Alternative rockers Cage the Elephant strive to remove their facades. Through grief and loss, Cage the Elephant released its latest album, “Social Cues.”
The album reflects on lead singer Matt Shultz’s divorce.
“There is a theme of some of the struggles he was going through with his divorce,” said his brother, rhythm guitarist Brad Schultz.
“But there was so much loss we were all going through. Family members and very close friends of ours passed away. It was a brutal couple of years.”
“It’s a record of loss and its different forms. There’s an undertone that there is hope through all that and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.”
The title track refers to the different phases of life.
“There are times when things aren’t OK, and we need to realize that’s fine,” he said.
Cage the Elephant is playing those songs while on tour with Beck, who appears on the band’s song “Night Running.” The track happened on a whim and the fans of the “Loser” singer sent him the song. They didn’t expect to hear back.
“Within a couple days, he sent back the two verses he has on the track and four more verses,” he said. “Out of that, it was just brainstorming and thinking of doing something special, we came up with the ‘Night Running’ tour.”
Cage the Elephant and Beck are stopping at Phoenix’s Ak-Chin Pavilion at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21.
Cage the Elephant—which also includes drummer Jared Champion, bassist Daniel Tichenor, guitarist Nick Bockrath and keyboardist Matthan Minster—formed in 2006 and released its self-titled debut three years later.
The band now holds the record for the most No. 1 alternative songs of any artist in the decade—seven Billboard No. 1 singles, 11 singles landing in the Billboard top 10 and more than 1.5 billion streams worldwide.
“Social Cues” was produced by John Hill, who has worked with artists like Florence and the Machine, Santigold and Portugal. The Man.
“John really pushed us to not put any unnecessary parts into songs,” he said. “It’s easy to get really excited about making music and put so much stuff into it because you are really inspired. We have been focusing on putting our parts underneath the microscope in order to be intentional for setting the mood for lyrical content.”
Although this album helped band members get through their difficult times, it wasn’t necessarily a therapy session, Shultz says.
“It’s refreshing if you’re having fun and sometimes it feels like a personal hell, that’s all with making records. If you put your heart into it and pushing to further yourself and trying to be as honest as you can sometimes that’s painful as well. You have to look at things about yourself that you don’t necessarily like.”
He continues, “On the other end of things, I think it has been therapeutic because it forced Matt to say some things. Even though we all aren’t writing the lyrics, we are right there in the trenches with him. These lyrics hit home in a different way with us.”
“Goodbye,” is a song on the album where fans can experience Matt’s raw emotion. “Matt was in such a spot he had to lay on the floor because he had so much anxiety and laid on the floor through the entire song. He had to leave the studio that day and no one talked to him for two days after that.”
Matt’s voice in the song portray the exact emotion they were looking for and ended up using that take for the album, Shultz says.
It is the emotional honesty that allows the band to continue to develop. “We’ve grown immensely in our musical encyclopedia from our time in our first record and I think that’s important because your searching and growing allows you to avoid becoming stale and repetitive.
“We are constantly pushing to be as honest as we possibly can, we come from this honest place and try to make art.”
Beck with Cage the Elephant, Ak-Chin Pavilion, 2121 N. 83rd Avenue, Phoenix, livenation.com, 6 p.m. Sunday, July 21, tickets start at $29.50.