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Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs' Studio-Geek Scrawl

The long-range lo-fi ambition of the Philly band's guitarist

Adam Granduciel of the War on Drugs is one of Rolling Stone's Young Guns.
Dusdin Condren
May 12, 2014 9:15 AM ET

Welcome to Young Guns, our series exploring the most notable guitarists from the next generation of six-string legends. For more interviews with the guitarists inspiring us right now, click here.

WHO: Philadelphia-based guitarist Adam Granduciel's sprawling rock anthems are crafted with a studio geek's love of lo-fi haze, reverb and other trickery — as if Tom Petty's Full Moon Fever or John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band were reissued on the indie cassette label du jour. Granduciel got a start playing in Kurt Vile's group the Violators, but he's been perfecting his own style with his band War on Drugs since 2004. Their latest album, Lost in the Dream, is their most ambitious yet. "This album took the longest in terms of pure focus," he says. "I started all the way back in 2012 and had all these sketches of songs. Maybe in retrospect I thought I was losing my mind. But I definitely had that moment where everything collided."

See the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time

CURING CABIN FEVER: Normally whenever Granduciel gets a creative spark, he holes up in the studio of his Philly home He's got racks of guitars, effects, drum machines, synths and other vintage items. "I've always worked in this house," he says. "It's like a cloud." But leading up to the sessions for Lost in the Dream, he entered an "anxious depressed hole," he says. "It wasn't the music that was driving me crazy. It was the downtime between recording and just kind of getting caught up in my thoughts." So he and his favorite sessionmen (bassist Dave Hartley, multi-instrumentalist Robbie Bennett), traveled around the country to record in studios in North Carolina and New York City. "Getting out of town, I felt like a weight was lifted," he reveals. "It was just like going on a road trip with my friends. And the songs just sort of exploded."

BREAKUP AND MAKEUP: As if recording pressures didn't weigh on him enough, Granduciel broke up with his girlfriend last year. Many of the songs on Lost in the Dream – the ferocious rocker "Burning;" the moody ballad "Disappearing" – explore his isolation and heartbreak. "I was feeling pretty resentful and ashamed or whatever, so that's the only way the songs were starting to feel right to me," he says. "That was a big thing." He's happy to report that the two have patched things up since, though: "Things are awesome between us."

TRAVILE-ING MEN: Granduciel has remained close with his former bandmate Kurt Vile. And he says they've thought about joining forces again – perhaps even forming a super group. "We always talk about working together," he says. "But as we get older and a lot of [our own careers] calm down a bit, we'll get in the room together for a couple months. It'd be cool to do a [Traveling] Wilburys thing with Kurt, myself and who knows...a bunch of other rockers."

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Song Stories

“Hungry Like the Wolf”

Duran Duran | 1982

This indulgent New Romantic group generated their first U.S. hit with the help of what was at the time new technology. "Simon [Le Bon] and I, I think, had been out the night before and had this terrible hangover," said keyboardist Nick Rhodes. "For some reason we were feeling guilty about it and decided to go and do some work." Rhodes started playing with his Jupiter-8 synth, and then "Simon had an idea for a lyric, and by lunchtime when everyone else turned up, we pretty much had the song." The Simmons drumbeat was equally important to the sound of "Hungry Like the Wolf," as Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor stated it "kind of defined the drum sound for the Eighties."

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