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The Decemberists with Marissa Nadler

The Decemberists explored a new sound in a MASS MoCA performance on Thursday, October 4 — in support of their eighth studio album I’ll Be Your Girl, which was released on March 16 on Capitol Records. The acclaimed Portland, Oregon-based band worked with producer John Congleton  (St. Vincent, Lana Del Rey) on the new record 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,” said 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—explored a new approach to making music and broadened 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 said, the songs shared 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,” said 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,” said Meloy. Highlighting the input of Chris Funk and Jenny Conlee, Meloy mentioned “Severed” as a significant team effort. “That was written as a punk song, but wasn’t really working,” he said. “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.”

Marissa Nadler opened the show.

What to expect
This concert was general admission, standing room only. A full bar will served Bright Idea Brewing beers and Berkshire Mountain Distillery spirits. All The Decemberists ticket holders received $10 museum admission on the day of the show.

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. For more information about the show and venue, including parking maps and policies, click here.

Photo by Holly Andres

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