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Red Hot Chili Peppers' New Single About Joy, Car Crashes, Playing Dice

To truly enjoy basking in the light, it’s important to grasp what it’s like to be alone in the dark. The Red Hot Chili Peppers know this. Having endured drug addiction and crumbling relationships as well as fame and great wealth, they’ve developed a respect for the dynamic between yin and yang, pleasure and pain, elation and despondency. And on their new album, By the Way, which comes out July 9, the band continues to explore the dynamic between such polar opposites.

While half of the album reflects a fun-loving, enthusiastic vibe, the disc is equally weighted with darker and more forlorn content. The first single from the record, the title track, is perhaps most indicative of the group’s current mind frame.

“It’s about a night in the life,” frontman Anthony Kiedis enthused from New York’s Times Square. “It’s a landscape of L.A. – an evening that happens simultaneously across the entire city, and the feeling of anticipation and hope and joy of going out into the fray. Maybe you’re going to meet some magical adventure partner that’s going to warm the cockles of your soul and sing you songs and hold your hand and take you to places to go dancing. But it’s also about people getting beat up, and drug deals happening, and prostitution going on, and car crashes and people playing dice. It’s about all of this stuff happening at the same time.”

Like many of the band’s songs, “By the Way” pulses with charged guitars, funk-rock bass and soaring vocals as well as vocoder effects. Kiedis described it as one of the heavier cuts on the disc, which is otherwise sprinkled with less surging, more melodic fare.

” ‘By the Way’ encompasses a lot of different aspects of the record and a lot of different aspects of the Red Hot Chili Peppers over the years, and sums it up in one bombastic, yet melodic number that feels really good to play,” he said. “Even though there seem to be more accessible songs we could have chosen for the first single, we chose to go for something more raucous and colorful.”

The video for “By the Way” was shot last week in Los Angeles by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, who directed award-winning clips for Korn (“Freak on a Leash”) and Smashing Pumpkins (“Tonight, Tonight”). The clip, which guitarist John Frusciante described as “funny and scary at the same time,” was influenced by a wild car chase in the Mexican film “Amores Perros.”

“It has David Sheridan, one of the funniest guys ever, in the car chase,” Kiedis said. “He kidnaps me and [bassist] Flea does his own actual human stunt-driving.”

“I do a headstand on the hood of the car,” added Flea. “And I have ropes tied to my toes that I steer the car with. It’s incredible.”

Because of the record label’s concerns about illegal downloading of the single from the Internet, “By the Way” will not be sent to radio in advance of the album’s release. The video for the song will hit airwaves in June.

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