For most of 2011 — when they weren't setting Guinness World Records or winning MTV awards — 30 Seconds To Mars repeatedly ducked questions about their future, getting glib when asked about reports that they were calling it quits.
Of course, much to the relief of the Echelon, on Tuesday, the band put any and all speculation of a split to rest, announcing that they had begun work on the follow-up to their This Is War album ... which sort of raises the question: Were 30STM just messing with us all along? Well, no. Turns out, they were about as unsure of their future as anyone else, as Jared Leto explained to MTV News.
"We weren't playing coy; we were on the road for two years, four months or so, and people started to ask us about a new album, and we didn't have any plans. We didn't know what the future was," he explained. "We had been working for a really long time. We went from A Beautiful Lie right into the studio, right onto the road, I hadn't had a significant break in years. So, at that point, I don't think we knew what was going to happen for the future, so rather than make something up, we just told the truth: We didn't know."
That uncertainty began to change as soon as the band finally took time to decompress following their record-setting world tour. Leto — who admitted he's "always writing songs ... it's basically become a habit at this point" — took a glance at his notebooks and realized that he was feeling recharged and excited about the possibilities a new album would present. Though, before the band started work on the new album, they had to make one thing clear: This time around, they'd try very hard to not try very hard.
"We made a commitment not to tour for all of 2012 ... and I think that helped provide a lot of clarity," Leto laughed. "And we realized there's no way this new record could be like [This Is War,] because the last record was so conceptual and wrapped around this idea of conflict, because we were battling a corporation and being sued for $30 million. That was our lives, being hunkered down in the studio for a couple years, fighting this conglomerate. Of course, now, different time, different state of mind, so this album is definitely a dramatic departure."
That said, there are still some things 30 STM will keep the same on the new album ... namely, incorporating the voices of their worldwide fanbase (they held a series of collaborative recording sessions — so-called "Summits" — during the making of This Is War) and crisscrossing the globe to find inspiration. In fact, Leto rang in 2012 by making a trek to India, where inspiration was definitely not in short supply.
"I was recording in India, and had an amazing experience over there, and came back with some really great material. And not so much that this is a World Beat record, it's more about the experiences and how they're influencing me in creative terms, emotional terms," he explained. "I recorded a tabla player and an Indian folk singer, and I'm hoping I'm able to utilize that on a song. There was one afternoon that we climbed up above a city called Jodhpur, we were on a cliff with a 2,000-year-old fortress behind us. And they call it the blue city; all of the roofs and buildings are painted blue, and when you climb up this mountain you can get a great view of all of it.
"So it was about sunset, and I had a portable set up, so we started recording. I had an external speaker, and the kids started to hear this song I was working on," he continued. "So they started climbing out onto the rooftops of the city, and soon they were scrambling up the side of this mountain, and before we knew it, we were surrounded by dozens of these amazing Indian kids, singing and dancing along to this recording process ... it was really mind-blowing."
And on Friday, fans will be able to get a first listen to some of 30 STM's new material when the band hosts their second It's a way of welcoming their worldwide fanbase into their laboratory, and Leto is thrilled to pull back the curtain. Because though they may be making a "dramatic departure" on album #4, some things will remain the same.
"There are a lot of people around the world who just can't jump on a plane and be part of a show, and that's what we provide [with VyRT]. The event on Friday is different, it's not based around an existing show, it's a show we created and designed, and it's going to be a lot of fun for us," he said. "There will be some music, there will be some mistakes. We're bringing the world inside our process, it will be intimate. I'm going to play some songs, some old songs, some new songs and then maybe some newer songs I've been working on. I'll play a piece of a song here or there — I doubt I'm going to play an entire song, but you never know. It's new territory."