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A little time away led Cage the Elephant back to top

Posted 12:00am on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2013

The members of Cage the Elephant were as close as brothers, but even brothers need a little time apart.

So after several years of nonstop touring and recording, the quintet — which includes two siblings — took a break after touring in support of their last album.

“I think it was more just to refresh ourselves,” guitarist Brad Shultz said after a recent rehearsal. “When you live on a bus for basically five or six years, and you’re around 15 people all up in your personal space.”

“I don’t mind you in my personal space,” said a grinning Matt Shultz, Brad’s brother and the band’s lead singer.

That break helped Cage the Elephant, the outlier rock band from tiny Bowling Green, Ky., that broke through with the hit Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked, return to the top of the charts.

The band spent about a year writing individually before reuniting in the studio last year to record its latest album, Melophobia, the follow-up to 2011’s Thank You, Happy Birthday, which debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200. The new album is a heavily layered collection of nostalgic rock ’n’ roll that combines diverse musical influences from each band member.

“Spending some time apart, we all had different ideas for what we envisioned for the record,” Matt Shultz said. “And when we came together, a lot of that clashed, but, again, I think that was for the betterment of the band.”

The group recorded in Nashville with longtime producer Jay Joyce, and Brad Shultz said they left a lot of room in the songwriting to improvise in the studio. Lead single Come a Little Closer has been sitting on top of the alternative-radio chart for more than a month.

“Speaking personally, I felt so much more free to just try more things,” Matt Shultz said. “In fact, if Jay had let us try everything that we wanted, it would have just been a wall of noise.”

The band has an upcoming European headlining tour with Foals, and will be performing at the South American Lollapalooza festivals before returning to the U.S. for more touring. The group, which includes bassist Daniel Tichenor, guitarist Nick Bockrath and drummer Jared Champion, will be spending an awful lot of time together, but the brothers remain intrigued by the idea of keeping their songwriting separate.

“We’re all going to be on the same bus, but we’re going to get cubicles,” Brad Shultz joked.

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