“I don’t need a hotel room to remind me,” Brad Shultz says. “Being that I was raised in Section 8 housing, four boys crammed into one tiny room the size of what most people would consider an office space, I keep that pretty fresh in my mind.” Shultz plays guitar in Cage the Elephant. He’s on the phone from his home in Nashville to talk about the strategy behind the making of their new CD Melophobia, a process described as stepping off the path created by their 2008 breakout single “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked.” We talk about Eddie Vedder, who slept in a truck to stay close to his roots, or Kurt Cobain, who often stayed in a sleazebox hotel rather than his Aberdeen mansion. Shultz chuckles softly. “There was nothing physical that I had to do to take me back to that place.”
“Melophobia” means fear of music. “But we’re not really afraid,” Shultz says in his Kentucky drawl. “We just wanted to get honest with our music. I don’t know the exact words, but there’s a pressure put on a band with early success through a lot of avenues — critics, or even your own mind. Whatever they may be, those pressures can create a fear of making music.” The repair? “For this record, it was really about getting past that. If I had to convince myself that it was a good song, I’d trash it. I had to love every element of every song this time.”
I first saw the band in a Street Scene appearance here in 2009. I remember Shultz’s brother Matt, the singer, exploding off the stage and into the crowd. Brad followed with his guitar. “I remember that show. Oh, man,” he says, “didn’t the power go out?” It did — twice. “We had a good time. We really enjoyed that festival,” he says, even though Matt’s head was swollen.
“We were eating at a seafood place. Matt took one bite of a fish taco and his face swelled up huge. We thought it was a fish allergy. We took him backstage to the medical tent and the doctor said it wasn’t an allergy. It was a clogged salivary gland — the same thing as a kidney stone. You could see it under his tongue. We went back to the hotel room. He got tired of messing with it, so he just squeezed it out himself.”