At some point today, Jared Leto will walk into a record store to carry on a band tradition: picking up a copy of 30 Seconds to Mars‘ latest disc, long-awaited third studio LP This Is War. When the band’s last album A Beautiful Lie dropped, he snatched up 10 copies on release day, but he plans to buy many more copies of War, an ambitious collection of experimental rock shaped by the band’s tumultuous last two years, during which they grappled with personal struggles and got sued by their label, Virgin Records, for $30 million.
“This record is about survival,” explains Leto. “We had a very intense time making this one. It was a two-year creative battle that was ferocious and tough but creatively rewarding, and all of those adverse elements, in hindsight, made us stronger and made the record stronger. I think a lot of people will be very, very surprised by this album, especially people who may have had an idea about what this band was and what we we’re all about.”
Leto explains that the album captures 30 Seconds to Mars, who’ll be wrapping a brief tour of the states on December 20th, in the midst of transformation. “We grew into ourselves a little bit more on this one,” he explains. “It’s much more electronic and experimental, with lots of vintage synths. The whole record was wrapped around this intense two-year period, where it felt like the whole world was falling apart and massive changes were going on. I think you can hear that in the sound of this album.”
In March, 30 Seconds to Mars will head out on another U.S. headlining run, with a host of still-to-be-determined opening acts. Leto says the shows the band’s been playing have been intimate, which allows for loads of fan interaction. “We often engage the audience in taking requests, which is always fun to do,” Leto says. “You have a lot of accidents and moments that are imperfect, and those are some of the best parts of the night. People ask you to play the oldest song you’ve written, and sometimes you haven’t played it in years and years. We like to keep it loose and spontaneous.”
For the album, 30 Seconds to Mars was also keen on incorporating their fans. The LP’s artwork features portraits of 2,000 of the band’s devotees, and Leto vows to collect as many of the covers as he can. During the recording of the disc, Leto and the band invited fans, members of what Leto calls “The Summit,” to contribute gang vocals.
“That was a way to do something interactive, something different and using the collective group as an instrument on the album, in the same way you’d used a horn section or strings,” Leto says. “We wanted to use a giant group of people, and it kind of grew from an idea of like, â€˜Let’s get a group of people together in Los Angeles’ to â€˜Let’s get a group of people around nine different countries around the world and then let’s do a digital version’ and it kept spiraling and getting bigger and bigger because it was an exciting place to create from, and it got much more experimental than just having people sing or clap or stomp. Having that interactive element in the songs, live, people know, they have their part and it’s insane.”