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For the War on Drugs’ Adam Granduciel, a return to a place he once called home

Adam Granduciel (left) and The War on Drugs.Shawn Brackbill

The War on Drugs frontman Adam Granduciel wasn’t referring specifically to Dover with the title of his band’s latest album, “I Don’t Live Here Anymore,” but it’s a fact that he spent his childhood there and had long since moved away.

“It was a great place to grow up,” Granduciel says, in advance of a pair of concerts at the House of Blues on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1.

The singer, songwriter, and guitarist has fond memories of buying his first guitar at a music store on Route 9 in Framingham, flipping through the bins at record stores in Kenmore Square and on Newbury Street, and occasionally going to a show at the Middle East in Cambridge. Yet Granduciel as a teen was more likely to be at home playing music, or shooting hoops in a friend’s driveway.


“I wasn’t running around making zines or anything like that,” says Granduciel, who graduated in 1997 from the Roxbury Latin School and then headed off to Dickinson College in Pennsylvania. “I was basically maybe some kind of social introvert. I had friends from school, obviously, but my life outside of that wasn’t very big.”

It’s gotten a lot bigger since then. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” is the band’s fifth full-length album since the War on Drugs formed in Philadelphia in 2005. (Kurt Vile was an early member of the group, but left after their first album, 2008′s “Wagonwheel Blues,” to focus on his solo career.) Along the way, the band has grown, moving from the independent label Secretly Canadian to the venerable Atlantic Records, while album sales and concert crowds have expanded.

Adam Granduciel, shown at his rehearsal space in Philadelphia in 2017. The Massachusetts native now makes his home in Los Angeles.Corey Perrine for The Boston Globe/file

Even as the group has become bigger and more successful, Granduciel still seems content to hide himself away and work on songs, most recently in a warehouse space in Burbank, Calif., and before that in what he describes as “a tiny room” under his house in Los Angeles. He pays close attention to detail as a songwriter, and he can talk with great specificity about why he changed the key of a certain song, or how he wrote and rewrote a particular section of a song until he felt he had nailed it.


“I Don’t Live Here Anymore” took shape gradually. Granduciel started writing songs for the album fairly soon after the band released 2017′s “A Deeper Understanding,” which won a Grammy for best rock album. The singer spent several years honing the new material, often in conjunction with bassist David Hartley and multi-instrumentalist Anthony LaMarca.

“I really trust their musical opinion,” Granduciel says. “If you’re around people long enough, your trust and your friendship grows, and so where we were collaboratively in 2016 and ‘17, we were significantly past that a couple years later.”

The group’s albums have become grander and more spacious over the years. “I Don’t Live Here Anymore” has a big, warm sound that straddles the line between indie cool and arena-ready heartland rock, full of guitars, keyboard textures, and hooky melodies, augmented on the title track by vocals from Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius.

“They create such amazing sonic landscapes,” says Wolfe, who recalls first meeting the War on Drugs in 2014 when both bands were playing a music festival in Vermont. “I just remember sitting on the side of the stage and watching in awe.”


Even at the time, Granduciel had a distinctive lyrical sensibility that has since become more defined. The narrators in his songs are often on a quest for meaning or belonging as they wrestle with uncertainty. Though the pandemic has probably amplified a general sense of restlessness, Granduciel says, those feelings didn’t originate in March 2020.

“Everyone feels a little lost, right? I mean, no one really knows what they’re doing,” he says.

He traces those themes in his lyrics back to his own nomadic existence when Granduciel was in his 20s and his music career was just starting to take shape.

“You try to write from this place that makes a lot of sense to you,” he says. The period when he first got serious about music coincided “with a time where I was without roots, you know what I mean? I was living in California. I was traveling around all the time. I wasn’t homeless or anything, but I was kind of just moving around. I had no real sense of purpose or direction, which was fine with me at the time.”

Granduciel has become more settled in recent years. He lives in Los Angeles full time now, and he became a father in 2019. Yet that sense of looking toward the horizon hasn’t fully dissipated.

“No one is 100 percent confident in every choice they’ve made,” he says. “I wouldn’t consider myself fully confident in any sort of adulthood. I think I’m still writing from a kind of displacement.”



At House of Blues, 15 Lansdowne St. Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at 8 p.m. Tickets $46-$66. 888-693-2583, www.houseofblues.com/boston

Follow Eric R. Danton on Twitter @erdanton.