Experimental Music Love

January 8, 2008

Decemberists Interview

Filed under: Features,Interviews — by Free Edinburgh Podcast @ 8:40 pm

With tales of prostitutes, murderers and vengeful mariners, The Decemberists are far more than your typical alt pop band. Articulate, entertaining lyrics combine with ambitious orchestrations that cover everything from prog rock to Jewish folk to shanties, with their latest offering The Crane Wife managing to be their most complex record yet. EML managed to catch up with multi-instrumentalist, Chris Funk, to discuss what makes The Decemberists so special.

EML: The Decemberists have built up a reputation as an entertaining and unique live band. How integral a prt of The Decemberists is your ability to perform and live and create an exciting, memorable show?

Chris: Considering we tour over half the year, I’d say it’s very important. With more and more folks coming out, we don’t want to let people down. The shows are really for the fans, I mean, we already know the bits and see each other in our undies on the bus so we’re not going to learn anything new about the band the 5th month of a tour. All for you fine people, all for you.

EML: Have there been any occasions where a gig hasn’t gone according to plan?

C: Nothing out of the ordinary, just the usual sickness, ill flying weather and deafening feed back that happens to us all. Sorry, no hotel O.D.s yet, touch wood.

EML: Your My Space profile has described your ventures as “five wan vagabonds … playing their peculiarly styled pop music in various concert-halls and brothels.” What sort of reaction does your music receive in the latter?

C: Brothels? Can’t say I’ve ever actually been in one. Though I have a friend who works in a strip club and told me that one of his gals dances to “16 Military Wives”. Weird.

EML: Where did the interest in the story of ‘The Crane Wife’ arise?

C: Children’s’ section of Wallace Books, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A.!

EML: What makes a tale have special enough resonance in order for The Decemberists to write a song about it?

C: Such a nice image, the crane…and it’s really a tragedy of some sort though it’s “tale of morality” which are usually so explicit in folklore is a bit clouded, perhaps part of the attraction.

EML: Do you think you’ll ever do an album based entirely on one concept, and if so what story would you like to tell?

C: Well, we did an EP called “The Tain”, which was based on the Irish tale “The Tain”. I think we are going to move away from “concepts” for a bit, but who knows. It will be 2 years before we start then next record.


EML: Where do the characters that form the basis of your lyrics come from?

C: All over. Literature, movies, books…Google. Just kidding.

EML: Do you have a favourite?

C: The dead ones?

EML: Are there any plans for any members of the band to go beyond writing song lyrics and turn their talents to novels or short stories?

C: Well, Colin and Carson are working on some children’s books. Colin has toyed with some other formats, but it seems like music is the focus.

EML: The new album shows a lot more variation and experimentation in terms of how your songs sound, and the sort of instruments your using. Did you feel the need to really push yourselves in terms of your ability for this record?

C: No. I think we just made the next record, meaning we all went into a room and just went at it. I suppose in the subconscious you are aware of what you have previously done, but that’s what makes you a band, perhaps revisiting those ideas.

EML: Where can you go from here?

C: From here? Home, then to the airport, then to sunny, fair England. Perhaps Paris.

EML: One of the things that sets The Decemberists apart from other bands is your attention to beautiful, traditional album artwork. Who do you get to create this visual side of your music, and is this something you feel important to keep up in the wake of digital music and demise of the traditional album?

C: It’s Carson Ellis. Sure, we think it’s important, but we don’t sit around a table like a bunch of record executives and talk about how we are going to keep the dying format of CD buying alive by adding amazing artwork to a package. I think we just are accustom to making records and the art being a part of it, and Carson has always done it, I think it’s that simple.

EML: Why are hygrometers such a joy for Colin to behold?

C: So one’s guitar does not crack in dryness nor bend in over saturation.

EML: Has he ever been tempted to have a go at a ‘sling psychrometer’?

C: That’s like a water witch; pure hogwash.


EML: What do you think goes through a turtle’s head when they’re hiding in their shell?

C: They are listening to John Fahey’s “Voice of the Turtle” of course on their iPods, I mean, their turntables.

EML: And finally, do you have a word of advice for any young bands out there? Just ‘a’ word.

C: Fun



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