rock Album, while their international tour next year will see them perform at some of the world’s biggest and most famous venues, including Madison Square Garden in New York and the O2 in London . These large arenas will provide an ideal home for the meticulously crafted rock songs that fill the band’s upcoming new album, their fifth, I don’t live here anymore, which is expected to be released on Friday. While their early records featured sprawling soundscapes emerging from a maelstrom of classic 70s and 80s rock influences, the songwriting on the new record is more direct, the lyrics more personal. It was to some extent inspired, says Granduciel, by the arrival of young Bruce in his world.
“Nothing will put your life in perspective like having a child,” said the 42-year-old, speaking on the phone from Austin, Texas, where Ritter is currently filming the upcoming HBO series. Love and death of Big little lies creator David E Kelley. It’s a quirk of his celebrity that Granduciel has the curious distinction of being one of the very few grizzled, long-haired contemporary rockers to be regularly followed by paparazzi around Los Angeles, often with Bruce under one arm. âI think it helped me understand what it means to grow up. It kind of highlights your place in your own life, and there were things I wanted to write about when I entered fatherhood. It was a great opportunity to understand new sides of life.
That’s not to say the album is full of hymns to changing diapers in the middle of the night or any of the other mundane demands of parenthood. Rather, it is a record on trying to navigate the many changes in life. âI found myself writing about trying to take control of your destiny so that you can enter new chapters of your life with grace,â said Granduciel, listing the questions he was asking himself as he wrote it. ‘album: “Who are you? What kind of code will you be living with? What are you going to pass on? How are you going to be an example?
Quite naturally, this existential contemplation of a new fatherhood leads Granduciel to reflect on his own childhood. He was born Adam Granofsky on February 15, 1979 in Dover, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston. Her stage name was inspired by her high school French teacher, who told her that a literal translation of her last name ‘Gran-of-sky’ would be ‘Gran-du-ciel’. When he was growing up, his father Mark owned a women’s clothing store in North Boston and showed little interest in classical rock. It was Granduciel’s older brother, Burton, who introduced him to the overwhelming sounds of Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix and Neil Young.
It wasn’t until years later, after the 2014 release of The War on Drugs’ widely acclaimed third album. Lost in the dream, that Granduciel’s father began to learn about all the musical touchstones he had missed. âThis album got a lot of press, so he got to read a lot about me, and I think like any parent, he was probably pretty excited,â recalls Granduciel. âBut he started to see all these comparisons to things he had never really heard, like Dire Straits or Tom Petty. It was pretty cool because he had no point of reference, so he would just buy a Dire Straits record and then listen Lost in the dream and say, ‘You’re better!’ “
As a young man, Granduciel had thought he could make a career as a visual artist. He studied painting and photography at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania before moving to Oakland for a year, where he did art inspired by Bay Area Abstract Expressionists like Richard Diebenkorn, David Park, and Elmer Bischoff. It was while living on the West Coast that he began making cassette recordings of his guitar playing, labeling them âGranducielâ because he still felt too nervous to name them his own. Then, in early 2003, he moved to Philadelphia and discovered an indie-rock scene he felt at home in. I had no idea what that really meant, âhe recalls. “I wasn’t touring to get a recording deal, I just wanted to be creative, make music and find people I could do it with.”
Fortunately, it didn’t take long. While living in a shared house in the Frogtown neighborhood, one of Granduciel’s roommates introduced him to another guitar-obsessed man who lived nearby, Kurt Vile. The couple immediately hit it off and their friendship was cemented in March 2004 when they went together to see common hero Bob Dylan perform an intimate performance at the 1,200-seat Trocadero Theater in Philadelphia. âIt was a transcendent performance,â recalls Granduciel, a palpable feeling of admiration in his voice. âI remember they did this version of ‘She Belongs To Me’ with a pedal steel guitar. It was so good. Then after that show we went to an indie rock show, and it was funny [by comparison] because we were both like, ‘Oh, we just saw the master!’ “
Dylan’s influence is throughout the early albums the duo made together, albeit imbued with layers of lo-fi psych-rock fuzz. Granduciel played guitar when Vile debuted in 2008 Constant hitmaker, and Vile returned the favor by co-producing The War on Drugs debut album the same year, Blues Wagonwheel, and play on the follow-up Ambient Slave in 2011.
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Granduciel recalls that even at this early stage of his musical career, his father always supported his ambitions, even if he barely understood them. âI remember when we were doing weird shows in Philly, things that were lifetimes distant from what we’re doing now, he was there watching and trying to process them and was probably confused,â says Granduciel. “He’s definitely here for the bow, you know?” I think my dad saw the pieces while they were still falling into place, so it must have been nice to see me and the other guys coming out the other side to some extent.
It refers to the rapid rise the band found themselves on in 2014, following the release of Lost In The Dream. He identifies the moment he realized the band’s popularity had exceeded even his own expectations during the November 2014 shows they performed at the Roundhouse, a venue he and the band were thrilled to perform because it is there. that Led Zeppelin made his London debut in 1968. âAnd then it wasn’t big enough! said Granduciel, still perplexed. âIt almost became an afterthought because it sold out too quickly, so we were told we could have done it somewhere bigger. I just thought, ‘What? What’s going on?’ We were fortunate that when these things started happening we were ready, we had a big group of six musicians together and the sound was there.
The resounding success of Lost in the dream – which was named Album of the Year by no less than 13 different publications – led the group to be signed by a major label, Atlantic, for the first time in their career. Meanwhile, Apple’s Jimmy Iovine, one of music’s most influential figures, has publicly announced that The War on Drugs “should be gigantic.” From the outside it might seem that everything was going according to plan, but to Granduciel he sometimes felt like a passenger on a runaway train. âIn the last five or six years that we were a group on the road, it might have seemed like we were on a path that we mapped out and that we are steadfast,â he says. âBut sometimes you just try to keep up with the things that are going on around you. One day you open your eyes and you’re like, ‘Oh shit I’m here now, so where am I going next? What’s next for us? ‘ “
No wonder then that Granduciel found himself coming back again and again while writing I don’t live here anymore to this theme of trying to wrest control of your own destiny. The album’s title, he says, refers to a non-literal emotional place. âIf you say ‘I don’t live here anymore’ it means you are still where you say you are not,â he remarks. âIt’s almost like you know where you don’t want to be. You know exactly what you’re not, but that doesn’t mean you know where you’re going.
While freely associating the words of the title song, he proposed the lines: go. “At first, he considered them to be disposable lyrics. It was only later, as he listened, that he thought about all the times. where he had really seen Bob Dylan, including that transcendent night with Kurt Vile, at the start of his musical journey. “When I had time to think about it, I realized there was a context”, he said, “The more I worked on the song, the more I thought, ‘This is a real memory of a very real thing in my life, so why take it off?'”
As he finished the song, he realized that its title could match the vibe of the album as a whole. âI knew when I was about to end it,â he recalls. âI liked the assertion of it. It was like something. He also thought it might work with the blanket. âIt was a strange thing,â he said. âDue to the pandemic, we couldn’t really do a photo shoot. “
Instead, he asked his band mates if they had taken any appropriate photos during their recording sessions and came across a photo of him walking towards the studio during a snowstorm, having a cup of coffee. in one hand and his guitar in the other. It was almost perfect, a picture of a man forging his own path, but it needed one last edit. “It was I who chopped off the head,” said Granduciel with a quiet little laugh. The man may be on his own path, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he can see where he’s headed. “It was just like it was basically the subject of the record.”
The War On Drugs’ ‘I Don’t Live Here Anymore’ releases October 29