Six years after the release of their last album of new material 'Saturday Nights & Sunday Mornings', Counting Crows are back with 'Somewhere Under Wonderland'. While the album sees them back with producer Brian Deck, it's their first venture on Capitol Records and takes a different tone to their previous material.
We caught up with frontman Adam Duritz during his promo trip to the UK to talk about why he's taken a more character-based approach, the childhood memories behind their new tracks 'Palisades Park' and his plans for the coming months.
Contactmusic: 'Somewhere Under Wonderland' is your first new material in six years. Was this long intermission intentional?
Adam Duritz: Well, we just did a record a couple of years ago [covers album 'Underwater Sunshine']. When you're in a band, the songwriting's not really the main thing you do. Working in a band is to do with the collaboration between everybody to make a record. But for us that was just an evening-filler record. Also the reason we did that record was because I was working on a play at the time and I didn't want to write two different things at the same time; that seemed really confusing to have to be writing a song and trying to decide where it was going to go. It was just hard to do that so I wanted to write for one thing and make a record. It was actually a busy year than normal because I'm writing one thing and working on a recording.
CM: Your new album sees you step out of that 'first person' narrative. Has writing a play been an influence on that?
AD: Yeah, I think it has. Most of my life I've written stuff from from an autobiographical perspective. What you really want to do in a song is make sure to express how you feel about something and I always did that in the context of talking about my own life, and with the play I realised how satisfying it was to express it in other stories. That really does broaden the range of what you can write about because you can write about the whole world as well as just your life and you can make them just as emotional. That was very liberating for me. I didn't really think of that when I was starting this record, but I knew that I really enjoyed writing for the play. I noticed when I started writing for this record that the songs that came out were different.
CM: What was the inspiration behind 'Palisades Park'? Was it a particularly important place to you?
AD: It was a place I was kind of fascinated with as a kid. It's an amusement park that they advertised on the back of comic books and when I was a little kid I was always fascinated by this place that Superman and Batman would tell you to go to. The song's not really about the amusement park at all. It's about these two friends growing up in New York City and it's the late seventies and they're going through the punk era and they're dressing up in women's clothing and trying a bunch of drugs. They're also remembering when they were children and they used to go to this amusement park together and they're reliving that part of their childhood as their lives are changing.
CM: That came across in the Bill Fishman directed mini-film for the song. Did you have a lot of input in that?
AD: Yes and no. I could've had a lot more. The input that I had was that I read all the treatments and didn't think any of them were very good until I read Bill's, and I thought his was really brilliant. I just let him do his thing, I stayed out of it for the most part. I did call him and I talked to him about things I thought were bad for it or wrong.
CM: How has being in a band for such a long amount of time affected your relationships with each other?
AD: It's hard to say in a band, you kick each other's asses all the time, you beat the cr** out of each other and you have to also work together. I'm sure we've all changed a great deal because everyone changes over 20 years. It takes a lot to do this and we've been doing it for a long time, we're all pretty dedicated to doing it.
CM: What's the most enjoyable thing about writing this album?
AD: Writing is always very frustrating and very satisfying when you're done. I don't know if I'd ever call it enjoyable. And recording's the same thing, it's work, y'know? You really have to beat the cr** out of each other, it's hard to do and you have to push each other very hard. It's very, very, very satisfying but I would never call it fun. But that's ok, I don't think everything's supposed to be fun. It's not a vacation you're going on, it's work. We work 13/14 hour days.
CM: You're touring the UK in November, but if you could perform absolutely anywhere in the world that you haven't already, where would you go?
AD: I'd love to go to Japan, I've never been there. I've never been to Russia, I've never been to South America, China, South East Asia... Everywhere I've never been. I've never been to Alaska, I want to go to Alaska too. I can tell you the places I really want to play that I have been to because I know what they're like. I know where my favourite places to play are but as far as the places I haven't been to, I want all of them. Russia, China, Japan, South America, Alaska.
CM: Have you got any exciting plans for the coming months other than your tour?
AD: October is CMJ in New York which is a big independent music festival. My friend Ryan [Spaulding] and I do a thing called The Outlaw Roadshow which is an indie band showcase that we also put on at SXSW in Austin. It's a 3 or 4 day thing that's coming up at the end of October right before we come to England. We'll have 30/40 people living at my house, probably 50 to 60 bands in town playing our shows. We put on these big free shows and they're really cool. It's my favourite thing I do in my life. I just love being around all the musicians and watching all the great young bands play; it's just very satisfying and you feel like you're playing a part in helping out. I find that really cool and it's just a blast.
CM: If you could learn one skill that you haven't already got, what would it be?
AD: I don't know, I can do almost everything. I wish my language skills were better, I'd like to speak more languages - that would be cool. I used to be pretty fluent in French but that's kind of gone now, we never go to France.
CM: It's been really nice talking to you, Adam - good luck with the tour!
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