The War on Drugs Reach a Higher Place

Count Adam Granduciel among the ranks of musicians who have benefited greatly from the availability of affordable home recording technology. As the man behind Philadelphia-based The War On Drugs, Granduciel fondly recalls as the foundation for what has evolved into his career in music the countless hours he spent at home, alone or with friends, writing and recording "for nothing more than [his] own pleasure."

"I was really just jamming with myself," he says. "I had no desire to form a band or even find people to play with."

Mostly, it was just an exercise in artistic expression, an extension of his time spent as a guitar-obsessed youth in small-town Massachusetts.

Adam Granduciel has gotten by with a little help from his friends.
Graham Tolbert
Adam Granduciel has gotten by with a little help from his friends.

"When I was like 11 or 12, I used to drop in at the local shop that sold guitars to look at what they had hanging on the wall," Granduciel says with a laugh. "Then I'd call the shop to ask if they had this guitar or that guitar, just to be able to talk about guitars with someone."

A couple of years later, he was finally able to talk his parents into buying him a guitar. He hasn't put one down since.

In an interesting reveal, though, and despite all his passion, Granduciel never considered music a career choice. After graduating from Dickenson College with an art degree, he moved to Oakland on a whim to look for work. With no luck finding a job utilizing his degree, he ended up waiting tables and living in a tiny room. Eventually, he bought an eight-track recorder and spent all his downtime writing music and learning how to use recording technologies. The focus was creatively satisfying, Granduciel says, despite the fact it was a completely insular process.

After 20 or so months of this hermit-like existence, he followed another impulse and moved to Philadelphia in 2003. It was there that he felt like he needed to connect with people musically. A connection with one old musician friend led to getting involved with the whole music scene, opening up the chance for Granduciel to start playing with other people. Eventually, he found himself living in a house where people were seemingly jamming nonstop, giving him ample opportunity to both refine his skills and gain the confidence to play publicly.

Among the first people he met and hung out with was a fellow guitarist named Kurt Vile. The two began playing and experimenting with recording processes together almost daily, while also working on their own material privately.

When Granduciel formed The War on Drugs, Vile was naturally included. Later, when Vile formed his own band, The Violators, Granduciel was part of that lineup.

Now, the War on Drugs' second full-length, Slave Ambient, seems destined for inclusion on many a critic's year-end list. In a charming turn of events, so does Vile's Smoke Ring for My Halo, released back in March. As before, each artist appears on the other's records.

The only bad news? Their individual success means that the two don't get to play together as much as they'd like to.

"I feel fortunate that, for years, I've had someone that I could share my enthusiasm with and learn from," Granduciel says of his friendship with Vile. "When I listen to the two records, I think they are at their best when I hear his guitar and my guitar together."

 
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