Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs on the "Certain Optimism" of New Album I Don’t Live Here Anymore

Janice Headley
all photos by Shawn Brackbill

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Adam Granduciel of The War on Drugs is not the sort to take a “me day.” 

“Relaxing,” he echoes, when I ask him about his self-care routine. “What’s relaxing? I’m relaxed right now,” he says with a smile from a sun-filled bedroom during a Zoom call.   

It’s been four years since the band released their universally-acclaimed fourth LP A Deeper Understanding, deservedly earning the group the Grammy Award for Best Rock Album. Since then, Granduciel had his first son, Bruce (named for his musical hero, natch), and last year, the group self-released the live album Live Drugs. Today, they return with a new album, titled I Don’t Live Here Anymore, out via Atlantic Records. But, it was hardly a four year “break.”

“I wish I could say I took some time off, but I basically didn't,” he admits. “The last record came out. We were on tour for a few months. We were in Singapore for a couple of weeks. And then I got back and I was basically like, ‘Let me start writing a lot.’ I basically spent all of 2018 writing while we were on tour. In the bits of time in between being on the road, I would book a studio and I'd demo a bunch of stuff. At the end of 2018, we did the first kind of full band sessions at Electric Lady New York with Shawn [Everett], our engineer/producer. And then the rest of 2019 was basically recording a record, and having a child, obviously. He was six weeks old when I went back into the studio — not full on, but the guys said, come out.”

Not even lockdown could slow this workhorse down. “The pandemic obviously changed the whole relationship between time and everything. Obviously, as much hardship as it brought, there were some great things that came out of being able to spend that much time with family.”

“Basically the second half of 2020 is when me and Shawn got back into it in person. And then wrapped it up, you know, in April or May of this year or so. I guess for me, I knew I didn’t want to be on the road for the last record all the time, and then finish that cycle and not have any material. It's important for me to stay on top of stuff and not feel rushed when it comes to writing, because it takes me a while for things to form.”

What formed is the band’s most reflective album to date, filled with contemplative lyrics — like the jangle-pop reflection on “Change,” the parental pondering of “Rings Around My Father's Eyes,” and, of course, the title track — while still retaining their pre-pandemic innocence. 

“When we laid down the foundation of a lot of songs, it was before I had a kid and before the pandemic. I felt, musically and personally, I was entering a new era, but I hadn't really reached the gates yet, you know what I mean? Like, we hadn't had a child yet, and obviously no one knew about the pandemic. So, I think there was an inherent kind of uplifting quality to the music. I always liked making music that sounds like that, too. I think that’s when it feels right, is when it does have a certain optimism to it or something.”

I think there was an inherent kind of uplifting quality to the music. I always liked making music that sounds like that, too. I think that’s when it feels right, is when it has a certain optimism to it or something...

“As we moved on, and worked through the pandemic, I think there was a concept of trying to make something that felt good, you know, as hard as it was. You're writing about things that start becoming a little bit more about being ground down and trying to push through things in your life. But I think musically, it was always about trying to make it pretty uplifting, you know, and positive.“

Of course, having a toddler in your life helps keep things positive. Bruce is now age two, and has already started helping his daddy out in the studio. (Passing on that work ethic early!)

“Working in my little home studio with my kid, you know, he's messing around with keyboards and gear and yelling into a mic and playing guitar, and that really injects a real kind of curiosity into your daily life, you know? A couple of times he throws in a sound. I got a synth plugged in and he's tweaking the knobs, and I was like, that actually sounds cool, I'm going to roll with that. It's kind of the best way to have your mind blown a little bit. You're just creating with this new element that is really open to literally everything. And Shawn, my engineer/producer, had a baby too. So, we were both experiencing that kind of wonder throughout the making of this. It's just one of those things we were able to bond over.”

The War on Drugs has an extensive tour schedule coming up in 2022 — including two nights at Seattle’s Paramount Theatre, Monday, February 21st and Tuesday, February 22nd — and it can be hard to leave your kids behind when you hit the road. But, like their music, Granduciel stays optimistic.

“I think you just have to get into it and experience it and see what works. Everyone in the band has kids of different age groups, all the way up to 15-years-old and, you know, as young as mine. People have done it. On one hand, it sucks, because you want to be there. There's nothing better, you know? At the same time, this is what we do, and this is the community we built with my friends and their families and I want him to have that, you know?”

“So I think we're just trying to figure it out, really, as we continue. But we love what we do and we love being together and hopefully our kids can see that. We're doing what we love to do.”

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