- 01 Nov 18
After touring across America, The Decemberists bring their Your Girl/Your Ghost tour to Europe On November 4th, kicking off in Vicar Street, Dublin. In advance of touching down, lead singer and songwriter Colin Meloy took the time out to talk about their latest album, historical influences as well as hinting at what audiences can expect on the night.
It would be an understatement to say The Decemberists have a wealth of material at their fingertips. With seven previous studio albums, (not to mention a Grammy nomination for "Down by the River") one could easily forgive the band for leaning on their older material. Yet, ever the pioneers, The Decemberists released their eighth studio album I'll Be Your Girl in March this year - and what an album.
Oft noted for its different sound, in this album The Decemberists chart new ground while retaining their distinctive flare for storytelling and uncanny ability to weave in and out of the Punk and Folk genres.
“I don’t think we wanted to force it," Colin says when asked about the band's new style, "but we wanted to create a kind of environment where it felt like we had more license to try different stuff. I had this suspicion that we had gotten a little comfortable and I found myself following familiar paths and making familiar decisions. I felt like, at this stage in my career, that I needed some kind of obstacles because when you set obstacles in your path creatively you have to come up with strategies to get around them. It wasn’t that we tied one hand behind our backs to see what kind of music we could make. But we did work with a different producer than we had for ten years [John Congleton]. We didn’t anticipate how John was going to work or going to respond to things. Inevitably it made for a totally different decision-making process."
However, the experience wasn't all picture-perfect forays into uncharted ground. The album was written during the 2016 election of Donald Trump.
"I was working on the music when all that went down," Colin recalls, "so there was no way that wasn't going to find it's way in. It already had during the campaign. Just watching the rise of Donald Trump, seeing how he was unchecked by Republicans and how he was bringing this really ugly rhetoric into politics. It was really scary."
I'm thinking particularly of one of the standout tracks on the album "Everything is Awful", which succinctly sums this particular aspect up, in an unexpectedly upbeat manner.
Picking out standout tracks from an album as diverse and varied as I'll Be Your Girl is no easy task but "Severed" and "Once in My Life" function as the particular highlights of the new sound The Decemberists have cultivated.
However, die-hard fans of older material, fear not, titular track "I'll be Your Girl" is a beautiful folk-infused ditty.
Indeed, what's particularly beautiful about this album is that it shows The Decemberists haven't lost their old style, they've merely revitalized it. It showcases their ability to span across genres, something the band have always been quite attuned to. "I think you have less tribalism in music [today], it’s not such a tribe you belong to anymore. Someone who listens to metal may also listen to folk. New music listeners are coming into a world where there are less exclusive groups developed".
"Folklore was always an interest of mine," Colin explains. "Particularly songs that were narrative and told stories".
With one of The Decemberists' EPs based on The Tain, Colin is no stranger to Irish folklore either.
"I mean I grew up in Montana and there is a pretty big Irish contingent in Montana, Butte, Montana, in particular, has the biggest Irish population per capita outside of Ireland itself. I grew up in a family that embraced its Irish roots, so I think it was set early on.
"Discovering The Pogues was a watershed moment for me," Colin recalls. "Finding this marriage between Irish music that felt like part of my upbringing, but infused with Punk. And I love The Waterboys. Of course, these are all non-Irish bands who found Irish music so I think that’s sort of my model".
In addition to powerful performances, The Decemberists are known for their interactive live-shows, and when they make their return to Dublin at Vicar Street later this week, audience members can expect nothing less.
"There’s always weird spontaneous things that pop up during the course of the tour. I think people can expect to be invited to sing along a lot and the occasional bit of audience participation too".
"But we won’t put anyone out,"Colin promises (not that, I'm sure, anyone would mind).
A limited number of tickets priced at €36.50 are left for their show on November 4th in Vicar Street, so get yours now at www.ticketmaster.ie or usual outlets nationwide.