NORFOLK — Adam Granduciel and his band, The War on Drugs, have entered the making of their 2021 album, ‘I’m Not Here Anymore’, having reached a new level in their career.
The band’s previous album, “A Deeper Understanding”, won the Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2018 and sold over 200,000 copies. It charted higher than any of the band’s three albums. With such achievements, some musicians would feel increased pressure in producing the next album. But for Granduciel, the only pressure in “I’m Not Here Anymore” was the pressure he put on himself to improve.
“I feel like it’s always been like putting your head down and getting the job done,” he said in a mid-May phone interview. “Put your head down and write songs and explore melodies and collaborate with people and see where you end up.”
The War on Drugs plays May 30 at NorVa in Norfolk.
This summer’s tour finds the band headlining theaters, major clubs and even outdoor amphitheaters – a sign that the band’s audience is growing.
Granduciel’s journey with the band began around 2005 in Philadelphia when he teamed up with Kurt Vile and they emerged in 2008 with the album “Wagonwheel Blues”. Vile stepped away soon after to focus on what became a successful solo career. The WOD has become Granduciel’s project.
A key point came with the third album, 2014’s “Lost in the Dream”. It landed on over 50 album charts and continues to sell, having sold over 350,000 copies.
Equally important, a more stable band formed with guitarist David Hartley, keyboardist Robbie Bennett, drummer Charlie Hall, saxophonist and keyboardist Jon Natchez, and guitarist and keyboardist Anthony LaMarca.
With “A Deeper Understanding”, WOD took another step forward after signing with major label Atlantic Records and winning the Grammy. A concert album, “Live Drugs”, followed in 2020 with work in progress on “I Don’t Live Here Anymore”.
Like other albums, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” involved extensive and intensive studio work, particularly by Granduciel and producer Shawn Everett.
After completing early drafts of several songs, Granduciel and Everett took the songs apart and rebuilt them. Granduciel said he liked this process because he, Everett, the guest musicians, and the members of WOD sought to create the best treatment for each song.
“Like some songs, you never have a day where you’re confused,” Granduciel said. “You are always building. It makes sense. And these are satisfying. Sometimes you explore just like the sounds. Sometimes, you know, the song is there, but you know it can be taken somewhere sonically. Really, the main thing is to have fun with it. It’s just about picking things apart, walking things through other things, making cool sounds and seeing what mistakes might happen along the way and embracing them.
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The result is a set of 10 strong songs encompassing Americana, pop and classic rock, but with a modern sonic twist. On “Change,” “Harmonia’s Dream,” and “Victim,” Granduciel and Everett apply shimmering tones that add sparkle to engaging pop melodies. The airy synthetic sounds and percussion of “I Don’t Wanna Wait” are reminiscent of Peter Gabriel, while “Living Proof” is reminiscent of Wilco’s more pensive material. “Old Skin” is more rootsy, with a bit of Dylan-esque harmonica thrown in for good measure, while “Wasted” has synth-pop undertones added to its driving tempo.
“I’m never satisfied with anything,” he said. “Having that mentality is cool because you’re kind of always looking for something cool, whether it’s a guitar sound or an arrangement or something, you know, something new, something to keep the excitement level.”
When: 7:30 p.m. on May 30
Where: The NorVa, 317 Monticello Ave., Norfolk
Contact Alan Sculley at [email protected]