Cage The Elephant’s Matthew Shultz discusses the trials and tribulations surrounding their latest albumÂ Melophobia.
Interview conducted and written by Luke Ottenhof
Fresh off the back of a month-long lull, Matt Shultz and Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Cage the Elephant are back on the road nearly two months after their third full-length record, the aptly-named MelophobiaÂ dropped onto store shelves. The curious title boils down to “a fear of music.” Dig a little deeper (or, dare I say, come a little closer?), and it’s not quite so simple.
Shultz, along with brother Brad Shultz, guitarist Lincoln Parish, bassist Daniel Tichenor and drummer Jared Champion have had a hell of a season. Their senior effort, following 2011’s Thank You Happy Birthday, has already spawned a radio-favourite in “Come A Little Closer.” The thematic track acts as a thesis for the rest of the record: black-and-blue with frenzied, pulsating creativity, thanks to Shultz’ no-punches-pulled songwriting, a new approach for the singer.
“A big part of it is the struggle to overcome fear-based writing, like writing songs to project an image rather than writing to communicate or being just confident and comfortable with what naturally comes out of yourself,” explains Shultz.
The notion of fear and how it almost forms a window to our realities informs the record with a keen grit.
“We’re all so heavily bound with fear that sometimes the struggle isn’t to come up with material. I think more often than not the struggle becomes, ya know, find that place where you see freedom, because if you realize that then anything is possible.”
“Theoretically speaking,” he adds with a laugh.
He champions his surroundings as the architects of the approach, including learning that if you’re a little embarrassed to perform a song, it’s probably a good thing.
“It’s a good gauge on whether or not you’re writing something that has the ability to break through the normal hum-drum of life. Normally, when I feel a little bit uncomfortable about the content or the musical direction of something, it’s usually because I’m on the right track.”
“I had a conversation with my buddy, he just mentioned to me that I should stop writing lyrics to sound poetic and write lyrics how I speak. That just made sense to me.”
Shultz is a pretty damn eloquent speaker, then. Tucked neatly overtop the furious, powder-keg layers of Cage’s trademark, intricate instrumentations lie some of Shultz’ most illustrative and striking words yet. Yet at the same time, he has no interest in being lionized.
“There’s all these elitist titles, like artist or poet or intellectual, that are used to divide people, and it also becomes this thing you’re trying to obtain rather than trying to communicate and express yourself, which is what music is for in the first place,” he says. “When I was 15, I started writing songs cause I wanted to say something. It can become very difficult to overcome that fear to project images that would dominate the writing process, rather than the expression behind the songs.”Â
True say. Particularly in this Internet Era, personalities are easy to craft and mold, and it leads to a state of limbo where your own existence is a question mark. Banishing that muck from his music is something Shultz has worked towards.
“Our whole lives we work tirelessly creating this image of self and crafting an identity that we deem acceptable, and so that behavior finds its way into the creative process and into all areas of your life,” he illustrates.
“So, if you want to be able to write songs that find a place in people’s hearts and live there forever, I think you have to fight against that draw.”
As is almost a rite of passage for rock and roll outfits, internal rumblings figured notably in the recording process. Hell, if you’re a rock band on your third record and you’re chummy the entire ride, you’re probably doing something wrong.
“Every record’s had its’ conflicts,” states Shultz. “This one maybe a little more so than others… But I think that’s part of making records. You get together and you find a way to compromise and to make a song that comes from five different places, but that everyone is into and happy with.”
On Cage’s self-titled debut outing, a very featured fight between good and evil and the balance of morals was played upon and explored, and although not in so grandiose a fashion, the conflict still bears a resemblance with Shultz and the new album.
“I think that’s an element that will be there for the rest of our lives. Speaking for myself, I know it will be for me, because I struggle with myself more than I do with anyone else around me. That’s the thing about life, you begin to see the hypocrisy of the world and then you realize that you’re part of it,” he pauses. “It’s nothing morbid or anything, it’s just being realistic.”
That concept of conflict and a grand, life-long title-fight against a near-magnetic force presents itself loudly on album standout “Hypocrite”; “I won’t ever do that again/I’ve been all over the place/I watched the Strawberry Fields/Dry up and wither away,” howls Shultz on the track. He illuminates the bittersweet confessional.
“That song is just about believing in a promise that a particular lifestyle might hold out there, but not be able to come through on… Believing in the fairytale of rock n’ roll. I love the music, but this thing where you just… It’s kind of like when life kicks your ass. You get caught up in the fairytale of things and then reality kicks in and that’s what that song is about.”
The kaleidoscopic range of sounds that the band has nursed on Melophobia are consistent in only one way: they all sound pretty much like nothing the band has done before.
“I think we definitely are hyper in-tune to not repeating ourselves. It just doesn’t feel right to be covering the same ground over and over, so for us it’s always the thing of finding something new to get excited and obsess over, and finding those special things that guide the direction of the band’s sound.”
Actually, the record plays out much like the music video for “Come A Little Closer”; trippy, imaginative, and thoroughly engaging and enjoyable. It’s a freeing kind of indulgence, and one that borrows from Shultz’s experience between this record and the last.
“It was definitely a series of mini-discoveries, and hopefully many more to come, but with each new learning you pick up along the way, and are able to apply to the process, I guess hopefully you free yourself a little more to be creative.”[youtube id=”KVYup3Qwh8Q” width=”620″ height=”360″]
Shultz also speaks fondly of Bowling Green, where he and the band cut their teeth in the early days.
“There’s this real communal kind of thing that’s happening there. So when you were writing things, it was never a thing where you felt you need to keep your material in secrecy, not wanting people to hear what you’re up to. It was always as soon as you wrote something, you call up all your friends and show them, and they showed you something. It was all reflective and back and forth.”
As for “mini-discoveries” in the short two months since Melophobia was released, Shultz says those knocks on the head that bring a new perspective on the past keep coming.
“It’s like every day I feel like I’m learning something new. Whether it’s good or not, I don’t know. Maybe not necessarily look back and see mistakes, but just see more of the picture, growth like that. Elements come into the frame of reference that add more to the creative process and experience, so there’s definitely been some new things that we could apply already to the next record.”
Shultz and Cage the Elephant will play Toronto’s Sound Academy on December 19.
The Promise German Sparkle Party celebrates all thingsÂ outrageous
Outside a monolithic, abandoned, industrial apartment, a long lineup of people stood waiting to get into the annual German Sparkle Party. Luckily, one of the sparkly ladies working recognized me and let me bypass the line. After walking up a set of industrial stairs, I entered the most raw, dirty and unique venue I’d ever laid eyes on. Held on the first floor of the Tower Automotive Warehouse,Â the party was set up in a massive,Â concrete room with several thick, round pillars running throughout. The 24 huge subwoofers by Alieninflux carried and shook the floor to the point where you could feel the pumping bass under your feet everywhere you walked. The cement walls were covered inÂ beautifulÂ LED lighting with breathtaking lasers reaching even the darkest and dustiest corners of the warehouse. The Dutch headlinerÂ Estroe played dirty, deep techno that suited the venue perfectly. LeeLee Mishi, as always, played her groovy “sparkly” house beats, and the night was finished off by a rare set from Baby Joel who played a solid, bumping deep tech house set.
Just as the name suggests, partygoers came that night wearing the most sparkly and silly outfits. Donning such goofy attire seemed to allow people to let loose and enjoy themselves. It was the amazing techno and deep house beats along with the spectacular lighting, unbelievable energy from the crowd and the ever-so appropriate abandoned, industrial structure that reminded everyone of the old school, Detroit-style raves.
I truly don’t believe any group other than the Promise crew would have been able to organize such a flawless event. Without a doubt, I would rate this party as one of the Top 5 events of 2013, right up there with Digital Dreams, Promise’s Harvest Festival, Paaeez Lounge Closing party with Art Department, and Maceo Plex at Moskito. Keep your eyes peeled, as their next warehouse party is an annual New Years Eve event-something you definitely don’t want to miss!
By: DJ TAKiN
Milo McMahon – Big City Hustle – Album Review
TOTAL SCORE: 9/10
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Earlier this year, I discovered a now Montreal-based musician and solo artist, Milo McMahon, when he was playing at the Bovine Sex Club during the Toronto music festival, Indie Week. He contacted me with the request to review his soon-to-be released debut LP, Big City Hustle, which will be released later in March 2014. I gladly obliged seeing as I had enjoyed what I heard previously. Before I write further, I think I need to extend my sincerest apologies for the unbearably long time I took to write this review. I had some personal things I had to deal with and that took a toll on projects I’ve taken up in the past little while. So to Milo, I extend a sincere and very open apology for my mess-up.
Big City Hustle is definitely one of the more interesting eclectic I’ve heard in a while. The first time I listened to the album, I could feel the many influences that have pushed this very talented musician. The opening song hits immediately with a very 1980’s “cock-rock” feel, with a driving guitar riff and milo’s higher pitched vocals taking us through twists and musical turns. The second song saw a shift in pace, with a more Celtic feel in the music, showing us that this musician is very proud of his Irish roots and is not afraid to toss it into his music.
As the album progresses, we see influences from musicians such as Neil Young, a little more country feel, and some older rock n’ roll. The versatility and integrations of the different styles that McMahon uses in the entire album is very easily felt. We can find some blues, some folk, and even a bit of ska/punk influences throughout.
It was explained to me that the album is a concept album of the “dichotomy of McMahon’s struggle to make it as a successful musician in the Big City Hustle of downtown Toronto with his second life: that of a tree planter in the wilds of Northern Canada”. That dichotomy is especially seen in the songs Big City Hustle and Farewell Trip, wherein one portrays a “dingy” feel of a basement apartment, and the other talks about wanting to get out of an unwanted situation (namely the second life) and wanting to be anywhere but there.
As I listened to the album, I closed my eyes and imagined myself walking through the city of Montreal, and feeling lost and almost cold at times within a city I don’t always related to. The album definitely managed to strike a few personal chords for me and I feel that anyone who feels like they are lost somewhere will definitely relate. As the album progressed, I had a feeling of hearing the life of someone who is becoming more and more disillusioned with the place where s/he lives. The album progresses in such a way that it feels as though the lead character came hopeful, but simply got lost in the big city and is simply ready to leave.
From a musical point of view, this album was almost entirely performed by McMahon, and it shows his talent as a very multi-faceted musician. It takes a lot of courage to make a concept album, especially to do one alone, and McMahon grabs the bull by the horns with full-force. This album shows the beginnings of a very promising musical career and should not be overlooked.
I would strongly recommend that you show this young independent artist as much support as you can by donating to help him produce more music and especially to crowd fund this debut album. Please visit the site here for more details!
Also, Milo will be playing two shows in December on the following dates:
Saturday December 14th 2013 @ The Hideout, Toronto ON
Thursday December 19th 2013 @ Casa Del Popolo, Montreal QC
Written by: Andrej Ivanov
En Route Vers le Heavy MTL 2014 at Katacombes – Montreal Live Review
TOTAL SCORE: 8/10
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Editor’s note: The star review is based on an overall rating of the show, not of the bands specifically.
Last night, in the beginnings of the cold Montreal weather, we saw the first glimpses of the summer to come. At the Co-op Katacombes, four bands got together to play a 4h+ set for the opening night of the yearly battle of the bands competitions “En Route vers le Heavy MTL” 2014. This year, it was announced by the heads behind Dungeon Works Productions (one of the organizers of the contest) that they would be expanding to Quebec City, as well as Saguenay. The contest will be spanning through the months of February to March, and will not have specifically THEMED nights. This year, focus will be more on the genres such as death metal, thrash, core, etc. The bands that played at the opening night were definitely a show of the different genres that will be getting together at this year’s competitions.
I would like to note that I had to miss the first band, Warsenal, for personal reasons. That being said I will refrain from having my own opinion, but I didn’t hear much good about their set.
The second band to hit the stage was Kolony, a thrash-metal band, hitting the crowd with fast-paced riffs.Â The band did have a slow-start, wherein all the songs were starting to sound the same. About halfway through, things picked up. The band seem to find it’s footing and definitely started to wind up the small crowd. By the time, they played a cover of Blackened, things had picked up substantially. The band delivered songs that reminded me very much of their influences: Slayer and Metallica. Rhythm guitarist and lead vocalist, Reno, sounds very much like James Hettfield, although I found that I couldn’t hear his guitar as well as I heard the rest of the instruments.Â Ultimately, the band shined once they got through a certain hump. The set culminated perfectly and brought the crowd dancing and moshing by the end.
The next band was the very interesting Medusa. Rare are the female-fronted bands, and those bands usually fall under very specific umbrellas. This band breaks the moulds. A concept band, influenced by many old school metal bands as well as some new ones, and they definitely break the rules. All the members came on-stage with a red line painted across their faces, and gave a wild performance. A mix of groove and heavy riffs came together as one, as these metallers delivered every song with perfect precision. Simply put, these guys are a massive bundle of energy that stole the show in my opinion. Ultimately, these guys are the ones to look out for in the coming years.
Finally, there was the local Blackened Death Metal band “The Unconscious Mind”. I must admit, the guttural vocals are what sincerely turned me off from the band. The music was fast paced, and powerfully executed but I sadly was not in the mood to be listening to someone growling non-stop into a microphone. Sadly I was so turned off and not in the mood, that I just picked up my gear and left before the band even finished their set. It was a slightly disappointing and unfitting end to what was building up to be a great night. It’s quite a shame at that, seeing as the other two bands made the show.
Ultimately, the Heavy MTL 2014 competition is starting out to be a very good one, and I look forward to the coming months. It’ll be something to keep us all warm during this dreary weather and the freezing cold.
Written and Photographed by Andrej Ivanov[nggallery id=216]
CMW announce first round of showcase acts
Today Canadian Music Week 2014 announced the first round of showcase acts selected to perform May 6th-10th in Toronto. From major tour headliners to blog buzz acts from New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada, this year’s festival offers something for everyone.Â More announcements will be made in January.
[MP.G] My Pet Genius (Canada)
2 Live Drew (Canada)
Adrian Underhill (Canada)
Anthony Damiao (Canada)
aRTIST oF tHE yEAR (Canada)
Astral Swans (Canada)
Atom and The Volumes (Canada)
AUDIO FIRESÂ (Ireland)
Beach Season (Canada)
Black Mocassins (Canada)
Blake Carrington (Canada)
Bombay Show Pig (Netherlands)
Brandon Chey (Canada)
Brendan Ryder (Australia)
Briagha McTavish (USA)
Brothers of North (Canada)
Buddy Mcneil and the Magic Mirrors (Canada)
Buffalo Tales (Australia)
Cam Smith (Canada)
Cerebral Ballzy (USA)
Close Talker (Canada)
Cold Capital (Canada)
Colornoise (Costa Rica)
Dance With Dirt (Denmark)
David Hodges & The Honest Family (Canada)
Dawn and Marra (Canada)
Daybreak Gentlemen (Canada)
Dear Rouge (Canada)
DiRTY RADiO (Canada)
Emilie & Ogden (Canada)
Eric Zayne (USA)
Eytan Tobin (Canada)
Fake Shark-Real Zombie! (Canada)
Fast Romantics (Canada)
FEMME ACCIDENT (Canada)
FINAL STATE (Canada)
Finding Chuck (Canada)
Fine Times (Canada)
Fly Points (Canada)
Garden City Movement (Israel)
Georgia Murray (Canada)
Goodluck (South Africa)
Half Chance Heroes (Canada)
Handsome Distraction (Canada)
Helen Shanahan (Australia)
Human Human (Canada)
Ian Kelly (Canada)
Ivy Coast (Canada)
Jaimie Stewart (Canada)
Jane’s Party (Canada)
Jeremy Loops (South Africa)
Jess Reimer (Canada)
Jon Batiste (USA)
Jordie Lane (Australia)
June DividedÂ (USA)
KC Roberts & The Live RevolutionÂ (Canada)
This year’s festival also turns the spotlight on select acts from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Confirmed to date are:
Okta Logue (Germany)
The Jason Serious Band (Germany)
Yesterday Shop (Germany)
My Heart Belongs to Cecilia Winter (Switzerland)
Velvet Two Stripes (Switzerland)
For a full list please visit:Â http://cmw.net/music/artists/