‘Pretty’ good for Cage The Elephant
Cage The Elephant’s Matt Shultz doesn’t always have difficulty pinpointing his exact location. But after a month straight on the road, the Kentucky rock quartet’s frenetic lead singer isn’t keeping track.
“I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think we’re in Milwaukee,” he recently told DiscoverSD.
The quintessential showman is known for his electric live performances and, like the rest of the Grammy-nominated band, for leaving it all on stage every night.
But aside from being exhausted, Shultz and Cage The Elephant - which features his older brother, Brad, on rhythm guitar - are in the midst of a banner year.
For starters, the band’s fourth LP, “Tell Me I’m Pretty,” was released at the end of December. Produced by The Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach, the album spawned the band’s sixth single to hit number one on Billboard’s Alternative chart (“Mess Around”).
That places them alongside U2, Foo Fighters, Green Day, R.E.M., Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Linkin Park as one of only seven bands to have more than five songs make it to the chart’s top spot.
In addition to the rigorous touring schedule that has followed the new album’s release, Schultz also took on the duty of directing the band’s Western-themed video for second single “Trouble.”
“I enjoyed it,” he said. “With everything that you put out, there’s a certain responsibility that comes along with it - articulating something that you believe in or accepting some of the things you want to communicate. It’s always tough when you start to bring in outside elements because, to a certain degree, you start to speak through filters. We just decided for this video, and for the most part, this record, we were going to take over the visual aspects as well.”
The vocalist is also credited for the art direction of “Tell Me I’m Pretty.” And while he’s passionate about making those additional contributions, it could go a completely different way on the next album.
Cage The Elephant with Portugal. The Man and Sunflower Bean
When: 7 p.m. June 22
Where: Valley View Casino Center, 3500 Sports Arena Blvd., Midway District
“I think creative works inform each other,” Shultz said. “It’s never really been a stretch to step outside of making music or being a performer. I’m definitely part of that school of people who believe that the creative muscle is what’s important - and maybe not so much the form that you’re using. But that said, who knows if I’ll do it again next time.”
What Shultz is sure of, however, is that performing with his brother every night makes the band’s continuing success that much sweeter.
“We’ve always been close,” he said. “Not to over-dramatize it, but we grew up in a very modest home. It was a low-budget situation with four boys in a one-bedroom apartment. So we grew up really tight. It’s a strong foundation. And all the other guys in the band are super longtime friends. So we’re definitely a tight pack.”
Perhaps that’s what allows them to develop new ideas while traveling together. Shultz credits their ability to never tire of talking about music as the band’s best way to “steer the ship in the right direction.”
Whether it’s snippets of guitar riffs, chord progressions, or random voice memos, all fragmented inspirations are welcomed. And when the tour finally comes to an end, the real composition begins.
Until then, Shultz is happy to take it as it comes, and not give too much thought to his band’s continued upward trajectory.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I think when you’re having big dreams about reaching a lot of people with your music, you don’t go into the details of how it unfolds. In some ways it’s happened a lot faster than we thought, and in some ways a lot slower. But it’s definitely been an incredible ride - a blessing to say the least.”
Scott McDonald is a writer, on-air personality and consultant with 15 years of experience in the San Diego music scene. He has interviewed hundreds of artists, from the legendary to the underground, for print and television. Follow McDonald and his melodic musings on Twitter @eight24_ or Instagram @scotteight24. Send your music musts to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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