Adam Granduciel could win a Grammy in his sleep.
In fact, that’s what the leader of the War On Drugs did on Sunday night in Auckland, New Zealand, when he and his five Philadelphia bandmates secured the best rock album trophy for A Deeper Understanding at the 60th annual Grammy Awards on Sunday.
While the preshow Grammy ceremony was taking place Sunday afternoon — apparently best rock album is not a big enough award to be presented during the prime time telecast, whose ratings fell to an all-time low of 19.8 million viewers — the band were sleeping off jet lag Down Under.
The night before, the War on Drugs had kicked off a southern hemisphere string of dates with the traveling Laneway Festival in Singapore. Granduciel woke up at 11 a.m. Monday morning in Auckland, which is 18 hours ahead of Philadelphia.
His phone was buzzing.
The first person he heard from was his buddy Shawn Everett, the engineer who mixed the album and with whom Granduciel did much of the Deeper recording with over the last two years in Los Angeles.
“He was there, because he was nominated on his own,” said Granduciel, calling from Auckland on Monday. (Everett was up for best engineered album, nonclassical, for Perfume Genius‘ No Shape. He didn’t win.)
“He texted me. He was like, ‘Bro! We Won!‘ I was like, ‘What?!’ And than a second a later Steve [Ralbovsky, of Atlantic Records] from the label called, and he was ecstatic. I couldn’t really process it at first. I was a little bit in shock.
“But it’s awesome. We’re all really excited. It’s pretty cool. And then we played our set at Laneway, and it was really great. It’s just one of those things, you don’t ask how or why, you just kind of accept it. and once you do, it’s all the more enjoyable.”
In the rock album category, A Deeper Understanding was the most critically praised and easily the class of the competition. But they were competing against some seriously heavy hitting hard rock brands, including Queens of the Stone Age, Mastodon and Metallica. Still, Granduciel felt that the he and his band mates had a puncher’s chance.
“It’s easy to see these huge bands and think we’re an underdog,” he says of the Drugs, who have a featured spot on the bill at the Coachella fest in California in April and will headline the Xponential fest in Camden in July.
“Not to sound cocky, but I had a feeling we really had a shot at it because, you know, we’re not a small band anymore. We’re obviously not as big as Metallica. But we’re not in the shadows.”
The Philly band’s prominence in the mainstream is everywhere apparent. Before taking off to spend the winter playing for antipodeans in New Zealand and Australia, the Drugs played The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon last week.
This month, the Deeper single “Pain,” topped the Billboard adult alternative songs chart. This writer was taken aback to recently hear the band’s “Under the Pressure” while shopping at the King of Prussia Mall. “I still hear from people telling me stuff like that,” Granduciel says. “My uncle texts me: ‘I heard your song in Supercuts!’”
“There’s a kinship there with our band and our fans and people want to find ways to show that,” the guitarist and songwriter says. “So I felt like we definitely had a chance. And then when I found out we won, it was like, ‘Wow, that’s exciting.’ Because the people who vote for it are musicians and artists and producers. It’s really your peers.”
The War on Drugs are known as a basketball band. There’s a growth chart poster of Michael Jordan in their South Philly rehearsal space. And bass player Dave Hartley once led a successful online campaign to get San Antonio Spurs forward Matt Bonner to be added to the NBA All-Star weekend three point shooting contest. (It’s a long story.)
But are they also a football band? On Fallon, Granduciel performed with a “Fly, Eagles, Fly” banner on the back of his shirt.
“Yeah,” the singer says. “Me and Charlie [Hall, the Drug’s drummer] are Eagles guys. Jon [Natchez, sax and keyboard player] is a Pats guy. We grew up in the same place.”
Granduciel, who turns 39 next month, was raised in Dover, Massachusetts. He didn’t become a football fan, though, until he moved to Philadelphia in 2003, after graduating from Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
“The first apartment I lived in was at Third and South, right next to O’Neals. It was the three of us crammed into this garbage apartment and we would go to O’Neals every Sunday and have wings and beer. That’s when I really started to get in to football, and getting behind the team. It was part of this weird parallel life that I had where I became a bouncer at O’Neals. That’s when I stated to fall in love with Philly, and being an Eagles fan just kind of reminds me of moving to Philly.”
The singer’s shirt on Fallon was a triumph of improvised fashion. Under the influence of his girlfriend, actress Krysten Ritter (whose Jessica Jones superhero sage resumes on Netflix in March), Granduciel — who had back surgery in 2016 — is a recent hot yoga convert. On the day of the Fallon performance, he went to a class, showered and Ubered to 30th Street Station to catch a train to New York.
“I was still sweating like crazy because my body was still at 103 degrees,” he says. “So I got to the train station, and there was like 5500 different kinds of Eagles gear for sale. I was like, ‘Oh perfect,’ and bought an Eagles towel and wiped myself down.”
Hanging with the also avid Philly fans in The Roots, “I felt like everywhere we were going there was Eagles pride. So I felt compelled to take that towel and put it on my back. It felt natural. I gave it to the people in wardrobe and they cut it up and put it on my shirt.”
Not sure of his own itinerary, Granduciel said he expect to watch the big game in Brisbane, though the band will in fact be in Sydney.
“It’ll be 9:30 in the morning with wings,” he says. And just like his band did in the best rock album category, The War on Drugs front man has a feeling the Philadelphia football team could pull of an upset.
“I think if they play like there’s no tomorrow they can win. No one played out of their minds when they beat Minnesota. It’s not a fluke. It’s what they’re capable of doing.”