Airborne Toxic Event frontman Mikel Jollett followed a simple philosophy while making the band’s third album, Such Hot Blood. “I asked myself, ‘What would Bruce Springsteen do?'” Jollett tells Rolling Stone. “If you want to do something that’s important, you can’t fake it. . . I watched the documentaries about making Born to Run and making Darkness on the Edge Of Town and there was a moment where Bruce says something along those lines.”
The inspiration from this line was clear and immediate for Jollett. “I remember thinking, ‘You can do a lot more: you can learn to play piano for real, you can learn to sing for real, you can take what you know about songwriting and forget it and then remember it. You can learn other forms, you can rewrite your lyrics 20 times so they’re exactly right,” he says. “So yeah, it was a choice to try and grow and to push to grow.”
Befitting an album crafted under the guise of Springsteen, the album’s forceful opening track, “The Secret,” is an anthemic, propulsive rocker that shifts tempos as smoothly as a Ferrari winding along the Pacific Coast Highway. You can listen to the song here in its exclusive premiere; it’s also available on the four-song EP The Secret, out March 11th through Island Records.
The track was written in a bar after a night spent driving recklessly around L.A. “I pulled over to a bar somewhere ’cause I was driving along and I was trying to imagine what this song was about and I was like, ‘It’s about this, it’s about this moment. It’s about not knowing where I’m going, not knowing what the fuck I’m doing; it’s about this moment of restlessness, feeling like I’m on this road and I don’t know where it’s gonna go and where it’s gonna end.”
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That same exertion and euphoria is evident throughout the 10-song Such Hot Blood. It finds the band pushing themselves in a variety of directions, from the genteel opening of the sweet rocker “The Storm” to “Bride and Groom,” an Irish-punk confessional that Jollett calls “maybe my favorite song I’ve ever written.” “The Fifth Day” is ambitious and broad, a simple three-minute ditty that segues into four minutes of orchestration similar to U2’s “40.”
Regardless of what happens with the album, out this spring, Jollett is glad that Airborne stretched their abilities on it. “It’d be more terrifying to think that life would go on and you would say to yourself one day, ‘Oh, I had this opportunity and I squandered it,'” he says. “At a certain point in my life, we had this band and this worldwide audience and there was a moment where you could’ve stood there and said the thing in front of everyone that you wanted to say and you didn’t do it. That’s scarier.”