With their third album being released next month, and recently kicking off a new tour that will bring them to Salt Lake’s EnergySolutions Arena on Thursday September 19, I had the chance to talk to Lincoln Parish, guitarist of Cage the Elephant.
Hey Lincoln, I thought we’d get started talking about your new album. Your debut, “Cage the Elephant,” had more of a classic rock/funk/blues sound, and then with “Thank You, Happy Birthday” there was a lot of punk influence with that. So now, with “Melophobia,” what were the major influences?
It was pretty broad, honestly, because everybody in the band had some time off—we had about a year off—and whenever we get home we don’t really hang out a lot. And what’s great about our band is that everybody is so different that eventually when we come back together and make something it comes out being very different and unique.
Our sound comes from everybody kind of liking their own thing. Matt likes bands that I don’t like, and I like bands that he doesn’t like. So, whenever we get into the studio all those different influences kind of work together—just so long as we can agree on the general idea. Once we get going it all just kind of falls into place.
So, this one was all over the place. I mean, I got really into that band Electric Guest and some stuff like that, I even got into some old Patty Griffin records and country stuff. I think Brad was listening to a lot of James Gang kind of stuff and old Sixties funk-soul. Everybody just kind of listens to their own influences and then whenever we get together, somehow it works.
That’s awesome. I mean, that’s kind of your guys’ thing, sort of this eclectic sound and each song is really individual. So, what’s the creative process like with you guys? You said everybody brings something different to the table, what’s that like recording an album?
This album was the longest we’ve ever spent doing an album. The first album we did in ten days, the second one we did in about a month. The process with this one was a little over a year between the writing and then we recorded for about eight weeks.
It was a lot more together in the studio; we had songs already going in. You know, the first album we kind of already had everything totally hashed out, we just went in and played them live and then we were done with the day. But with this album, there were songs we re-recorded four times because Matt would come in the next day and say it was too fast or too slow so we just tried to be super critical of ourselves on this album which took a little longer.
Every album that we’ve done, the creative process has been kind of different. Everybody in the band writes, so Brad might have one little riff or an idea and then everybody just kind of jumps in. It’s pretty organic and natural, I’d like to think.
So, with this one, how has the sound matured?
I don’t know, what do you think (laughs)?
I think you might be able to answer that question better than me. I mean, it’s so hard when you’re on the inside of things to really get a perspective on where you are, you know?
There were songs that, when we were recording them, I hated them. Then after I mulled over it a bit I loved it. Sometimes the things that aren’t necessarily instant as others tend to stick longer. That’s a personal thing for me, anyway. It wasn’t a super-easy album to make, but I think the end product turned out pretty well.
What were some of the difficulties recording this album?
Honestly, just all of us trying to be on the same page. As far as the band getting along, we were in a pretty good place with each other; it wasn’t like we were fighting. Even though I think Matt and Brad had a fight one night in the studio when I wasn’t there, but it’s a brotherly thing.
Yeah, I think it was more so just all of us trying to get on the same page. All of us too, we kind of wanted to take a different approach with this record and we were working with the same producer, Jay Joyce, and he likes to do stuff super-fast—get in and get out, be done with it. I think it was a little more mentally challenging on him with this album to kind of do it the way we wanted to do it.
It was stressful; I’m definitely not going to lie. It’s stressful for everybody; Jay was stressed, everybody in the band was stressed, but I think we came out of it on the other side.
It’s not like we hate each other, we’re all still friends. It’s just whenever you come to make an album and do something creative and it’s so precious to each person, things get sensitive. It’s all about just getting on the same page.
For sure. So, do you prefer having more time in-studio to record the album, or do you prefer the old days when you had ten days to record your debut?
Yeah, you know, I can go either way. I mean, I do some production work on stuff and work with different bands, and it all depends on how prepared you are when you go in. If the songs are there, all the parts are there, knock it out in one take and call it a day—there’s nothing wrong with that.
There’s even a song or two on this album; like, there’s a song called “Teeth” on the album, it’s kind of like a punk song, and once we got it structured out how we wanted it, we basically went in and knocked it out in three takes and that was it. It just depends; it’s not like that with every song.
Certain songs we would just kind of build it from the drums up, which is a different approach. And we wanted to experiment too, chopping stuff up—it was all about hearing stuff back, and we wouldn’t like it so we’d have to go back and re-do it. It was kind of frustrating, you know, but so is life (both laugh).
So, then is there a lot of experimentation with new sounds on this album?
Yeah. We took a lot of time just like, pulling out different keyboards we’d never used before and just play around on them trying to find a sound. We’re pretty conscious on this album about trying to not use the typical, straight-down-the-middle production techniques. It kind of sounds totally unique to us; we were definitely trying to do something different. There’re a lot of those elements in there.
There were days we were just kind of sitting around in the afternoon and hanging out, just kind of doing our thing, dicking around on the keyboard to see if somebody came out with a cool sound. That was one of the benefits to being able to spend more time on it.
I wanted to ask about the name. Melophobia means the “fear of music,” how’d you guys settle on that title?
I wish there was an amazing story to tell you about it, but there were just a bunch of different names we were throwing around and we just came to the consensus that that’s the one everybody liked. I think Matt was the one who came up with it and it was kind of an insight, I guess, into this album process—but I don’t really know. It stuck.
So, I know with this album you guys played a more intimate-type show down in Soundcheck Nashville, and here in Utah you have an acoustic performance at a record store the day before your big arena show, but it doesn’t seem like you’re pulling a lot of punches with this album—so how is your high-octane sound translating to these smaller venues?
The thing at Soundcheck was full-band, but acoustic stuff is always a little weird. I mean, personally, I love when the drums are there and the beat can carry it. I’m a music nerd so when I play music I like to jam with the full band. But with the acoustic stuff, most of it translates pretty well. There are a few songs we can’t do acoustic because, you know, guitars just don’t react the same way.
When we first started out, we’d do college parties and we’d either bring a guitar or have a guitar there. A couple drinks in and we’d start playing all of our songs that we’d written recently, basically just trying to score chicks and it didn’t really work that well going on like that. So, that’s kind of how our band got started, playing our songs acoustic at parties.
Well, that sounds pretty good, man. Thanks for talking, Lincoln, and we’ll see you here soon.
Thanks, man. See you out there.
Cage the Elephant will take the stage at EnergySolutions Arena along with Muse on September 19, with a 6 p.m. acoustic performance the day before at Graywhale in Taylorsville.
Tickets for the EnergySolutions show with Muse are available through Smith’s Tix, and tickets to the acoustic show are free with a pre-order of “Melophobia” at Graywhale and includes a 7” single and lithograph.
Their new album, “Melophobia” is due out on October 8. You can check out their first single “Come A Little Closer” below.
Alex Sousa is studying journalism in UVU’s communication department. He’s serving as the managing editor at the UVU Review as well as the editor of the music blog on uvureview.com. He’s had experience working as a freelance writer and also as a copy writer at a marketing agency. Currently he’s working as the Editor-in-chief of the Utah Tech Magazine, an interactive, digital publication. He’s a Utah native who’s traveled around the world; having lived in Mexico, backpacked through Europe, studied in the Middle East and—for a time—been stranded in the Ukraine. He can be found on Facebook and he’s available on Twitter @TwoFistedSousa or by email at [email protected].