Talking with Big Thief on making connections through storytelling and emotions

Thursday 30th, June 2016 / 17:57
By Jamie Goyman
Photo: Michael Buishas

Photo: Michael Buishas

VANCOUVER — “[Music] came from a need to materialize all the twists and turns in my gut, to let them loose. We all see things that others don’t, it’s a simple choice to bring them out.”

Brooklyn, NY is a swelling pool of creative inclination that has nurtured countless artists through the years and Big Thief is the latest to emerge. Big Thief is not the type of band to hold back, emotionally or musically. Years of musicianship behind each member pre-meditatively greased the wheels for the band to lay out one of the top releases of 2016, Masterpiece (Saddle Creek Records). The opening track hits listeners with precisely what the band seeks to do – connect through the masterpiece of existence.

Lead singer Adrianne Lenker’s voice, full of soft, petal-like textures mixed with a rough overlay, takes hold of listeners from beginning to end. Accompanied by the experimental, improvised, and perfected arrangements between bass (Max Oleartchik), drums (James Krivchenia), and guitars (Buck Meek & Adrianne Lenker), the album has managed to pull ahead of the crowd and make the kind of impact bands hope for but rarely truly expect. “It’s been humbling to meet new people at our recent shows who have developed a relationship with the songs, and therefore a certain relationship with us, and share these brief moments of kinship and love,” tells Meek.

Finishing off a week supporting M Ward in the Midwest, caught mid tour and taking a break from the various possibilities of touring in a van for hours (picture a sea of comforters with blasting AC, Satie on the stereo, and a little oregano plant named Martha), Meek explains just what they are trying to communicate with each track from the album: “That emotions are sexy,” and yes they fucking are. “’Little Arrow’ is one of my favorites because Adrianne wrote it in the middle of the night during the recording session, while everyone was sleeping, and recorded it on a cheap tape player the moment she finished writing it. We considered re-tracking it, but that first version was so pure, like a birth, it seemed natural to use it as opening track on our debut album,” says Meek, a true look at the intimacy and thought process that goes on when these four begin recording.

For the first two years, Big Thief was a duo made up of Meek and Lenker. Touring in a 1987 RV van with captain’s chairs and roses on the dash, the two kept going and made it all work, always keeping themselves open to possible future collaborations. “We may have gone on that way forever, but Max and James fell down our chimney one day and we’ve been a four piece ever since.” Who could ask for more? With the band then complete, 2014 kicked off the riffs, tones, and lyrical hits that have become synonymous with what Big Thief offers. From the lyrically packed “Masterpiece” to “Paul” and its soft coo of vocals and chords or the simplicity that comes with “Real Love,” the album is stacked from A to Z capturing the attempted utilization and manipulation of love, loss, and pain while also attempting to let go. “Adrianne writes the bones and heart of a song, lyrics, melody, chords, etc, then brings it to the band, and we play it over and over [tweaking where necessary]… we meditate on an alchemy of intention and spontaneity throughout the whole process.”

Giving a glimpse into the upcoming months for Big Thief, Meek dishes on supporting Kevin Morby for a week in June, their first headline tour up the West Coast and back to New York with support from Luke Temple, and finally a European tour with M Ward in the fall.

So, are you hungry for Big Thief to hit you with all the right chords yet? This one is highly recommended, a live show that sits perfectly balanced between just enough and a little more never hurt anyone. It’s the not to be missed type, where the raw energy and tenderness that make up Big Thief comes to life before your ears/eyes. Who knows you might just get fed, “Maybe we’ll make waffles on stage and pass them out with strawberries.”

Big Thief performs at the Biltmore on July 9.

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