Five men were holed up for two weeks during the winter in isolated cabins on a remote lake in Kentucky.
That might sound like a severe punishment to some, but it’s how Cage the Elephant came up with the songs for its second album, “Thank You Happy Birthday,” released Jan. 11.
The group will bring its new tunes and raucous live show to Columbus today at 7:30 p.m. for a headlining concert at Lifestyle Communities Pavilion.
The band is known for its loud, high-energy shows that usually involve a fair amount of crowd-surfing and general rock ‘n’ roll antics from singer Matt Shultz.
“With any crowd, we feed off the energy,” said Brad Shultz, guitarist for Cage the Elephant, in an interview with The Lantern. “The crazier the crowd gets, the farther they push us.”
The show in Columbus will be part of the American leg of the band’s tour to promote “Thank You Happy Birthday,” which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200.
The group has played in Columbus before but this will be its first time in a headlining slot at LC Pavilion.
“Cage the Elephant has been here numerous times and it’s been great to see their success grow as they started from the Newport and now they’re here at the bigger venue (LC Pavilion),” said Marissa Luther, marketing manager for PromoWest Productions.
The new album marks a creative turning point for the group, coming on the heels of nearly two years spent touring the world in promotion of its self-titled debut album.
Brad said the band suffered through a period of fear-based writing while making its latest album, in which it questioned every song it wrote.
To overcome their insecurities, the group members had to stop worrying about what they thought people expected from them and accept the songs they wrote as a part of their musical identity, he said.
“Once we just kind of said ‘f— it,’ and stopped thinking that way, and just wrote songs … it really liberated us as songwriters,” Brad said.
“Thank You Happy Birthday” is a hard-edged rock album that is at times both modern and nostalgic, a work that is unique to its creators while wearing their influences on its sleeve.
The album has already produced a hit single in “Shake Me Down,” a rock song with a pop melody that employs soft-loud dynamics straight out of ‘90s grunge.
“We were really happy with how the album turned out,” Brad said. “Just for us to write this album was really liberating. It really got us working outside the box.”
The decision to write the songs for the album in remote cabins on a lake in Kentucky during winter was born out of the need for the band to reconnect on a personal level, Brad said.
After spending the majority of 2008 and 2009 living together in London between bouts of touring around the world, the group members took a short break and spent some time apart from each other.
When it was time to commence work on their second album, they decided they would rekindle their bonds by isolating themselves in a quiet, serene setting, Brad said.
“Getting into those cabins was us just getting back to being a band,” Brad said. “Really just jamming, having that whole ‘meeting up in the garage’ kind of feel.”
Cage the Elephant’s five members are originally from Bowling Green, Ky., a small town where Brad said they weren’t exposed to a lot while growing up.
After being showcased at the 2007 South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, the band generated some industry buzz, and was ultimately offered a few record deals.
The deal they accepted was from Relentless Records in the U.K., which meant packing up and moving to London.
While the band looked up to some other American groups that had made a name for themselves in the U.K., such as Iggy Pop and The Stooges, the main factor in its decision was the control yielded to the band in the contract.
“The most enticing deal, creatively, was a deal in the U.K. They gave us full creative control,” Brad said. “To us, that was always the most important thing about a record contract.”
The group got off to a slow start in London, playing shows to fewer than 10 people. But by the time it left nearly two years later, it was playing to roughly 1,200 people every night, Brad said.
After building a following in the U.K., the band released its self-titled debut album in the U.S. in March 2009. That album spent 75 weeks on the Billboard 200, peaking at No. 59.
Singles such as “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” from the first album have received national radio attention and carried Cage the Elephant’s popularity.
The band has also earned a reputation for its wild, high-energy live shows through its on-stage antics and incessant touring.
“They give you sort of a high-octane performance,” said Cameron Weimer, a third-year in journalism. “They really give the audience and the fans a good show.”
Cage the Elephant will continue its tour of the U.S. in support of “Thank You Happy Birthday” through August, before heading overseas for more dates.
The show will also feature Manchester Orchestra. Tickets are available through ticketmaster.com and are $27.25 after fees.