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The War on Drugs’s Adam Granduciel Talks Basketball and ‘Thrones’

The artist talks to Chris Ryan about his band’s preferred leisure activities

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The War on Drugs’s fourth studio album, A Deeper Understanding, will be released on August 25. On the most recent episode of The Watch, the band’s frontman, Adam Granduciel, talked to Chris Ryan about the project, but also about playing basketball, watching Game of Thrones, and the other activities that his band enjoys in between recording sessions.

Listen to the full podcast here. This transcript has been edited and condensed.

Adam Granduciel: I think the most intense game we had was a couple years ago in Long Island, we did a benefit show and we were staying at this guy's house and he had a hoop in his yard and it was me and [bassist] Dave [Hartley]. ... Dave's a great player, he's really good player.

Chris Ryan: And a huge hoops fan.

Granduciel: Huge hoops fan. Every day his knowledge is growing deep in the hoops.

Ryan: Does he bring a lot of advanced stats to you about pickup games?

Granduciel: He could, yeah, he could.

Ryan: Just like your effective field goal percentage is actually lower than you think it is.

Granduciel: That was the whole thing with the Matt Bonner thing. He was like, you know when he did the Let Bonner Shoot campaign ... he had done the numbers and he was like, “You know, Matt Bonner actually has the highest some percentage in the history of the NBA. I don't know why he isn't in the 3-point contest.”

Ryan: So you're playing in Long Island.

Granduciel: We were playing in Long Island, just in this guy's driveway with I think probably a deflated soccer ball, and our sound guy at the time, Mickey, he's like, 7-foot-2, or something. Not really, he's like 6-foot-10. He's huge.

Ryan: You've got Gheorghe Muresan doing sound for you.

Granduciel: And then our old drummer Steven [Urgo] I think was his teammate, maybe, but I remember that being an intense game.

Ryan: I notice that you just said our former sound guy and our old drummer, so sounds like it was pretty intense.

Granduciel: Exactly. Everyone's cool. It was the old era. But we did have some good games at the studio.

Ryan: Do you guys watch a lot of basketball on the road?

Granduciel: Yeah, we do. If it's on. I remember when two years ago, or maybe it was three years ago, I guess we watched the Finals in Miami. If there's a game on, we'll watch it ...

Ryan: Do you guys watch anything together as a band? Like any shows?

Granduciel: We watch Thrones. Yeah, we're all—not everyone. It's funny actually, because me, Dave, and Robbie [Bennett]—super into [Game of] Thrones. Jon, our sax player—

Ryan: Jon Natchez.

Granduciel: Jon Natchez, right. So he's anti—decidedly anti-Thrones.

Ryan: Is that a take of his?

Granduciel: He thinks—he's on this thing where he's like, “I'm just not in the fantasy.” I'm like, “Well, just give it—you should just watch it. Because it's deeper than that, and you get—maybe it is, maybe it isn't—there's a lot going on. I think you'd really like it.” Now, it's funny because I remember a couple—when we were recording at the studio down the road in between tours—we'd been on tour for four weeks. I booked a week at the studio. It's like when we demoed like "Strangest Thing," and it was Sunday night and Thrones was on. So we all got [together]—watched it in the control room. And it was the episode where Arya is like, rowing into Braavos, or something.

Ryan: Yeah, she rowed for a while.

Granduciel: And like, right, I guess she did row for a while, but the joke was that we started watching—it's the first two minutes of the show and Jon's like, “I get it, you're rowing. You're rowing, I get it.” And he like storms out of the room. And he always comes back to that. He's like, “I don't know. She was just rowing forever.” But now, so we kind of make fun of him for it, but now—

Ryan: See that's not the fantasy part. That's like, the actually, the mundane stuff that they show that people often have a problem with.

Granduciel: Right. But now he's like, he's anti-Thrones but he's also like, listening to Thrones podcasts now, and I'm like, “Dude, just watch the show. It's OK to like, admit it. Just dive in, dude.”

Ryan: Yeah, yeah. I mean, people this season have had a problem with, like, characters getting very long distances … seemingly without effort. You know like, they'll just get across an ocean in like one second.

Granduciel: Right. Like, “Oh how'd Varys get there?”

Ryan: Yeah, and then I'm just like, “There are dragons in this show, so if they're going to, like, cut corners on like [travel], you know, I don't really want to watch people take long ocean journeys every time this happens.”

Granduciel: Yeah.