The Buzz Beach Ball on Friday drew an incredibly large crowd - a bit too large, really, if we're being honest, given the hourlong traffic negotiation to get from downtown to Berkley Riverfront Park (normally just a seven-minute commute) and the horrifyingly congested parking situation. Still, there is hardly a more picturesque location for a music festival, and the lineup curated by 96.5 the Buzz would make a solid night of entertainment even for the casual music listener.
My mission for the night was to get a curbside interview with Kentucky indie-rockers Cage the Elephant, which was playing the middle set on the main stage. I've been a passive fan for a while - I enjoyed the band's debut album a lot more than its follow-up, but I admired the group for breaking the mold and trying new things. The band's new single, "Come a Little Closer," off its upcoming third album, Melophobia
(due out October 8), sounds energetic and promising.
The interview with Cage the Elephant had taken some coordinating, but nothing was more complicated than actually getting into the festival. As the Cage manager shuffled me past some flint-eyed security guards, I cursed my impractically heeled footwear and breezy skirt; I was certainly not dressed for a festival walking tour. I was introduced to Cage the Elephant's lead singer Matt Schultz, who is the band's enigmatic main brain.
In person, Schultz is sweet-faced with a slight build. He asked if we could sit for the interview on the hillside by the river, and as we plopped down on the crunchy grass (perilously close to a small ant colony), I couldn't help but notice the way his faux-leather pants pulled up to reveal some daring leopard-print socks. This kid was so endearing, and we hadn't even started talking.
The Pitch: Let's talk about the new album for a moment. What does
Melophobia sound like?
: There's a lot of different colors and tones and textures. There's some pretty intimate material and then there's some super visceral, playful stuff. I don't know if there's any one particular sound other than the common fiber that just connect all our material, which is just... whatever that is. There's some stuff that's very energetic and just really fun to play, and it's about capturing that live feeling in there. It's more subtle and intimate.
"Melophobia" literally means "fear of music." What do you mean by that title? Are you trying to tell listeners something?
It's not so much about of an actual of music, more like a fear of creating music under false pretenses. Or like creating music out of a premeditated image that you might want to project instead of a genuine thought or feeling. Trying to be commercial or artistic or poetic or intellectual, like trying to project those images instead of just being an honest communicator and deliver songs from your heart. There's a lot of pools - external and internal - to cater towards cool images rather than just to be a good communicator, so I'm trying to stay away from that.
"Come a Little Closer" is a great song, but it doesn't sound like anything that would have fit on your previous album.
As time passes, hopefully you're learning new things every day that you can apply to your creative process. It's my hope that we can always evolve and are always discovering new things. And also, the more that we are able to push this fear back - because I think it was a huge discovery for us, a revelation for us, that fear can direct your creative works. It can totally dig its claws in and pull you into a place that... it can cause you to make decisions that aren't based on trying to communicate a thought or a feeling or whatever.
There were some things that came to light for me [with this album] that I realized were hindering our ability to write and push forward, and I've always been the type of person that wanted to find our musical feeling, that uniqueness that was only ours, and I think to do that you really have to stop looking for it. In the human struggle, it's all about projecting images, of confidence or whatever. So I think more often than not we look for things that society as a whole has deemed acceptable, and so we do that rather than speak from honesty. Even in conversation, I'll catch myself - someone will just start to say something, and I don't even have the slightest clue of what the actual point to what they're about to say is - but I'm already agreeing with them. Nodding my head. And that's false, that's a lie, basically.