Ambiguous and provocative, psychedelic trip-pop quartet ‘The War on Drugs’ are four friends from Philadelphia who happen to enjoy making the kind of music the world loves listening to.
Citing their only vices as: fried chicken, whiskey, Angry Birds and vintage guitars, The War on Drugs are a non-literally named band, intended for recreational use. First formed as a collective just over two years ago, the addictive sounds of this ambient noise project are the results of an ever-changing line-up. Deciding to scale things back, the band has undergone several changes to date, and by the end of 2008, Kurt Vile, Charlie Hall and Kyle Lloyd had all arrived and exited the lineup, contributing to five albums worth of devastatingly good tunes. Deciding to take the music more seriously and lock down front men, Adam Granduciel, David Hartley, Steven Urgo and Robbie Benett have now assumed the position at the helm of TWOD, making it their mission to continue to export their music to the masses.
Unchanged by their new found, international success, selling out European dates for over 200 shows, the band still cite their favourite past times as tracking, hitting spots like Johnny Brenda’s and Rocket Cat, playing pinball and watching sports. Still focused on fully staying and playing as friends. i-D online caught up with the mellow musicians to find out more about how they have been enjoying their journey.
Why did you decide to go with the band name ‘The War On Drugs’? I always thought it would be a great band name. My friend Julian and I used to spend long hours penning a psychedelic dictionary, just finding terms and trying to define them in a non-literal sense. The War on Drugs was one of those terms and it always stuck in my mind as an ambiguous and provocative band name.
Lyrically what is the focus of your music? I actually have no idea… I try not to analyse it too much.
How did you all meet? Well it formed loosely over a period of a couple years. In the beginning it was more of a collective and the line-up changed from show to show. Obviously meeting Kurt was instrumental because we jammed a lot and shared a lot of influences. Dave started playing in the band about the 2nd or 3rd show, and he hasn’t missed one since.
How did you first get signed? Actually it was unintentional. My good friend Jason sent a CD-R of early demos to Secretly Canadian and the next thing you know I was signing a contract for an album.
What has been the most memorable gig you have played to date? Maybe Jazzaldia in San Sebastian on the beach at sunset. That was a good one.
How long had Slave Ambient been in production before you were happy for the album to be released and how do you feel when you listen back to it? We worked on it off and on for 3 or 4 years. It’s hard to say because we were all touring a lot with other bands, but were constantly working on it when we were in Philly. But there came a point when we absolutely had to hand something in, and just sort of gritted our teeth and handed in what we had. It didn’t feel done, it just felt close. Honestly I never even listened to the masters until a month ago or something! Maybe in a couple years I can listen to it and see how it feels.
Whereabouts have you enjoyed the best food on the tour? Tough call. Our new tour manager is a real foodie and takes us to a food destination in every city. We had these Korean-bbq-fusion tacos in Los Angeles that knocked our socks off.
What have been some of the tour highlights to date? Selling out shows in the UK and Europe felt amazing… I also love crossing paths with bands we love, like The Violators and Megafaun and Akron/Family and Sharon Van Etten.
The War on Drugs’ latest album ‘Slave Ambient’ is available for download now.