After talking to Adam Granduciel from The War on Drugs, I want to thank his utility company for still sending him a paper bill each month. You see, Granduciel eschews the traditional notebook favored by most songwriters as the place to write his lyrics. Instead, he uses scraps of any paper lying around, which oftens happens to be the back of retail receipts, parking tickets, and electric bills. He piles these scraps into a heap on the table in his studio (and warns his girlfriend that it isn't trash), where they form the basis for his songwriting.
What I found most interesting about Granduciel's process is that he favors imperfection. As a teenager, he was immersed in photography and painting, and just as he does in those creative endeavors, he finds that the "unintentional little mistakes" that emerge from the creative process of songwriting often produce the best work. Those scraps of paper I mentioned above only contain lyrical ideas, because Granduciel tends to hold lyrics in his head and "write" them in that space until he's ready to sing them. He doesn't do much revising: much of what you hear in his recordings is a first take improvisation after the lyrics have stewed in his head. With "Brothers," for example, eighty percent of the lyrics were improvised; it went, in his words, "from nothing to something in six minutes."Read More