Today, January 20th 2015, has officially been named “The Decemberists Day” in Portland to honour the band and mark the release of their new record.
The five-piece American indie folk-rock band dropped their new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World today while their hometown celebrated their achievements.
This much anticipated album, since their previous record The King is Dead went to number one on the US Billboard Album chart, definitely lives up to expectation.
Each of the band’s signature narrative-driven tunes hits the mark, either making comment on current events or telling a character-driven tale.
Front man, Colin Meloy told The Upside News, in writing this record, they avoided considering the success of the previous one, or even developing a concept.
“Ideally you’re never influenced by the commercial success of a record. If you’re always considering your audience or how many records you’re going to sell, you are going to be creating some kind of disingenuous music,” he says.
“I think with this record, we were trying to create something as removed from the rest of our discography as possible that it would stand on it’s own and not be influenced by the success or lack of success as previous records.”
Produced by Grammy-nominated Tucker Martine (Mudhoney, REM, My Morning Jacket), The Decemberists’ seventh offering, What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World allowed the songs to go in their own direction.
“We really wanted to come at this record with no pre-conceived notion about what the concept would be, or if there would be any concept,” Colin says.
“The concept was no concept. Once they came along, we let the songs decide the concept; the songs dictated the structure of the record. I don’t know that it has one overt, singular influence like The King Is Dead or The Hazards of Love.”
The title of the album is drawn from the track 12/17/12, which is a poignant piece inspired by watching President Obama address the nation following the Newtown school shootings.
“I think, like a lot of people, after that tragedy, I found myself with that desperate feeling of wanting to do something but not really knowing what I could do and that hopelessness you feel in the face of something like that,” Colin says.
“It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I actually watched President Obama’s press conference about it and he read the kids’ names out. My kid Hank was in first grade at the time; the same age as those kids. I think that’s when it really struck me, and something kind of burst. I’d been working on that song during the day and suddenly it took on a new form. What I found to be the most healthy thing to do at that time was to just gather the things you love close to you and take stock of them.”
For many reasons, including the way they write profound, relevant music, The Decemberists will be immortalised through the naming of “The Decemberists Day”.
The band is flattered by the gesture and by the gift fellow artists of the town will present to them.
Colin Meloy (vocals, guitar, bouzouki, harmonica), Chris Funk (guitar, multi-instrumentalist), Jenny Conlee (Hammond organ, accordion, melodica, piano, keyboards, synthesizer, harmonica), Nate Query (bass guitar, double bass, cello) and John Moen (drums, backing vocals, melodica, guitar) were today honoured by Mayor Charlie Hales in their collective hometown of Portland.
“I think it’s very surreal,” Colin says. “We’re very flattered; it’s very sweet but I have a feeling it’s going to be very surreal.”
“There’s a quilt being made by 50 different artists and designers, and it’s inspired by the record and by the band itself. It’s pretty awesome. We’ve seen a few of the squares. There’s people I’ve known for a while whose work I’ve really respected doing pieces for the quilt.”
The Decemberists are about to head off on tour to UK, Europe, then USA.
Although an Australian tour has yet to be announced, it is rumoured to be on the cards.
The last time they were here, though was 2010 to play gigs at the Big Day Out which, Colin says, was a little strange for them.
“My memories of the last time we were in Australia was that it was a super fun trip, but the Big Day Out shows were always a little strange; I don’t know that we necessarily fit in,” he says.
“It was fun being around all those other artists, but I think our side shows were what I remember most; and it was fun playing in a place we hadn’t played before to a crowd who were definitely excited to see us. There’s something really nice about that.”
In the upcoming tour, Colin says they have added two new members, which adds another layer to their already rich compositions.
“It’s exciting because we have a couple of new touring members, Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor doing backing vocals. So in rehearsal, not only have we been able to tackle the new songs on the record that have a lot of vocal arrangement, but also try vocal arrangements on the older records as well,” he says.
You can buy The Decemberists’ new record What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World from today and read our review here.
Story by Libby Parker
Photos courtesy of The Decemberists and EMI