CAGE THE ELEPHANT – interview with Brad Schultz
By Laurel Hayles, The Club Circuit
NRQ’s 97 Days of Summer 2011 Concert Series kicks off with Cage The Elephant headlining at the McDonald Theatre on Tuesday, June 7, 2011, with Manchester Orchestra opening the show. Guitarist Brad Schultz (co-founder and brother of front man Matt Schultz) took some time prior to their June 3 show at the Santa Barbara Amphitheatre to chat by phone with Eugene’s own Laurel Hayles of The Club Circuit to talk about the current tour (promoting their sophomore album, “Thank You, Happy Birthday”), how they got started, and to share some personal stories.
Brothers Matt and Brad grew up in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The family didn’t have a lot of money so, with the typical ingenuity of children, they found a discarded drum kit and bought a used guitar and, as Brad puts it, began by “beating the crap out of” them. The band was formed in 2006 and, with the successful release of three singles off their self-titled debut album released in 2009 (“Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “In One Ear,” “Back Against the Wall”), the band became a force to be reckoned with on the national rock music scene. Their widely-acclaimed second album, “Thank You, Happy Birthday” debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200 in 2011.
Still, the success of their current tour amazes them. When asked what the major difference was between being the headlining band, as opposed to being one of the opening bands Brad muses, “It’s just good because the crowds are there to actually see you. You know, being an opener, you always have… that sense that you almost have to win people over…. I think it’s just more, for the band, its more of a relaxed environment as far as just… going on stage and playing a show and not having to worry about anything or being self-conscious about anything…. we just can’t stop talking about how much, you know, how great the response has been….”
Like all young bands, the group has gone through some tough times. Rather than simply folding up their cards and leaving the table, they have incorporated those challenges into their growth as musicians and songwriters. Brad explains, “…we have a passion, first and foremost, to be songwriters, and to always grow and better ourselves as songwriters.” Comparing their first and second albums, he says, “…the thing that we went through is a struggle of… either sticking to a sound that we thought was Cage The Elephant, or whatever it was… [o]r doing what we felt really passionate about and just changing it all up and just writing songs, and I think that’s how we grew, on the second album, is that we just, there was no particular sound that we were going for, we just wrote the songs, we developed the songs the best that we possibly could, and then, you know, the ones that we really loved we put on the album, the ones we thought were weaker songs we didn’t. Instead of… analyzing, going like, ‘oh, is that Cage The Elephant?’ ‘does that fit our sound?’ We just kind of had this … light bulb go off above our heads, like ‘Wow! We are five people who are in a band who write songs.’ And so, whatever songs we write is Cage The Elephant.”
Brad’s message to Eugene’s young bands is simple. “…[J]ust keep an open mind about music. Don’t pigeon-hole yourselves…. just keep on playing, doing shows, and just keep on doing it… if you’re passionate about it, you know, do something about it.”
Check out the transcript of this live interview on The Club Circuit’s online column and listen to the live recording at voices.com/demo_detail/78591. You can still buy tickets for the all ages, general admission show on June 7, 2011 at the McDonald Theatre at all Safeway TicketsWest outlets, online at TicketsWest, and will-call only online at mcdonaldtheatre.com.