CAGE THE ELEPHANT////MATT SCHULTZ////APRIL 2009
At long last, Bowling Green (Kentucky, USA) has something to boast about other than their on going production and manufacturing of the Chevrolet automobile series. This time around, it comes in the form of good ol’ fashioned Rock ‘n’ Rollers Cage the Elephant. Although their self-titled debut record only came out last year, these boys have been tearing the roofs off sweat-soaked venues across the globe with their blistering gut wrenching performances ever since. Currently back home and working on their follow-up album, lead singer Matt Schultz drops us a line to tell us a about life within the elephant…
Since Christmas I believe you’ve been back at home working on the follow up to your debut, so how’s that been going?
Well we’re pretty much finished with it. We went into the studio in January for about a month and it was awesome. It was kinda weird because we had to leave half way through the recording and go do SXSW, so there was a break in between, but it didn’t really break up the flow. We have about four more songs to go back in and do sometime this summer, but we’ve got the bulk of it finished.
Is it in the same vein as ‘CTE’?
Not at all…
It’s more like a jazz fusion album…
Are you serious?
No (laughs). It’s not though, seriously. It’s more like, well a lot more punk than the first album. We were just listening to different stuff and we really didn’t want to make the same album over again. We wanted to grow as songwriters or artists as much as we had grown as people. The album that was released last year, was actually recorded two and a half years ago and we’ve come a long way in that time. We’d only been a band for two months when we did that album and we had ten days to do it in so…this one is a lot different, I’m really excited about it.
What kind of thing were you listening to during the recording sessions?
Erm…bands like the Pixies, we were listening to a lot of Butthole Surfers, Mudhoney, Nirvana (eh), Bad Brains…
Considering the success of your debut, I wondered if you felt an uncomfortable amount of pressure approaching that notoriously tricky second album?
Not really. I don’t know, I suppose the pressure is there if you allow yourself to feel it, y’know what I’m sayin’? The only thing that really changes is expectations, and the last thing anyone expects from us is to do anything really good anyway (laughs), well at least that’s the way I try to view it. If you look at it that way, then every time is the same as the last time. Maybe there is, but I just try to zone it out.
As previously mentioned, you hail from Bowling Green in Kentucky…can you tell us a little bit about life there?
Bowling Green is kind of a sleepy town, its pretty small, there’s not a lot to do, you just hangout with your friends and that’s about it really…
So how have the town reacted to your success?
There’s always people who will be happy for your success and then there’s people who want to tear you down, but I guess that would happen anywhere you’ve been. I’d say for the most part, our home town is happy for us.
If things hadn’t happened for you the way they have, do you think you’d still be in Bowling Green now?
In all honesty I don’t know if I’d be in Bowling Green now. We got a cousin who just backpacks, basically all the time. I’d made plans that if thing’s hadn’t worked out with the music then I’d go with him.
Yourself & your brother were brought up within a very religious background, can you tell us about your average Sunday when you were a kid?
An average Sunday erm, we’d just have to go to church and then spend time with our families…there’s not a lot to talk about really.
So do you remember the first time you properly rebelled from this?
I think I was in eighth grade and I was mad at my parents because they had grounded me, so me and my friend went out and found some wild hemp which was growing in a garden. I mean it wasn’t even proper Marijuana, it was just hemp (laughs), so we dried the leaves and smoked them to try and be bad (laughs). It was so stupid…in fact at one point we also tried poppy seeds because we thought it would be like smoking opium (laughs). That’s what I remember about trying to be rebellious.
I’d read a quote regarding the release of ‘CTE’ in which you said ‘I don’t know if there’s anything you can expect from it. It’s just rock n roll that’s actually written by a band that gives a fuck about music. That’s about it’. I guess from that and the obvious conviction in what you do, witnessed throughout your live performances, that certain things irritate you about the modern day record business?
I would say the pretentiousness of music, just because there seem to be so many bands these days who seem to try and fight influence. If you listen to something, then it becomes part of you and part of your music. I mean I don’t think you should try and force influence or sound like a particular band, because I think everyone has the responsibility to try and innovate and try to push things forward, or go and do your own thing with it, but I think there is a difference between pretentiousness and innovation, but sometimes bands will allow their pretentiousness to paint their creativity. You’ve got so many bands now coming out with stuff that’s so very soulless, bland music which is very contrived. Anyways who am I to judge honestly, I mean I’m not inside their minds. Sometimes when I read interviews and they’re asked, ‘what are you inspired by?’ and they respond with ‘oh we’re inspired by ourselves’. OK so I’m cool with that, but what about their predecessors. John Lennon once said that ‘musicians are the greatest thieves on earth’. I don’t think he was saying that you should go out and steal anything from anyone else, but it’s like collective knowledge or collective consciousness, its something which is shared. I don’t think anyone really writes a song, it’s just out there and you kind of find it. So I guess that’s what irritates me, ‘cause it gets to a point where everybody is trying to be so fucking cool, but then nothing is cool, because everything sounds the same, there’s no real art being created. It’s like a portrait of a picture of what art should be and that’s like the anti-art. Art should be about the freedom to create, whatever it is? To put confounds on what is Art and what is not Art, or what is creative or not is honestly…like go fuck yourself. I’ll have my art and you can go do what you want. (Eh, I didn’t really mean go fuck yourself – laughs)
The band were relocated to Leyton in East London last year to help with the promotion of the album. Coming from the southern regions, how much of a culture shock did you find it?
Mentally we were prepared. I think we had a good knowledge of the world. With the internet today and with everything at your finger tips, there’s not a whole lot that should surprise you, but it was things like learning how to use the money, and small little things like that were more of a shock to us than actual people or culture or beliefs.
How did you spend your down time whilst in London?
We would play Tekken (laughs). We had Tekken Tuesdays and even had a trophy for it. We had friends that we met in Leyton that would all come over to our flat and we would have a tournament every Tuesday and drink beer. The winner got to take home the trophy until the next Tuesday. (Laughs) That was our big day, we would all get pumped up for that.
So as a child growing up, what made you want to sell your soul to Rock n’ Roll?
Erm, I don’t think I’ve sold my soul to it, but I think I was about 15 maybe when I fell in love with it. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to that type of music when I was growing up (I had to listen to Gospel and stuff like that), and when my parents got divorced I went out and bought a couple of albums and when I got home to listen to them I was just totally blown away by the freedom. There was a Joe Cocker album and Bob Dylan’s ‘Freewheelin’. I couldn’t believe the raw emotion within the music, it was pretty hypnotising. Also, after that I went back and looked at the history of it, and seeing people perform…it looked like a cool job.
If Cage the Elephant were forced to take the day off, who would you trust as the new saviours of Rock n’ Roll?
Oh gosh, first off I wouldn’t say we are the new saviours of Rock n’ Roll, that’s some big shoes to fill. But there are a lot of amazing bands out there man. Lets see, there’s a band called Screaming Tea Party. They are insane, they are like The Beach Boys meets Sonic Youth. Then there’s Lets Wrestle, they’re like a really melodic but heavy Pavement type of band, very punky, real good stuff. There’s another band called Morning Teleportation, they’re amazing, the Vivian Girls, Idle Times, gosh there’s just so many good bands, and those are just a few. For me these are just some amazing bands, making great music and still fairly unheard of at this point, but I think that’s going to change soon.
Ok, so I’ve read two conflicting stories regarding you deciding upon the name Cage the Elephant. One suggested that yourself and your brother were visiting a card reader who suddenly kept repeating ‘cage the elephant, cage the elephant, cage the elephant’ whilst you were getting your fortunes read. The other was to do with the significance of the elephant in Hindu Culture in connection with the good of man. Could you clarify where the name came from?
That’s crazy man, that’s hilarious. I’ve never heard either of them before, but I like ’em. The truth is that on the back of a Honey Combs box there was a dot to dot thing…and you had to connect the dot to cage the elephant to stop him breaking out of the zoo…so that’s where I got the name from.
When all is said and done, how would you like your band to be remembered?
I would like to be remembered as a band who made pure and honest music that says something, or has some sort of positive influence on the world. I’ve always loved artists like Bob Dylan and the Beatles, and groups that said something, I mean I wouldn’t say they had a message…but they definitely spoke their minds and they just made great music on top of that. Well I’d just like to be remembered I suppose first off, and then for making music we actually loved that had a positive impact.
Finally you’re coming to our town…how are you going to burn this motherfucker down?
(laughs) Actually I’m gonna set myself on fire, turn into a human torch and then light up the rest of the town…(laughs).