How has the transition to becoming a frontman been for someone who has spent most of his career behind a drum kit?
It was absolutely petrifying at first, a very unnatural place to be. But it’s like with anything, any kind of skill that you learn — you need to build up the experience with it and find a spot where you feel comfortable in your own skin and where you feel that you bring something of value, you hope, to that place. The aim of it is for people to take something away from that evening, whether that be a bit of escapism, or just to be lost in that moment of the show. Those are my favorite shows when I go to see other people.
How did you approach “Weatherhouse” differently than your first album?
For the first record, there was a lot that I felt that I needed to learn: I had to find a singing voice, I was really getting my chops together as a songwriter, and I wasn’t hearing drum patterns on that record. I didn’t have the headspace, I think, for finding my way into the drumming on that record, and I had the very good fortune of working with [drummer] Glenn Kotche from Wilco on that record, so that was marvelous. I learned a lot of lessons from “Familial.” I had those worries about whether I could see that process through of writing a whole album myself, and finding a singing voice. Going into “Weatherhouse,” I knew I could do that, so that frees up a bit of headspace in terms of turning my attention toward drumming again.
How does songwriting start for you?
The songwriting process starts with the musical side. That can come together very quickly, actually. I’ll write on guitar and I will put ideas down on my phone as they come up and then return to them a little further down the line and develop the ideas a bit more. For this record, lyrically I had one complete lyric going into recording. Going through the process of arranging and recording the musical side, and then really sitting down with those instrumental tracks and writing the lyrics, that was quite a long process. But it was a nice way of doing things because then you could actually respond [lyrically] to what was happening musically and arrangement-wise within the songs.
Do you want to continue making solo albums?
What do you get out of making these albums and performing with your band that you don’t get out of the day job?
I have quite a defined role within [Radiohead], which is drumming and percussion, which is great. That’s a big thing for me musically. But I do have other strings to my musical bows, if I can mix my metaphors for a moment. Doing the solo work allows me to dive into those and find out what I’m capable of and, I suppose, it allows you to develop something that is identifiably you, as well. You get a greater sense of what your own creative voice is.
You’re wrapping up your solo tour in D.C. Is the plan to then go and start working on the ninth Radiohead album?
We’ve been [recording] a little bit. It’s been pockets of it, for eight or nine months, but we start in earnest in September.
Are you looking forward to getting back to Radiohead?
Oh, yeah, we’ve got a pretty full schedule coming up. We’re poised to just really immerse ourselves in it now.
So you’ve sketched out some stuff and now you try to figure out what, exactly, these songs are?
Yeah, absolutely, that’s a good way of putting it.
Have any themes emerged?
They’re all too sketchy to say anything like that.
Touring as a frontman, have you gained more of an appreciation for what Thom Yorke does every night on a Radiohead tour?
Oh, I think being the drummer is much harder — he’s got an easy life!
Rock and Roll Hotel, 1353 H St. NE; Sun., 8 p.m., $20.
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