Breaking: Cage the Elephant

August 19, 2009 2:37 PM ET

Who: Bowling Green, Kentucky blues-punk quintet Cage the Elephant, featuring singer Matt Shultz and guitarist Brad Shultz and a pack of high school buddies. The band is among this year's breakout rookie rock acts after releasing a rowdy self-titled debut anchored by slacker single "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked."

Sounds Like: Cage the Elephant draw from the White Stripes' blues-punk grit, Beck's lo-fi speak-sung vocals and a dash of the '90s rap-rock revolution. After becoming one of the marquee acts in the Nashville bar scene, the band was whisked away to SXSW in 2007 and got quickly signed. "Ain't No Rest for the Wicked," with its "Loser"-like slide guitar and vibe, has already become a rock-radio smash and scored Cage the Elephant a performance on The Late Show With David Letterman.

Vital Stats

• Matt Schultz was faced with three options after dropping out of Western Kentucky University in 2003: Work at a Fruit of the Loom distribution center, Corvette's flagship plant or become a rock star. "I would rather die than stay in that situation," Shultz tells Rolling Stone. "I gave myself no other option except to do something with music and get out of town. It was either that or be a loser."

• A pair of incidents inspired "Wicked": The song's title came from a drug-dealing co-worker who wanted to stop his illegal side business. "I asked him why he didn't, he said 'There ain't no rest for the wicked,' " Shultz says. The lyrics were penned after he picked up a pretty young woman on a Kentucky road in 2006, only to find out after she began make sexually charged comments that she was a prostitute. "I was like, 'Ooh, light bulb!' I wrote the song a couple days later," he says.

• The brothers Shultz grew up in a strict Pentecostal household that banned secular music at home, which is always a good recipe for youths to start acting out. "Brad and I used to sneak our dad's old Jimi Hendrix cassette tape into our room and listen when our parents went to bed," Matt says of his youthful rebellion.

Hear It Now: Cage the Elephant is available now in stores and digital music services. Check out the band's clip for "Ain't No Rest For the Wicked" above.

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Song Stories

“Try a Little Tenderness”

Otis Redding | 1966

This pop standard had been previously recorded by dozens of artists, including by Bing Crosby 33 years before Otis Redding, who usually wrote his own songs, cut it. It was actually Sam Cooke’s 1964 take, which Redding’s manager played for Otis, that inspired the initially reluctant singer to take on the song. Isaac Hayes, then working as Stax Records’ in-house producer, handled the arrangement, and Booker T. and the MG’s were the backing band. Redding’s soulful version begins quite slowly and tenderly itself before mounting into a rousing, almost religious “You’ve gotta hold her, squeeze her …” climax. “I did that damn song you told me to do,” Redding told his manager. “It’s a brand new song now.”

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