Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile used to be in the same bands. Now, they work beautifully together on a playlist.
The singer-songwriter-guitarists shared stages -- Granduciel in Kurt Vile and the Violators, and Vile in The War on Drugs -- from around 2005 to 2011. These days, they both work out of Philadelphia, making records that lean heavily on their classic-rock influences.
"I still feel like Kurt is one of my biggest inspirations," Granduciel says. "When I got my record mastered, even before I sent it off to the label, I gave him the CDR, like 'Here it is, man.' I mean, I was like really nervous, because it's someone you grew up with musically -- 10, 12 years ago -- and now that we haven't done much together in the last couple years, it's kind of like I want to show him. I love his music, too, and he gave me a copy of his album and I love it."
We can probably go out on a limb and say Vile is a fan, as well, of The War on Drugs' newly released third album, "Lost in the Dream." There's a lot to like -- no love -- on this record that follows the band's 2011 critical breakthrough, "Slave Ambient," and raises the ante on the joyful musicality.
"I wanted to put a little more of myself in it," Granduciel says. "I wanted to write a collection of songs and produce a collection of songs that I felt was more in line with the kind of music that I was connected to my whole life. 'Slave Ambient' was beautiful in a way because I was learning techniques and experimenting with stuff and having a lot of ideas and constantly thinking of stuff I was working on. But at the end of the day I felt myself not really feeling like it was a collection of songs I was proud of as a songwriter. At the time I was. This one's just more in line with my favorite music, the stuff in music I love."
The War on Drugs builds dreamy, space-rock grooves with synths, guitars, drums and drum machines for the singer to ride on top. Although his voice is much smoother than Dylan's, the vocal style is unmistakable, especially on 'Eyes to the Wind."
"It's like a homage," he says, "in the same way Bruce Springsteen or George Harrison was trying to sing like Roy Orbison. Just like an emotion of songs throughout your life that you connect with all the time. It's just like a part of the way that you hear music. With Dylan, it's the immediacy of his vocal, the way that he'll step off the mike and bring the band home. I get some people hear that there's a Dylan thing, but I'm really truly trying to find my own voice and sing like myself."
You can also hear flashes of Grandaddy (in the keys), Dire Straits (in the guitars) and Scottish band The Waterboys, whose frontman Mike Scott took Dylan's sound into an ambient rock direction.
"Totally, that's been like a thing for a while," Granduciel says of the Waterboys connection. "We covered 'A Pagan Place.' I love the Waterboys! When 'Wagonwheel Blues' came out, people asked me that and I was like, 'I don't really know them that well.' The first [Waterboys album] I got was 'A Pagan Place' in 2009 and it blew my mind. Destroyed me. And I got everything since then and they're one of my favorite bands of all time. I met Mike. He came to see me play in London and we've been like exchanging emails. He's starting to work on a record."
As for The War on Drugs, the band is taking a beautiful studio creation in "Lost in the Dream" and giving it the road treatment.
"I love the songs and I'm proud of the songs," Granduciel says, "and we play them as a band now and they take on a whole new life of their own with everyone playing together. Because we didn't really play any songs together in the studio. It's that illusion of a band playing, but now that we're actually playing the songs, it's just really gratifying. I wanted to have a collection of songs that the band could reinterpret and make it all that much more exciting."