With their new album, Queens set out on a mission to be more upbeat.
Queens of the Stone Age might be seven albums in, but they're still refusing to play by the rules. Leather jackets, aviator sunglasses, whiskey and vintage trouble; they live up to the stereotype while mocking it at the same time. No one tells them what to do.
"We're toying with our own expectations most of the time," starts Troy Van Leeuwen. "We do deal with chaos. We don't like to repeat ourselves, and so this is our future selves right now doing what we feel we should be doing."
Following their guts over glory or second guesses the band dive into the future without checking the temperature. "It's always going to be a surprise by nature," adds Jon Theodore. "And we're okay with that. The alternative is not acceptable for us."
‘Villains' sees the band once again poke the beast of surprise. Following the sprawling, studio-heavy exploration of ‘…Like Clockwork', the new album saw the group - Troy, Jon, Josh Homme, Dean Fertita and Mikey Shuman - lock themselves away and record live. Why? Because they could; "that's what we do best."
"We wanted to make an upbeat record. Coming off of '…Like Clockwork', which was more introspective and darker, we wanted to step up and make your ass wiggle."
On paper, teaming up with Mark Ronson to produce it was a cause for alarm. Them: dirty, rugged and carefree. Him: known for his polish. "For us, it made perfect sense. He wasn't Mark Ronson of ‘Uptown Funk' or Amy Winehouse, he was just Mark Ronson. He was in our band for a few months. He cared as much as we did. We're always pushing to do something classic," offers Jon, before Troy continues: "We just wanted to focus on being a band again. Having Mark be the guy that's making sure we're preserving ourselves as we're changing, that was key."
Taking the energy of cohesion and closeness following a long stint on the road, ‘Villains' is sure of itself. Songs evolve, change direction and drift as they come blaring out of speakers. "We really got to know each other musically. Some of that's comfortable, and the idea is to push that and take it to where some of it is dangerous, some of it is almost falling apart. It's on the edge, and that's where we live. We like to be there."
More than simply allowing the band to lose themselves in groove, that sense of togetherness can be felt across ‘Villains'. "Lyrically, there's a lot of stuff about vulnerability, family, and the more global sense of community," starts Jon. "That's what's happening in our lives. We feel lucky to have ourselves as a group of brothers, and that absolutely informs the lyrics. ‘Fortress' and things like that, those are sensitive, vulnerable moments and acknowledgments about the importance of family. As life evolves, typically you acknowledge those things more. You take a breath, pick your head up and look around. There's an air of gratitude involved in what we're doing."
"That's the general energy of the record," continues Troy. "Being grateful but also taking a moment to go, ‘Well this is important to me'. And to get up and move. To be proactive in whatever it is you're passionate about. To me, that's the main theme of the record: act. If you've got something you want to do, you better act now ‘cos time is precious."
Queens of the Stone Age know what they're doing. They've been here before. But still, somehow, there's an air of danger. A smirk behind the shades. "Even though this all seems standard, all bets are off. Here we go, fingers crossed and I hope to hell this works. Who knows what's going to happen?"
Taken from the October issue of Dork, out now. Queens of the Stone Age's album 'Villains' is out now.