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The Decemberists explore a new sound in a MASS MoCA performance on Friday, June 15 — in support of their eighth studio album I’ll Be Your Girl, which will be released on March 16 on Capitol Records. The acclaimed Portland, Oregon-based band worked with producer John Congleton on the new record (St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey) and embraced influences such as Roxy Music and New Order to spark a new creative path.
“When you’ve been a band for 17 years, inevitably there are habits you fall into,” says Colin Meloy. “So our ambition this time was really just to get out of our comfort zone. That’s what prompted working with a different producer and using a different studio. We wanted to free ourselves from old patterns and give ourselves permission to try something different.”
With I’ll Be Your Girl, the Decemberists—lead vocalist and guitarist Meloy, guitarist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen—explore new approaches to making music and broaden their sonic range. Previous Decemberists’ records, such as The Hazards of Love or The Crane Wife, have been structured around thematic or musical concepts, though Meloy maintains that ultimately it’s always “our frame of mind that ties them together.” This time, he says, the songs share a mood that’s steeped in our current times and condition— “exuberant nihilism, an apocalyptic dance party was what we envisioned.”
“We were talking about music and our references,” says Meloy. “It kept coming back to Roxy Music and early glam, and we dove in with that in mind. The Decemberists are a record collectors’ band, we’re all fans and scholars of music, so there [are] a lot of touch points that we all get, but they don’t always come through. So we were trying to embrace that Bryan Ferry aspect, that kind of set the tone.”
The approach the Decemberists pursued on I’ll Be Your Girl allowed for a new sense of contribution and involvement from the other band members. “Since we were going to mix it up, everybody felt like they had more of a voice,” says Meloy. Highlighting the input of Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee, Meloy mentions “Severed” as a significant team effort. “That was written as a punk song, but wasn’t really working,” he says. “Jenny set this arpeggio throughout it, and it became like an early New Order song. And I had forgotten that when we made the demo, I also started a file to turn it into more of a Depeche Mode song—I actually wanted it to be a synth song all along.”
What to expect
This concert is general admission, standing room only. A full bar will serve Bright Idea Brewing beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits.
Planning on dinner before the show? Our museum café, Lickety Split, will serve up grass-fed beef burgers, paninis, flatbreads, crispy greens salads, and homemade quiche.