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OKKERVIL RIVER

In The Rainbow Rain' - produced by Sheff and mixed by Shawn Everett (Perfume Genius, Alabama Shakes, The War on Drugs) - serves as showcase for Sheff's writing and the musical interplay of his new band mates, Benjamin Lazar Davis (bass), Will Graefe (guitar), Sarah Pedinotti (keys) and Cully Symington (percussion) - the same iteration of Okkervil River that joined Sheff on the Away tour. Recalls Sheff of that tour: "It was my favorite touring experience in many years... I felt like a kid again. I realized how phenomenally lucky I am that I've been able to play music for this long."

Sheff and the band started work on the new album shortly after the end of that tour - and the presidential election. "If December 2016 was good for anything, it was good for writing songs," he says. Galvanized by the seismic events of that Fall and the following year, Sheff, sometimes co-writing with his new band, channeled his outrage and sadness into music intended to be hopeful, healing and uplifting. Inspired by the Quaker meetings he had been attending, Sheff injected the album with undercurrents of spirituality and gratitude. The result is something akin to a modern secular gospel record, and among the best music of his career.

Highlights include driving, melodic anthems "Love Somebody" and "Pulled Up The Ribbon," and "Famous Tracheotomies," which chronicles notable figures who've endured the titular procedure, including Gary Coleman, Dylan Thomas, Ray Davies, and Sheff himself. "In places, the record deals with heavy things like trauma and betrayal and shame, but, actually, it's supposed to be a good time," says Sheff. "I hope it's something fun, that makes people feel happier

STAFF COMMENTS

Andy says: With hints of smooth synthpop mixed in with the usual swooning indie anthems, Sheff has managed to sacrifice none of his original appeal whilst bringing in the considerable talents of his new bandmates, somehow simmering into a cohesive and enjoyable whole.

TRACK LISTING

1. Famous Tracheotomies
2. The Dream And The Light
3. Love Somebody
4. Family Song
5. Pulled Up The Ribbon
6. Don't Move Back To LA
7. Shelter Song
8. How It Is
9. External Actor
10. Human Being Song

Okkervil River

Away

    A statement from Okkervil River’s Will Sheff:

    The new Okkervil River album is called Away. I didn’t plan to make it and initially wasn’t sure if it was going to be an Okkervil River album or if I’d ever put it out. I wrote the songs during a confusing time of transition in my personal and professional life and recorded them quickly with a brand new group of musicians. I got together the best New York players I could think of, people whose playing and personalities I was fans of and who came more out of a jazz or avant garde background, and we cut the songs live in one or two takes – trying to keep things as natural and immediate as possible – over three days in a studio on Long Island that hosts the Neve 8068 console which recorded Steely Dan’s Aja and John Lennon’s Double Fantasy. I asked Marissa Nadler to sing on it and got the composer Nathan Thatcher to write some beautiful orchestral arrangements, we recorded them with the classical ensemble yMusic and then I mixed the record with Jonathan Wilson out in Los Angeles. 2013-2015 had been a strange time for me. I lost some connections in a music industry that was visibly falling apart. Some members of the Okkervil River backing band left, moving on to family life or to their own projects. I spent a good deal of time sitting in hospice with my grandfather, who was my idol, while he died. I felt like I didn’t know where I belonged. When there was trouble at home, a friend offered me her empty house in the Catskills where I could go and clear my head. New songs were coming fast up there, so I set myself the challenge of trying to write as many as possible as quickly as possible. I wasn’t thinking about any kind of end product; the idea was just to write through what I was feeling, quickly and directly. Eventually, I realized I was writing a death story for a part of my life that had, buried inside of it, a path I could follow that might let me go somewhere new. “Okkervil River R.I.P.” and “Call Yourself Renee” are good emotional transcriptions of that time. I wrote the latter on psylocibin mushrooms on a beautiful afternoon in early fall in the Catskills. I wrote “The Industry” quickly after getting some bad news. “Comes Indiana Through the Smoke” is an anthem for the battleship my grandfather served on during the Pacific Theater of World War II. Before becoming a private school Headmaster, my grandfather was also a jazz musician; he paid his way through college as a bandleader, toured with Les Brown and His Band of Renown, and spent summers playing a residency at a NH lakeside gay dance club called The Jungle Room that kept live monkeys in the basement. (You can hear his actual trumpet on this song, played by C.J. Camarieri from yMusic.) “Judey on a Street” is a love song, sunny but written late at night when the woods are maximum spooky. We cut “She Would Look for Me” pretty shapelessly, with a lot of improvisation, and it’s also a love song. “Mary on a Wave” is about the feminine aspect of God but is in a very masculine tuning: DADDAD. It’s also a love song. I wrote “Frontman in Heaven” in an obsessive three-day streak of writing for 14 hours, going to bed, getting up and writing again. It wasn’t a pleasant experience. I wrote “Days Spent Floating (in the Halfbetween)” by just jotting down the first sentence that popped into my head every morning in October immediately after I opened my eyes. At the end of the month I had a finished song. It was recorded as an afterthought as the last thing we did when they were about to kick us out of the studio. You can hear me flub some lyrics. But one take and we had it.

    I think this record was me taking my life back to zero and starting to add it all back up again, one plus one plus one. Any part that didn’t feel like it added up I left out. Weirdly, it was the easiest and most natural record I’ve ever made. More than any time in my life before, I felt guided by intuition – like I was going with the grain, walking in the direction the wind was blowing. The closer it got to being finished, the more the confusion I’d felt at the start went away. It’s not really an Okkervil River album and it’s also my favorite Okkervil River album.

    Will Sheff
    May 2016

    Okkervil River

    Black Sheep Boy: Anniversary Edition

      In celebration of the ten-year anniversary of this iconic album, Jagjaguwar are proud to present the ‘Black Sheep Boy: Anniversary Edition’, a 3CD / 3LP set combining Okkervil River’s classic ‘Black Sheep Boy’ album and its counterpart the ‘Black Sheep Boy Appendix’ with an all new unreleased album entitled ‘There Swims a Swan’: fullband recordings made six months prior to the release of ‘Black Sheep Boy’ which illuminate the album’s roots in the traditional American songbook. Featuring beautiful, emotional readings of songs popularized by such artists as Washington Phillips, Lead Belly, the Louvin Brothers and Roscoe Holcomb, ‘There Swims A Swan’ takes the listener on a trip through the songs that inspired the band’s Will Sheff while composing ‘Black Sheep Boy’ and reads like a run-through of that album’s themes.

      ‘Black Sheep Boy’ is celebrated for its album artwork as well as its music, and the Anniversary Edition collects that artwork in a meticulously reworked package, combining every previous element of William Schaff ’s imagery with a large new piece by Schaff depicting an updated ‘Black Sheep Boy’. The release also includes lengthy liner notes by Sheff walking the listener through the circumstances surrounding the album.

      For Okkervil River fans (the most high-profile of whom was recently revealed to be President Barack Obama, who included ‘Down Down The Deep River’ on his 2015 summer playlist), the Anniversary Edition is a loving, comprehensive, richly expanded presentation of a record many consider to be one of the band’s best. For those new to the band, this might be the best place to start, the first step on a long road, the opening to a forest you can get lost in.

      Okkervil River

      The Silver Gymnasium

        Although he has long been known as a characterdriven songwriter, Okkervill River’s Will Sheff announced that this album is a work of autobiography.

        ‘The Silver Gymnasium’ is set in a very specific time and place from Sheff's childhood - in 1986 in the small town of Meriden, NH, where Sheff's parents worked as teachers for a boarding school. Sheff conceived the album as a tribute to the spirit of pre-adolescence, meant to evoke the nostalgic feeling of “an action figure you found in the woods.”

        This was also the era of video games like ‘Leisure Suit Larry’, ‘Maniac Mansion’, and ‘King’s Quest’. To pay homage to those early games, Sheff created his own online adventure game in partnership with Eyes And Ears' Benjamin Miles.

        Okkervil River

        Your Past Life Is A Blast

          ‘Your Past Life Is A Blast’ is the third single from ‘I Am Very Far’ from Okkervil River. The release of this single coincides with the band's late festival season appearance at End Of The Road.

          “The goal was to push my brain to places it didn't want to go. The idea was to not have any idea – to keep myself confused about what I was doing,” frontman Will Sheff says about Okkervil River's newest album. The resulting record is a startling break from anything this band has done before. By turns terrifying and joyous, violent and serene, grotesque and romantic, it's a celebration of forces beyond our control.

          ‘Gold Faces’ is an exclusive new non-album song.

          Taken from the new album ‘I Am Very Far’, ‘Rider’ was recorded by a massive version of Okkervil River – two drummers, two pianists, two bassists, and seven guitarists, all playing live in one room.

          The band then spent a week of live-in-the-studio marathon sessions, performing a single song obsessively over and over for as many as 12 hours at a time to capture just the right take.

          Okkervil River have thrown away all maps and compasses but they continue to chart their way, unblinking, toward destinations unknown.

          “The noise they make is thrilling. ‘Rider’ is like Bowie’s ‘Panic In Detroit’ re-tooled in the anthemic manner of Springsteen or Arcade Fire, a bold unfurling, a majestic racket” – Uncut.

          TRACK LISTING

          Rider
          I Guess We Lost

          Okkervil River

          I Am Very Far

            "I Am Very Far" is a startling break from anything this band has done before. The band’s Will Sheff emerges not only as a songwriter of the highest caliber, but a producer and arranger of singular vision. "I Am Very Far" is monolithic and darkly ambiguous.

            Sheff contributed vocals to The New Pornographers’ album "Together", wrote a song for Norah Jones’ "The Fall", and helmed the Roky Erickson record "True Love Cast Out All Evil", for which his album notes received a Grammy nomination.

            The writing process for "I Am Very Far" produced 30 or so songs, which he narrowed down to 18, recorded in a series of short, high-intensity sessions, each in a different location, each employing completely different methods than the one before it.

            For songs like "Rider" and "Wake And Be Fine", Sheff gathered together a massive version of Okkervil River – two drummers, two pianists, two bassists, and seven guitarists, all playing live in one room – and led them on a week of live-in-the-studio marathon sessions, performing a single song obsessively over and over for as many as 12 hours to capture just the right take.

            Okkervil River

            Wake And Be Fine / Weave Room Blues

            "Wake And Be Fine" is the first single from the forthcoming "I Am Very Far" album from Okkervil River.

            Work on "I Am Very Far" started after a year spent on other projects. Band member Will Sheff contributed vocals to The New Pornographers’ album "Together", wrote a song for Norah Jones' "The Fall", produced an upcoming album for the Brooklyn-based band Bird Of Youth, and helmed Roky Erickson's acclaimed "True Love Cast Out All Evil" with Okkervil River. (Sheff’s liner notes for said album earned him a 2011 Grammy nomination.)

            TRACK LISTING

            Wake And Be Fine
            Weave Room Blues

            Okkervil River

            Mermaid / Walked Out On A Line

              This exclusive 12” from Okkervil River precedes a brand new album. One for the fans, this superbly showcases the gorgeous sounds of Okkervil River.

              Formed 12 years ago and having released five albums, Okkervil River have built a unique position in American independent rock.

              The band’s music has been described by Uncut as “a delirious mix of Sheff's myriad influences - the Velvets, Stones, Faces, Dylan, Bowie - that brilliantly examined notions of identity, celebrity, loss, reckless living, and who some people become when being themselves is no longer who they want to be.”

              Okkervil River

              The Stage Names

                With "The Stage Names", Okkervil River dynamite the walls of past release, "Black Sheep Boy"'s gothic, moss-walled castle from the inside to let in the glaring sun. Where "Black Sheep Boy" presented a fairytale of dark babbling streams and high distant towers, "The Stage Names" takes place in an unmistakably modern world, where snowy televisions blast into cheap hotels the spectral images of soap stars endlessly betraying each other, where losers in late-night bars languish to the beat of their favourite songs, where broken-down actresses place their final cell calls from lonely mansions high in the hills. Riddled with characters real and fake, with true-life biography and brazenly fabricated autobiography, with the relics of high culture and the crumpled-up trash of low culture, "The Stage Names" is a cinemascopic take on the meaning of entertainment.


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