So, the Big Day Out. For the band’s first ever Australian tour, that’s got to be pretty neat, right? “Oh yeah man, we’re so excited. It’s going to be an extended summer for us now. Not only that though – the Big Day Out festival is up there with Reading and Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza and all that stuff. It’s one of the festivals that you dream about playing. There hasn’t been a fuckin’… [background cheering] …Australia has a fuckin’ great scene. There have been a lot of really great bands to come out of Australia. And the Big Day Out is one of the last travelling festivals. I think that’s a cool concept: bringing a festival to several different cities. And they even did Lollapalooza South America, a few different cities in South America.” And so, Mr Schultz, what bands are you looking forward to checking out from side of stage? The question is partially lost in the clatter of the room, but never mind. “I’m looking forward to seeing Melbourne,” Schultz replies. “You always hear about Melbourne being one of the most liveable cities in the whole world. And when we first fly in we’re going to be in New Zealand, and everybody always hears about how beautiful New Zealand is. I’m excited about pretty much the whole festival.”
One thing bands always seem to take away from the Big Day Out experience is the sense of it being a big movable summer camp, with spontaneous jams, epic cricket tournaments, lifelong friendships forged, penpals made, and so on. Any chance of a Cage The Elephant epic jam band? “We’ll see! We’re going to make the weirdest creation of music on this tour. We’re going to mix with every band and make the ultimate jam band. Soundgarden, man, Black Hole Sun, one of my favourite songs. I’m sure they’re going to kick off pretty hard during this show.”
Cage The Elephant recently contributed a cover of Bob Dylan’s The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll for Chimes Of Freedom, an album of Dylan covers released to benefit Amnesty International. It’s a song that’s always been close to the band’s collective hearts. “The Lonesome Death Of Hattie Carroll has always been a song that struck a note with our band. Matt (Schultz, vocalist) is a huge Bob Dylan fan, and that song personally to me is one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs, so it was an honour to be able to do that. You come from a small town like Bowling Green, Kentucky like we did, and you get the opportunity to do a Bob Dylan song like that, it’s amazing.” The band’s approach to the song is moody and atmospheric, which suits the track perfectly. “It’s such a sparse song and it’s so simple. It’s a very rootsy song. So we wanted to take the song for what it was and really kind of build around it. We wanted to create a more spooky, bone-chilling vibe to the song, because the lyrics to the song are the most important element, and if you can create a musical vibe that accompanies the way the lyrics build, that’s what we wanted to accomplish.”
I ask Schultz if Dylan was much of a personal touchstone for him. As the partying in the room becomes more raucous, he tries to answer. “What was that? I’m sorry. Oh yeah. Bob Dylan was one of the greatest storytellers to ever live, so… we’ve always been a band that wants to tell a story about different views of life and put it into a story, instead of just… you can write songs and just kinda have a …like… train of thought on a piece of paper [something very loud and obviously hilarious happens in the background], but to take that and then built it into a story, Bob Dylan was one of the greatest… uh… songwriters to ever…”
From one pop culture icon to another, Cage The Elephant were recently featured on an episode of the – pardon the pun – newly reanimated Beavis & Butthead. Show creator Mike Judge is a fan of the band and he met them when they toured with the Foo Fighters recently (Dave Grohl ended up covering a few shows on drums when Cage The Elephant drummer Jared Champion was sidelined by a burst appendix, but that’s another story). Unlike many who went before them and were summarily eviscerated by the couch-surfing duo, Cage The Elephant seemed to get off quite lightly. “It was hilarious,” Schultz says. “I remember watching that show when I was 13, 14, 15. It’s kinda surreal to be on the show when you grew up watching the show.”
And with that, the background goings-on become too interesting to hear any more of our interview, so Schultz politely takes his leave to join in with the post-show festivities. Lucky motherfucker.
BY PETER HODGSON