^
Keep New Times Free
4

Cage The Elephant Has More Kentucky in Them Than You’d Think

Brad Shultz of Cage The Elephant doesn't have the Southern accent you would expect from someone native to Kentucky. He's eager for the tour to reach Louisville, which is two hours north of Bowling Green, Kentucky, where Shultz grew up. His feelings toward his hometown seem to have mellowed in the months since a candid interview with Rolling Stone. The article painted a bleak picture of the midsize city.

"Bowling Green is an interesting town," he states diplomatically. "In some ways, it's the best place to raise your family."

Shultz is quick to remind me the college town has its share of problems. It has an opioid epidemic and a high crime rate for a town with a population around 65,000 people. I wonder why he is telling me this. I never once asked why he and his bandmate and brother Matthew felt the need to, as he puts it, "escape."

The story makes for a compelling narrative. The band, whose lineup also includes drummer Jared Champion and Daniel Tichenor on bass (Lincoln Parish left the group to pursue a producing career), was playing a dirty hybrid of British Invasion and hip-hop on festival stages eight years ago. Their self-titled debut yielded the inescapable hit "Ain't No Rest For The Wicked." When your band is trying to be seen as more than one-hit wonders, it's good to have a compelling backstory to give your image dimension.

Shultz seems defensive whenever I try to talk about anything other than Kentucky. According to an article on the local Bowling Green arts website The Amplifier, the Shultz parents began raising them in a religious commune. When I ask Shultz if religion played a part in influencing their band's songwriting, he says they were never trying to go "against that grain," only to return to his story of living a somewhat-sheltered existence in the Bible Belt.

Shultz claims their fourth studio release, Tell Me I’m Pretty, strives for something honest and authentic. The track "Sweetie Little Jean" dramatizes the 1996 search for 7-year-old Morgan Violi. Shultz says she was close to his family. "Has melancholy taken you for good/You know that I would save you if I could/Watched your laughter turn to tears/Then you vanished in thin air," Matt Shultz cries on the tragic track. Brad refers to this as the moment in their lives when they left their innocence behind.

"It shaped certain parts of who we are," Shultz says.

Tell Me I’m Pretty was produced by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys. "Mess Around," the album's first single, wouldn't feel out of place on one of the Black Keys' albums. Shultz maintains that Auerbach's handiwork doesn't overshadow the album, claiming he helped the band learn, grow, and push forward.

"[Auerbach] showed us you didn't have to put every idea in a track to make it better," Shultz says.

I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Phoenix and help keep the future of New Times free.

The Shultz brothers have kept coming back to Bowling Green in the years since they hit it big. Matt Shultz married aspiring French actress Juliette Buchs in a civil ceremony at the local county courthouse two years ago. They also helped their father, also named Brad, record an album of spiritual pop songs.

"My dad always wrote about something that meant something," Shultz says. "It's ingrained in us."

You can take the musicians out of Bowling Green, but you can't take Bowling Green out of the musician.

Cage the Elephant is scheduled to play Gila River Arena on Sunday, June 26. 

Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.

 

Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Phoenix.