Last September, when Cage the Elephant opened for Muse at Time Warner Cable Arena, shirtless Cage singer Matt Schultz slithered across the top of the crowd, pulled himself to his feet and teetered, suspended in time as the song paused – before falling dramatically into the crowd’s arms.
Such moments are not unusual for the Kentucky-born rock band: Schultz is notorious for climbing scaffolding, stage-diving and even breaking a few bones along the way.
“When we were first starting out, we were playing mainly house shows or at Tidballs, this little bar in Bowling Green,” says guitarist Brad Schultz, Matt’s brother. “That’s where Matt first started crowd-surfing and standing on the crowd.
“There was a chain hanging from the ceiling in that bar that ran the length of the room, and he’d climb up and hang upside-down from it. And then there is the environment at house shows, where there are no rules. The crazier people pushed us to go crazier.”
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Brad Schultz found himself in a similar environment when looking for inspiration for the band’s third full-length album, “Melaphobia.”
After wearing newfound influences like the Pixies on its sleeve for 2011’s “Thank You Happy Birthday,” the members of Cage the Elephant tuned out much of what was going on in the mainstream (in part due to a lack of connection with synth-pop, says Schultz). Instead, he found energy in Nashville’s underground.
“With this record we didn’t want to go back and try to discover something that inspired us,” Schultz says. “Instead, we just wanted to let whatever we learned to love naturally rub off on us and not think about it too much.
“There’s a great psychedelic garage-punk scene, with these amazing bands like Plastic Divisions, Bad Cop, Fly Golden Eagle, Kingston Springs. I would go to these house shows, or they’d have shows in the back of this bike shop and set up makeshift bars.”
Although recorded with longtime producer Jay Joyce, “Melaphobia” shifts between a raw, punky texture and more mellow melancholia that “Thank You” only hinted at. The experience writing and recording the album left the Schultz brothers creatively energized.
Brad Schultz expects the band will head back into the studio in the fall, after a run opening for the Black Keys.
“Usually, when I get out of the studio, I feel empty of every idea I ever came up with,” he says. “I always have this paranoia I’ll never write another song again.”
But he and Matt kept writing. Brad Schultz recorded an EP with actress/singer Juliette Lewis in Nashville and has been trading song ideas via text with his brother.
“My text history from him and to him,” he says, “is just songs.”