Okkervil River go from Dunn Bros. to First Avenue

Critically acclaimed band on the indie grind

CP: You were pretty much on the road or in the studio from 2002 through 2008, releasing five records in that time. How important was getting off the record-tour-record treadmill in making I Am Very Far?

Sheff: I don't want to sound like an ungrateful spoiled prick, but I hate the record-promote-tour treadmill. I hate two years going by without really writing. When I finally had the time and budget to actually step back and make a record again I was just raring to go, I felt like a dog that had been locked up too long and sees a dog park coming its way on the horizon. When I listen back to the record now I hear that sense of joy, just being uninhibited and really having a great time. On some of those older records I listen to them now and I hear a tight, worried quality, like I'm still trying to figure things out and am worried about what other people's reactions might be.

CP: Back when Down the River of Golden Dreams was released you told me that part of making memorable records is a willingness to take chances and risk failure. I Am Very Far feels like a risky record, as you frequently opted for challenges like recording 15 players live in a room and trying to find a usable take. Are those kinds of self-imposed challenges still essential to your creative process, six records in?

Sheff: Absolutely. Maybe it would be better if I tried to actually aim for perfection and just went and made a record where everyone concentrated on playing to their strengths. Personally, I always want to push myself toward something new because I feel like it's offensive to phone it in. I'm always searching somehow, and trying to be born into a new version of myself. I never want to feel like I'm just coughing out another record. I definitely like to create challenges during the recording process that are in a sense artificial, but it's not really about the challenges themselves as much as the state of mind they put me in. The key is in throwing away the formula and reaching for something new.

OKKERVIL RIVER play with Future Islands and Titus Andronicus on SUNDAY, JUNE 12, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775

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