Soon, you will be familiar with Adam Granduciel’s home. You don’t realize this yet, but you will see it. And, actually, you might have seen part of it already: It’s there on the cover of the new War On Drugs record Lost In The Dream. Granduciel stands in front of a window, daylight seeping in from the outside and framing him from above, little psychedelic colors drifting up from the bottom of the photo. The cumulative effect is caught somewhere between the artificial-aging of an Instagram filter, the actual aging of a vintage photograph, and the sort of alternate/heightened reality that defined the artwork for the album’s predecessors, the Future Weather EP and Slave Ambient. But the image is Adam in his home in the present tense. Just with the abstractions of memory creeping through the edges.
Later, Granduciel will show me images of the gatefold for the new record, each one a photo of the house he rents in Philadelphia’s Fishtown neighborhood. Having lived here for the better part of a decade, Granduciel feels a particular attachment. “I just love the place and wanted to commemorate it,” he explains. Fittingly, this first floor has a charming disarray to it. A French poster for Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps peers down from above a small upright piano. That yellow paint visible in the Lost In The Dream cover cracks and peals elsewhere in the room, and a light fixture hangs unfinished from a small hole in the ceiling. Several guitars lie in different corners, seemingly in varying states of functionality. “I pay, like, no rent, and I don’t ask the landlord to fix anything, because I know he won’t anyway,” Granduciel jokes as he moves through it all frenetically but efficiently, fastening the metal buttons of a second plaid shirt over the plaid shirt he’s already wearing while quickly tending to his many pets, including an asthmatic cat named “Bobby Jean” after the Bruce Springsteen song.
Up until late last year, this was where a lot of the War On Drugs activity occurred. From a New York perspective, the first floor alone feels luxuriantly spacious, one of its three rooms the size of some people’s whole apartment in any given spot in Manhattan. As late as last November, though, these rooms had felt claustrophobic, packed tight with most of the band’s touring and recording equipment. They used to rehearse here, standing between the two living rooms wherever each could fit amongst the stacks of amps and road cases. Granduciel still does much of his writing and initial recording by himself in these spaces.
Granduciel is a thoroughly down-to-earth guy, and you wouldn’t necessarily guess that he’s approaching the release of the highly anticipated follow-up to his band’s beloved breakthrough. There’s little sense of anxiety about the album, and no sense of entitlement or burgeoning rockstar-isms. With an hour or so to kill until the rest of the War On Drugs members will be ready to meet up at the group’s new-ish, nearby rehearsal space, Granduciel decides to take a detour to his neighborhood bar. We walk over on sidewalks almost entirely covered in a bubbling sheet of ice before cutting through an alley that opens up to reveal the wall pictured on the front of Granduciel’s friend (and War On Drugs co-founder) Kurt Vile’s 2013 LP Wakin On A Pretty Daze. “There’s Kurt’s mural,” Granduciel says matter-of-factly, gesturing with one hand up at his friend’s name emblazoned on the building side without actually averting his head to look at it.
While in the bar, an old co-worker approaches him to say hello. “Are you still playing music?” he asks. “Yeah, it’s going well,” Granduciel says. “Traveling a lot.”
Granduciel’s originally from Dover, MA, but he’s called Philadelphia his home for about a decade now. You don’t get the sense that he’d have it any other way. You don’t get the sense that, despite being the main force behind a band of increasing indie-fame, his daily life has changed in any significant fashion. He spends a lot of his life on the road touring, but he still seems of these streets. Each has a firm grasp on the other.