For the past few years,Cage the Elephant
has been on a classic music industry roller coaster ride. Formed in Bowling Green five years ago, the band was signed in 2007 by the UK-based Relentless Records on the strength of an existing catalog of unreleased songs and wild live performances at SXSW.
The signing working out fairly well: Their 2008, eponymous first release yielded a radio hit in "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked." But the band's new album, Thank You, Happy Birthday, finds the band heading off in a new direction -- one that finds the band earning all sorts of comparisons to the Pixies.
It's a more mature sound, for sure. And, on the combined strength of their debut and sophomore releases, the band is selling out shows across the country on their tour with co-headliners Manchester Orchestra. In advance of that tour's stop through the region this weekend for a gig at the Palladium Ballroom on Sunday night, we caught up with 27-year-old lead singer Matt Shultz to discuss what a long strange trip Cage the Elephant's career has already been.
I read that, after band was signed to Relentless, you were moved by the label from Bowling Green to London. That sounds like diving off the deep end.
We signed with Relentless because they were the only label that promised us 100 percent creative control. England turned out to not exactly be the fairy tale we were expecting. Indie dance and electronica was the order of the day there, and we'd play sometimes to just two or three people in the audience. They were a wildly enthusiastic 3 people, but still. We finally had a gig with the Screaming Tea Party, and that completely turned things around for us. And being in the UK definitely opened my eyes.
In what way?
Well, growing up in Bowling Green, the music we had been exposed to was pretty limited -- radio pop like Britney Spears or dad-rock like Chuck Berry, and not a lot in between. I didn't hear the Pixies until we were in the UK. I'm like asking people if they've heard this band called The Pixies' and they're like, "Yeah, you dumbass!"
How was it when you were first coming back to the States to play?
Kind of funny. We had a small problem in that the first album was released a lot later here, and a lot of it was two years old when we recorded it. So while we were itching to play our new stuff and would work it into the show, but our management was trying to keep our set list focused on the first album. But it worked out OK.
So where is the band based now?
Most of the guys are in Nashville now, but me and [brother and rhythm guitarist] Brad are back kind of cloistered away in Bowling Green.
Sounds like you are selling out a lot of good venues on this tour.
It's been really great. [Co-headliners] Manchester Orchestra good friends, so there is never a dull moment. Meeting [Manchester Orchestra frontman] Andy Hull was like meeting an old friend you've known forever.
What are you listening to on the road?
Man, I'm glad you asked that! I'm totally into The Zombies, and listening to a lot of other '60s stuff, like The Turtles, Tommy James and the Shondells, The Young Rascals and Herman's Hermits. I'm also listening to Jeff the Brotherhood and, of course, Manchester Orhestra.
Five years into this adventure, how's the business side of the music industry surprised you?
I try not to pay too much attention to the business side of the business. I saw a documentary with Bob Dylan where he said he just wanted to know that people were listening to the music. That's what I really care about. People ask me questions about our music from some sociology or psychology point of view. But I'm no scientist, I just like to play the songs.
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