Cage The Elephant: The Culture Brats Interview

Have you heard? Cage the Elephant released Melophobia, their highly anticipated third studio album today, and if the band has its way, you'll be spending a good chunk of time listening to their handiwork and enjoying the fruits of their labor. The challenge for longtime fans and new converts is getting on board with a band who changes sounds like toddlers change underwear. Trying on something new can be tricky but Cage The Elephant has experimented successfully and broken new ground with each new release, delighting devotees and gaining new listeners with every chance they take.

We spoke with guitarist Lincoln Parish about real life, rock star status, and raising the bar.

Hey Lincoln! How are you today?
Hey! Good, how are you?

Doing great. Where are you guys?
We're in Boston right now. Good we're on the same east coast schedule. I like to get up early.

So I listened to Melophobia and I loved it. But I've got to ask you right off the bat if it's a nod to the Talking Heads' seminal Fear Of Music album? I got this wild hair that it was parallel to the whole way that record was the bridge between their first two albums and the rest of their career and Melophobia is your third album as well as actually meaning "fear of music."
That's funny, because someone else brought that up the other day but actually we didn't even think about it.

So now I sound like a completely unhinged hidden conspiracy theorist. Talk about reading too much into something!
Isn't that what they were thinking? What is the meaning behind this?

Okay, so going with the bridge between albums idea... This is your third. And after Cage The Elephant and Thank You, Happy Birthday, I was actually a little surprised by this album. It sounds familiar but also expands out into territory you haven't much covered yet. Was that a conscious decision when you went into the studio? Did you set out to attain a certain something or was it more improvisational?
Yeah, I would say that this one was probably the one that we went into with the least amount of contrived ideas. Before we went into the studio it was kind of like we need to leave some bookends open and you know, not have everything completely sussed out. Just because we wanted to leave some room for spontaneity, for things to happen. We had the songs. The songs were for the most part there, but the general sound of the album was the least known when we went in. And that's kind of where the title of the album came from. I guess that's what it really means as a band, is not having to make music to cater to any one type of particular sound. Not sure it that actually answers your question.

It did answer my question. And better yet, it prevented me from going off on a long winded tangent about the parallels of Cage The Elephant and Talking Heads. So, on the topic of the new album, the 1st and 2nd albums were very different from each other with them fluctuating wildly between melodic and guitar heavy and rough. You never know what you are going to get.
That's true.

You guys have been around for quite awhile even though some people still call you newcomers. With the vast expansion of your audience over the last few years, you are proof positive that consistent application and work plus talent can pay off. Do you think at some point the guy with true grit who never gives up ends up triumphant and gets longevity as the payoff?
Yeah, up until we got in to do this album, we toured for five years straight. I think between the first and second album we only had two months off. Yeah, so our noses were totally to the grindstone and I mean there would have been no way we would've gotten where we are if we hadn't done that for those first five years. And then you know we decided we needed to take a little bit of time off to be people again. It's kind of nice to go home and not be a rock star all the time.

Are you telling me that when you go home you don't have rock star status? They don't roll out the red carpet for you?
I mean, I live in Nashville and a couple of the other guys do too and there are so many musicians around there that are way bigger than we are. People just don't really care there. I wouldn't care about that anyway. I don't really go out when I'm home but it's nice to just be a normal person and take out the trash, cook meals at home because I love to cook. So it's a relief to not to be stuck at a party every night.

Sounds like a refreshing return to humanity.
Yeah, so we took a couple of months off and then we started writing the album and then spent about eight months doing that. We had a house on this lake between Bowling Green and Nashville because some of the guys still live in Kentucky; it was right in the middle of the forty five minutes from either location. We just drove out there every day for eight months and worked on music for five hours each day or so. Then we spent about two months actually recording in the studio. That was a much longer process than we'd ever spent on an album, which makes for a much different experience.

The album has been streaming a week before release and fans are really liking it. Was that a sort of thank you to fans as well as an announcement that you're back with new music?
There is just a lot of excitement to see what the reaction is. I know some people have heard the single on the radio but sometimes the single isn't the best representation of the album. It's like every song is pretty different from the rest on the record.

My personal favorite is "Spiderhead." You guys just got off a tour with Muse. You always manage to put together a super nova pairing for the tours. What should we expect this time around?
We just finished a couple of weeks ago with Muse and it was great fun. So cool seeing guys who are at their level, who have that amount of production as far as the lights and stage go.

Do you prefer smaller venues or the bigger stadium shows?
A mix is always good. There are different things you can take from each one of those experiences. Whether it be a festival or a club gig or a huge headlining gig, everything has its own beauty to it. We don't really prefer one over the other. But Cage will definitely be touring pretty heavily next year. Brad's wife just had a baby so we're kind of taking it easy this winter. We're doing a few spot gigs here and there but nothing serious until the new year.

I love seeing when musicians show other musicians some love and back in 2011 when Dave Grohl stepped in for a few songs when your drummer was hospitalized, I think he instantly attained rock sainthood on the spot. Do you find that it's mostly good vibes with the people you've worked with?
Yes, I think it's mostly that I see it as we are all just people. Some people are plumbers and some people are doctors but at the end of the day, we all put our pants on the same way. So there really is no reason to put yourself on a pedestal to be anything else and Dave Grohl is a perfect example of that. Whenever you meet Dave, he's a normal person. He feels like your buddy from high school. You don't even feel like your are saying hello to the biggest rock star on the planet, you know?
That's the way everybody should be. The world would be a much better place if everybody was like that. Being nice to people, karma you know? I'm a huge believer in karma. You get what you put in.

True, but I'd still have to pinch myself a little if I looked back and saw Dave Grohl on the drum riser.
Oh yeah, for sure. Pretty wild to be playing guitar, glance back, and be like, "Oh, there's Dave Grohl."

I have a family full of Borderlands players, so I have to tell you that the inclusion of "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked" really helped sell that game. Even people that weren't familiar with you before that sought you out after hearing you on that. There are so many songs going into video games these days, they have full on soundtracks like movies. How do you feel about the inclusion of your song and how did you come to the decision to let them use it?
It wasn't something I was super into at first but we had an offer for it and we live in a very different time now and it's not the eighties, you know what I mean? You get a lot more with ice than you do with fire these days in my eyes. It's a different ballgame than it was back then, even in the nineties, so you have to take every opportunity and marketing is totally different. I think as a band you try to keep your artistic credibility intact as much as you can and a band like us probably wouldn't do Glee, but at the same time you can't be stupid in these situations and cut your nose off to spite your face. These are the things that really propel your career down the road. It's a totally different thing than it used to be so you have to jump on every opportunity. If you don't, you might not have a career.

I don't mean this in a bad way, but you see people come and go and I've got a pet peeve with people who try to be so fucking cool that they manage to screw themselves over in the process. But that is just one opinion out of many, so.

Over the years you guys have played with many people but who can you think of right now that would be a dream to share the stage with for a few songs?
I know we've toured with them before, but Queens Of The Stone Age. For me, that is one of my favorite bands of all time and I would love if we could do a tour with us, Queens Of The Stone Age, and the Foo Fighters again. That would be heaven.

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