I Don’t Live Here Anymore

The War on Drugs

I Don’t Live Here Anymore

As The War on Drugs has grown in size and stature from bedroom recording project to sprawling, festival-headlining rock outfit, Adam Granduciel’s role has remained constant: It’s his band, his vision. But when the pandemic forced recording sessions for their fifth LP I Don’t Live Here Anymore to go remote in 2020, Granduciel began encouraging his bandmates to take ownership of their roles within each song—to leave their mark. “Once we got into a groove of sending each other sessions, it was this really cool thing where everyone had a way of working on their own time that really helped,” he tells Apple Music. “I think being friends with the guys now and collaborative for so many years, each time we work together, it's like everyone's more confident in their role and I’m more confident in my desire for them to step up and bring something real. I was all about giving up control.”
That shift, Granduciel adds, opened up “new sonic territory” that he couldn’t have seen by himself. And the sense of peace and perspective that came with it was mirrored—if not made possible—by changes in his personal life, namely the birth of his first child. A decade ago, Granduciel would have likely obsessed and fretted over every detail, making himself unwell in the process, “but I wasn't really scared to turn in this record,” he says. “I was excited for it to be out in the world, because it's not so much that you don't care about your work, but it’s just not the most important thing all the time. I was happy with whatever I could contribute, as long as I felt that I had given it my all.” Here, Granduciel guides us through the entire record, track by track.
“Living Proof” “It felt like a complete statement, a complete thought. It felt like the solo was kind of composed and was there for a reason, and it all just felt buttoned up perfectly, where it could open a record in kind of a tender way. Just very deliberate and right.”
“Harmonia’s Dream” “It’s mostly inspired by the band Harmonia and this thing that [keyboardist] Robbie [Bennett] had done that was blowing my mind in real time. I started playing those two chords, and in the spur of the moment he wrote that whole synth line. We went on for about nine minutes, and I remember, when we were doing it, I was like, ‘Don't hit a wrong note.’ Because it was so perfect what he was just feeling out in the moment, at 2 am, at some studio in Brooklyn. I was so lucky that I got to witness him doing that.”
“Change” “I had started it at the end of 2017’s Deeper Understanding and it was like this piano ballad in half-time. Years later, we’re in upstate New York, and I'm showing it to [bassist] Dave [Hartley] and [guitarist] Anthony [LaMarca]. I'm on piano and they're on bass and drums and it's not really gelling. At some point Anthony just picks up the drumsticks and he shifts it to the backbeat, this straight-ahead pop-rock four-on-the-floor thing. It immediately had this really cool ‘I'm on Fire’ vibe.’”
“I Don’t Wanna Wait” “[Producer-engineer] Shawn [Everett], for the most part, puts the vocal very front and center on a lot of songs, very pop-like. I think as you get more confident in your songs it's okay to have the vocals there. But for this one I was thinking about Radiohead, like it would be cool if we just processed the vocals in this really weird way. I wanted to have fun with them, because we’ve already got so many alien sounds happening with those Prophet keyboards and the moodiness of the drum machine. I wanted to give it something that felt like you were sucked into some weird little world.”
“Victim” “Ten years ago if we had had this song, we wouldn't have a chorus on it—it would just be like a verse over and over. Now I feel like we've progressed to where you have this hypnotic thing but it actually goes somewhere. We’d had it done, but the vocals were a little weird. I told Shawn I wasn’t sure about them, because this song had such a vibe. When he asked me to describe it in one word, I was like, ‘back alley,’ like steam coming out of a fucking manhole cover or something. And then he puts his headphones on and I see him work in some gear for like 30 minutes—and then he turns the speakers on. I was like, ‘Oh, dude. That's it.’”
“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” “I'll be the first to say it has that '80s thing going, but we kind of pushed it in that way. At one point Shawn and I ran everything on the song—drums, the girls, bass, everything—through a JC-120 Roland amplifier, which is like the sound of the '80s, essentially. I saw it just sitting there at Sound City [Studios in Los Angeles]. We spent like a day doing that, and it just gave it this sound that was a familiar heartbeat or something. It sounds huge but it also felt real—in my mind it was basically just a bedroom recording, because everything was done in my tiny little room, directly into my computer.”
“Old Skin” “I demoed it in one afternoon, in like 30 minutes. Then I showed it to the band, and from the minute we started playing, it was just so fucking boring. But I knew that there was something in the song I really liked, and we kept building it up and building it up, and then one day, I asked Shawn to mute everything except the two things I liked most: the organ and the single note I was playing on the Juno. I brought the drums in at the right moment and it was like, 'Oh, that's the fucking song.’ Lyrically, I felt like it was about the concept of pushing back against everything that tries to hold you down—and having a song about that and then having it be as dynamic as it is, with these drums coming out of nowhere, it just feels like a really special moment. It’s my favorite song on the record, I think.”
“Wasted” “This song was actually a really early one that I kind of abandoned—I sent it to [drummer] Pat [Berkery] because I knew there was a song there but the drums were just very stale. I didn't know any of this, but the day that he was working out of my studio in Philly was the day that his personal life had kind of all come to a head: He was getting divorced from his wife of 15 years. He did the song and he sent it back to me and it was fucking ferocious. It just gave new life to it. Springsteen always talks about Max Weinberg on ‘Born in the U.S.A.’ and how it’s Max's greatest recorded performance. I said the same thing when I heard this: ‘It’s Pat’s greatest recorded performance.’”
“Rings Around My Father’s Eyes” “I'd been strumming those open chords for a couple years—I had the melody and I had that opening line. I wanted to express something, but I wasn't 100% sure how I was going to go about doing it—part of the journey was to not be embarrassed by a line or not think that something is too obvious and too sentimental. As time went on with this record, I became a dad, and I started seeing it from the other side. It’s not so much a reflection on my relationship with my own dad, but starting to think about being a dad, being a protector.”
“Occasional Rain” “As a songwriter I just love it because it's really concise. Lyrically, I was able to wrap up some of the scenes that I wanted to try and talk about, knowing where it was going to go on the record. I just think it's one of those songs that's a perfect closer. It's the last song in our fifth album. It's like, if this was the last album we ever made and that was the last song, I'd be like, ‘That's a good way to go out.’”

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