Art evolves, as it must, in a self-perpetuating cycle that winds and twists within the mind of the artist and current culture. Purists may decry the blurring of genres and strict guidelines that once defined radio playlists and the confines of physical media.
Cage the Elephant, allegedly named by a disturbed individual at one of their shows, employs a mishmash of gear new and old to create a sound that their fans have embraced since 2006.
Born in Bowling Green, Ky., and in the collective minds of Matt Shulz and company, the sextet has won Grammys and ruled alternative countdowns with hits like “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” “Come a Little Closer” and “Trouble.”
Cage is playing at Oak Mountain Amphitheater in Birmingham on Aug. 27 with band cohort Beck and indie sweethearts Spoon.
Keyboardist and multi-instrumentalist Matthan Minster called in and discussed the band’s current tour, song creation and their views on the creation of art.
He began by talking about the new album, “Social Cues,” and the videos for the first two singles, “Ready to Let Go” and “Night Running.”
“Matt wrote and directed the ‘Ready’ video,” Minster said. “He incorporated a lot of things he’d seen the last six months while living in New York and studying different dance forms. We shot the video in this really creepy building.
“The second single, ‘Night Running,’ we had the instrumental elements of the song worked out by me and Brad Schultz. When we got into the studio with John Hill, we re-recorded the whole thing and were stuck on the vocal application. In fact, we had another song named ‘Night Running’ that was falling short, a little mediocre. That chorus was added to the existing music. Brad then suggested that we shoot it over to Beck. He came back within a day. Matt and I then worked out his vocals and finished it.
“Working with Beck was amazing, I’ve always considered him a stylistic chameleon, almost the David Bowie of our generation. He can rewrite himself any time he wants.That song was the genesis of doing a tour together.”
Cage the Elephant is classified as an alternative rock band, if for no other reason than a way to promote their music to radio stations and categorize them into neat packages for award shows.
The members aren’t quite as quick to let themselves by governed by predetermined labels, preferring to be known simply as artists.
“There are six people in the group so there are a lot of influences and ideas,” Minster said. “We’re constantly showing each other different things and expanding ideas. Some of it may may be random stuff we hear. There are just so many weird things that we hear or think of that can be incorporated into our music.”
Different backgrounds are elemental to Cage. Minter’s childhood isn’t typical, but was instrumental in the role he now plays in the band. “My father was an opera singer. I listened to it almost exclusively since birth. My father got sick when I was 8 and died of brain cancer. My mom then went out and bought me the entire Beatles collection on cassette. My whole life revolved around the Beatles for so long until I found Metallica when I was 15.”
Artists are a diverse lot, and their opinions are often the best mirror upon which to judge popular current topics. The truth is that they’re all, to a person, all exquisitely opposite of the last one asked. I try to ask them all their views on rock “being dead.”
Minster’s perspective is one I haven’t yet heard, but is bullseye sharp.
“I’ve never felt that it was dead. I really don’t know what that means. But I do understand that it isn’t the most popular style now.
“But the truth is that I’ve never been that aware of what was super-popular. I was raised on what my parents played for me, which was classical and the Beatles.
“I’m not sure that it’s something to be concerned with. I think rock ’n’ roll will never die and it will continue to evolve.
“It was always such a vague term to begin with. Genres are almost comical in the way that people tend to describe music. There are practically thousands of sub-genres now. There are thousands of rock bands now, maybe a million. But it will always keep going.”
Larry May is the owner of CD Cellar record store on Noble Street in downtown Anniston.