Ilya S. Savenok, Getty Images What a day for a festival. This year,…
- Posted on Jun 9th 2011 2:00PM by Nicole Pajer
In an exclusive interview with Spinner, Cage the Elephant lead singer Matthew Shultz discusses the band's matured sound, and their "musical ADD with a dash of hyper paranoia." He also divulges which Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle he is most similar to, explains where he purchased the dress that he wore at Coachella, and shares his surreal encounter with Sir Paul McCartney.
What was the inspiration for the new single, 'Around My Head'?
When I wrote the song, I was hanging out with our friends, Morning Teleportation. They're an amazing band. Tiger's the type of guy that every time he touches an instrument, it makes you jealous so I wrote it like on the spot. They had all these new songs and I said, "Yeah, I have a new song I'm working on right now," so I just picked up the guitar and started playing it and that's how that song came about pretty much.
What's of your guilty pleasures on the road?
I like to paint my toenails at night -- no, I'm just joking. I like chess. I'm always challenging our roadies to chess matches and also other band's roadies to chess matches. I play Risk, too. I guess that's kind of nerdy. Crap!
Do you always win?
Not always, although I did use to notch my wins and losses into my chessboard with a knife. Then I started playing with one of my friends back home and he's like a genius and he beats me all the time so I stopped notching my board.
I read that you recently hung out with Dane Cook. Are you a big fan?
Yeah, Dane Cook, he's hilarious. He was a really cool dude, too, really cool in person. We went to this hair metal tribute show, Steel Panther, and he was there so we bumped into him and started talking to him. Really cool guy.
Did you write any jokes together?
Yeah. We wrote 10 songs together. It's going to be an awesome new record -- Dane and Cage. Actually, though, I got to meet Paul McCartney at Coachella which was really cool. We were sitting there in the section where there was a lot of food and one of my friends was like, "Hey, Paul McCartney just walked by." I turned around and it was Paul McCartney right behind me. My friend was like, "Do you think we should go introduce ourselves to him," and before he could finish his sentence I was already over there introducing myself to him.
What do you say when you meet someone of that caliber?
I was like, "Paul! I'm in a band called Cage the Elephant. We play tomorrow at 10:45PM on the outside stage, please come watch my band play." No [Laughs]. I just told him that he was an inspiration to us. His response was, "You know we were just a couple lads starting out trying to discover something. We did pretty good for ourselves, didn't we?" That's only the understatement of the century.
For inquiring minds, where did you get the dress that you wore on stage at Coachella?
I actually bought it at a vintage store in London.
Were you in the dress when you met Paul?
I wasn't but wouldn't that have been way cool? You should say that I was and I was wearing high heels, too, and that he told me that I have nice legs.
You're known to have a crazy stage performance or two under your belt. How do you describe your onstage energy?
The stage presence is very reflective of the music. If we were playing Simon and Garfunkel songs, I doubt we would be as energetic. But we try to keep just the spirit of spontaneity and it feels very natural. It's kind of like an episode of 'Ninja Turtles' -- the cartoon, not the new 'Ninja Turtles,' the old-school 'Ninja Turtles.'
Which ninja turtle would you say you're most similar to?
Leonardo, for sure. Raphael was pretty, too. Nobody wants to be Donatello.
He had the worst weapon!
I know, a stick. C'mon, let's be serious here. I've got swords. I'm just gonna chop your stick in half and cut your head off.
Is it true that when you wrote 'Ain't No Rest for the Wicked' that you were working a construction job and you had to write that on a ceiling that you were installing?
I wrote some of the lyrics in a wall on some drywall but I originally wrote the chorus on a paper plate.
Do you carry a notepad around now?
Yeah I do. When I was working construction I got in trouble for going to the side and writing lyrics so I had to get creative and do it real sneakily like writing on the drywall and on paper plates and stuff. And at the end of the day, I'd go back and write down everything I'd written.
Your newest album, 'Thank You Happy Birthday,' is very different than your previous albums. Did you attempt to consciously change your sound or did it evolve naturally as you guys got out and played more?
For us just being exposed to more music and experiences and things like that definitely had a huge influence on us. Coming from such a small town and then moving to London, which is one of the biggest cities in the world, was massive for us. We were exposed to a lot of music, a lot of experiences, and I'm sure a lot of those influenced us whether it was directly or indirectly.
Do you think you found more of your true sound with this album?
I hope not. I hope that we continue to change. It's just really weird, as soon as we finish a record that particular sound becomes very lifeless to me. It's not that I don't like the record, it's just when I'm trying to write something new and it's similar to that, it's just a terrible feeling. We kind of have musical ADD with a dash of hyper paranoia -- we're very paranoid to repeat ourselves.
It debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard charts so obviously you guys must be doing something right.
It was cool. On this record, I feel like we let go of a lot of fear-based writing. When we first started writing, if something was too melodic or whatever, we might steer away from it but on this record, we just tried to write these songs to be the best songs that they could be no matter what it was. It wasn't a particular style or sound that we were going for on this record, in fact it was quite the opposite. Each song we wanted to sound very different from the next.