Life during wartime

Grammy-winning guitar-rock giants The War on Drugs bringing evolving show and road-worn honesty to OKC stop Sept. 21 at The Criterion.

Adam Granduciel immediately apologizes for being a few minutes late to our call, explaining that he was folding laundry and listening to some brand new demos he’s been working on and just kind of spaced out, losing all track of time.

That’s a well-known feeling for any fan of Granduciel’s band, The War on Drugs. Their spacey, atmospheric guitar-rock feels tailor-made for zoning out and ignoring the passage of time a while, and diehards will be pleased to hear that the new stuff he’s working on is just as hypnotic as ever.

“It’s just planting the seeds, I guess, for new inspirations and new songs,” Granduciel said.. “I would like to make something that feels kind of really homemade in a way that I haven’t done with the last two records. I’m just ready to kind of do something a little different.”

It’s no surprise he’s ready for a change. The band’s touring schedule has been relentless since dropping their massively-acclaimed new album I Don’t Live Here Anymore last October and kicking off a trek that will finally bring them through OKC Sept. 21 when they hit The Criterion.

“Touring has been amazing, and exhausting,” Granduciel said. “We’ve basically been on the road the entire year, and we’ve done a ridiculous amount of shows. So it’s been nice to be home and just work on music and be creative and be like, ‘Oh yeah, this part’s fun, too.’”

That comparative peace and focus will be short-lived, however. When you front one of the buzziest bands of the past decade, you’re never grounded for long. The day after our chat, he’s off to Chicago, then Toronto, then back home for just over a week before setting off on another month-and-a-half-long cross-country leg.

It’s a sporadic and unforgiving cycle, but Granduciel likes to be kept on his toes.

“When we start playing again after a two-week break or something, and you think that you forgot how to play guitar,” he said. “Those are sometimes the shows where it clicks. It feels like the first time you’ve ever played, and it’s like you just unlock something. You’re back to square one or you’re, like, searching, and it’s such a nice feeling sometimes.”

Hitting the same states or markets repeatedly throughout a tour, the struggle to keep the material fresh can be real, often just as much for the band’s own energy and enjoyment on stage as for returning fans. With The War on Drugs having already graced Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa just a few short months ago, the question has been floated of how the tour and the songs have developed in ways to keep things exciting.

“Luckily, I think the newer material lends itself to kind of evolving a lot over the course of even just one touring cycle,” Granduciel said. “You might get a song to one place and then take a month off and when we pick back up, a couple of the songs are way more laid back or a little groovier. The music is pretty malleable like that. Like ‘Harmonia’s Dream’ and ‘I Don’t Want to Wait’ and ‘Victim,’ those are all songs that we really love playing, and they can just change even depending on how rested we are.”

Despite the band’s affection for those groovy atmospherics and sometimes long-form instrumental passages, Granduciel said there’s surprisingly little straight-up improvisation or jamming, preferring instead to tighten and refine the band’s interplay among its seven members through composing and collaborating in rehearsals.

“We rehearsed a lot for this tour,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s just because most of these songs weren’t recorded with the whole band in the room together or what. They’re a bit more complicated than our other songs and also we hadn’t played together in like three-and-a-half years because the touring cycle ended and then a year later was the pandemic. So we rehearsed a lot and going into January this year, we were just way more prepared than we’d ever been.”

Though the songwriting and production that goes into The War on Drugs’ records is normally something of a one-man operation, it’s clear that Granduciel is considering more than ever the possibility of taking this finely calibrated live band into the studio to create something more collaborative next time around.

You can probably chalk that up to how close he feels with these players and how much fun he’s having with them on stage every night.

“It would be fun to have a bit of a different palette to see how this band – how my friends and I – can interpret it,” he said. “So I don’t know. Who knows? But I’m in the very early stages of being excited and that’s a good time. That’s what I like.”

Those early-stage ideas will be put on hold for a while longer now as he and the band return to the road with a rejuvenated energy and passion that you might think would escape a band now more than fifteen years and five albums into its life.

But for Granduciel, no matter what songwriting daydreams he’s getting lost in or what fleeting afternoon ideas are spacing him out at home, nothing is more important right now.

“When we’re on stage and we’re hearing each other and it locks in, it just feels like only we could be doing what we’re doing at that moment,” he said. “So it’s a good feeling.”