On August 25, the indie rock collective the War on Drugs, which was founded in 2005 by guitarist/singers Adam Granduciel and Kurt Vile, released its fourth full-length, A Deeper Understanding. Since the band’s last album, 2014’s Lost in the Dream, Granduciel spent the better part of three and a half years writing and recording in New York and Los Angeles with the group’s core members and an array of guests. (Vile left in 2008 for a successful solo career.) And although drum duties were primarily covered by longtime War sticksman Charlie Hall, a robust cast of musicians took over the kit at various points, including Anthony LaMarca (who also plays guitar and keyboard in the band), Darren Jessee, Otto Hauser, and MD contributor Patrick Berkery. “I love that some of my best friends also happen to be some of my favorite drummers, and you can hear them on different parts of the record,” Hall says. “They’re all amazing and totally different from one another in terms of their approach to time and feel.”

Working in various studios allowed the group to take advantage of various types of gear and ambience. “I’m endlessly fascinated by the effect that different rooms and physical environments have on music-making,” Hall says. “Everything affects it—not just the acoustics, but the physical layout as well. Every studio has a different flow: Is everyone hanging in the control room and remaining an active part of tracking? Is it comfortable? Is there enough space to be creative and work on ideas while staying out of the way when you need to? Are there distractions? What are you doing when you’re not in the studio? This stuff all matters. It would be crazy to think that being in Los Angeles didn’t have an effect on the shape this record took.”

Other than drumming, Hall played guitar and vibes and sang on the record, and he explains that playing other instruments contributes just as much to his rhythmic DNA as drumming itself does. “While I hate the sound of my own voice,” Hall says, “singing can help your understanding of melody. It’s no coincidence that some of the most special drummers of all time were also vocalists—I’m thinking of Stevie Wonder and Levon Helm in particular. It’s all one thing. My passport says ‘Musician,’ not ‘Drummer.’ Being able to talk about chord changes or being able to put yourself in other musicians’ shoes is all part of being a good drummer. Music is another form of communication, so being able to understand and use the language is key.”

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