A year and a half after U2 surprised listeners with the release of their 13th LP, Songs of Innocence, the band is working on its follow-up album. "It's really hard to say at this point when it will be done," the Edge tells Rolling Stone. "We're definitely still in the weeds here. We're not booking the pressing plant, so to speak, just yet."
The musician, who was "laying down a couple of guitar tracks" in a Los Angeles studio using his new custom guitar and amplifier, said that the group is staying its course with what Edge has said would be titled Songs of Experience. "We always envisaged that it would be a two-record set," he says. "It's a companion album to Songs of Innocence."
U2 have a lot to consider. Edge recently conducted a count of the song ideas the band has on the table. "Including a lot of my really rough demos – I'm not suggesting they're finished, by any means – there's actually 50 pieces of music that I've put time into," he says with a hearty laugh. "Some of them have not been arranged or performed by the band, but there's 50 ideas, and probably about 20 that we're actually really excited about. So we've got some ways to narrow it down, but we're in good shape."
The band is serving as their own harshest critics, reviewing each possibility. It's a process that the guitarist says is working well so far. "We are trying to really be brutal with the material and only focus on the things that we're really convinced are the best ideas," Edge says. "I would say we're now at the point of starting to really edit down to the core collection of songs that will make the record. Things are still in their rough state, but sounding really great."
One example of the guitarist's many song ideas can be heard toward the end of a video he made for Fender, announcing his first-ever custom guitar, the Edge Signature Stratocaster. At the 4:26 mark of the clip, he plays what he describes as a "killer groove" on the instrument along with a bouncy, syncopated rhythm track. "These are like my early demos," he says. "I don't know whether they'll ever see the light of day on a U2 album. It's the stuff that I would work up and bring to the band as a jumping-off point. They're just my solo things."
Although the band is working on the record, it's possible that fans may see U2 live again before they hear a new album. Although Edge wasn't specific on timing, he said the band hoped to get back on the road "sooner rather than later" and that its intention was to make an announcement "fairly soon."
"We had such a great time playing recently," he says. "The way the show came together, we were really happy with it. Also, it seemed, for us, to suggest that there were ways to develop this particular tour using similar production. So we're tossing some ideas around." The group is still figuring out how the show would be different, but the guitarist says, "I think if we go out again, there'll definitely be some changes. It won't be the same show."
Edge says the band is just happy and "really excited" about how the tour went over. "So many new things came out of that tour," he says. "There were so many new moments, live moments, for us. It's very hard for a band that's toured as many years as we have to conjure up something that's totally fresh and different and stand alongside moments from previous tours that are considered 'classic live concerts.' But I think this tour really, in many ways, kind of superseded and surpassed the U2 shows of the past. We're really excited about that and curious to see if we can take it up another level."Watch the five things you didn't know about U2.