Thirty Seconds to Mars is one of the greatest rock bands of our generation. Since the group’s inception in 2008, band members Jared Leto, Tomo Miličević, and Shannon Leto have worked tirelessly to push the boundaries of their ambitious music, creatively challenge themselves as artists, and honor their incredibly devoted global fan base. With the release of their concept album Love, Lust, Faith, and Dreams earlier this year, Thirty Seconds to Mars continues to create epic music while touring extensively around the world.
Lead guitarist Tomo Miličević sat down with LA Music Blog before the band heads out on a fall tour that ends at the Hollywood Bowl on October 12th to talk about the group’s commitment to their roles as artists and their journey to create powerfully thematic music and artistic videos.
Throughout your career, Thirty Seconds to Mars has always recognized the important and uplifting role your music has on people. Do you ever feel pressure to live up to the expectations of your dedicated fans?
No, not really because when we’re making music, we are really doing it for ourselves at that point in the process. We’re not really thinking so much about what people may or may not think. Obviously we have conversations about “How might this translate live if we are playing onstage?” but really, it’s a quite pure process at that point.
When we play it live, we are thinking about putting on a show for people, so we think very much about what would be impactful or powerful or intimate or fun. We are always thinking of ways to break the barrier between the band and the audience. How do we bring the show to each other? It’s something we talk about all the time, and we try and fail and succeed. It’s an ongoing conversation, but they are two different things and that’s how it goes.
It sounds like your writing comes from an organic place. Your recent album Love, Lust, Faith, and Dreams has a clear theme given the title and introductions. Do you feel that helps in the writing process or do you feel boxed in? How does a concept album come from an organic place?
It is conceptual, definitely, in the sense that it really quite literally talks about those four themes: love, lust, faith, and dreams. It kind of explores the idea that those are necessary elements to a complete human life. It’s really interesting in that all the songs touch on those topics in some way, shape, or form, and I think the title and the content work so perfectly well together. When you’re playing these songs live, it’s really interesting to see how they translate. The way we felt it affected us is the same way it seems to affect the audience, and that’s interesting to see happen live.
Your fans are so dedicated, and you match that level of dedication in your music videos. Do the ideas for the epic videos — particularly “Up In The Air” — come naturally from the content of the songs? How do you approach the video creation process?
Jared is the person who creates the videos and finds the visual story behind the songs. It’s a very organic process. It starts off with a very small group of people, being Jared just toying around with ideas, often talking to Shannon and I and using us as a soundboard to see what happens when he talks about it out loud. He follows his creativity and these worlds emerge. [laughs]
It’s a very interesting thing to witness, that’s for sure. He is incredibly dedicated to our videos and really enjoys making them. It also feels like a really, really powerful opportunity to examine the music in a completely different way and to show it in a different light. I think he takes that really seriously and does it incredibly well.
I love our videos as well. I’m a fan of them as much as I am a part of them. It’s pretty incredible to watch the creative process happen with them as the teams get bigger and bigger up to the day of shooting. These worlds emerge, and we all are so grateful that we have these recorded moments of history in our lives. It’s an amazing way to catalog your personal experiences. [laughs]
I can imagine. You’ve been everywhere in the world and experienced so many things, and you are capturing those moments. I’ve always thought of Thirty Seconds To Mars as a confident, ambitious rock band that, as Jared has said, “Never wants to do the same song twice.” Do you think you’ll ever settle for a sound and how do you maintain that motivation to push yourselves?
I know that it’s not that hard because it’s part of the DNA of each of us. We are just totally uninterested in repeating ourselves. The three of us, if we start doing something the same way as we’ve done in the past, it just isn’t exciting, so we naturally gravitate towards something else.
It’s not changing for the sake of changing; it’s really more of just shining the light on who you really are at the moment, which is always a different person because as time goes on, you are changing. You aren’t changing the way you make music — you probably approach it the same way in terms of the process — but you’re a different person, so therefore you land at different results, you know?
You’re not doing things in a different way. You’re just making different choices because you’re a different person and different things become interesting. If you’re a painter, you’re going to go for different colors because you’re in a different mood, not because you are consciously trying to change. You’re just interpreting who you are in the moment and therefore the music changes.
And it’s another opportunity for you to capture who you are in the moment, either in song or music videos, and go back and relive that feeling or moment in your life later.
Yeah, and you either laugh and say, “Wow, that was really funny” or you say, “Man, that was a mess.” It is what it is.
You’re sharing that with millions of people, though, so you’re not afraid to share these very personal moments with fans.
I mean, I don’t know if it’s wrong to say, but it’s one of the roles of the artist to not be afraid to share, to kind of be the example of openness, to be the person who does do that and not be afraid. I think that’s why we do it and why we are drawn to it because that’s what we are.
You’re about to go see all these fans now, too! You have played all over the world for gigantic audiences, even breaking the record for Longest Concert Rock Tour, and you’re heading out on tour this week. What are you looking forward to with this specific tour and what can Los Angeles fans expect at your homecoming show next month?
We’re definitely excited to be touring in the States again. It’s been a really long time since we’ve done that. We spend a lot of time overseas and we’re very much a global band, so it’s difficult to make time for everywhere all the time. We are mostly excited to be back in the States touring at home. That’s great. To be ending in Los Angeles on October 12th at the Bowl is the ultimate ending to what is a very short but sweet run. We are really excited to play the show at the Bowl. We are bringing our entire big arena show to the stage. I wouldn’t miss it.
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