Big Thief, Loving to Learn

Big Thief’s debut LP, Masterpiece, is out today courtesy of Saddle Creek, but there’s a reasonable chance that you’ve seen the band around town recently.  Last October they opened...

Big Thief’s debut LP, Masterpiece, is out today courtesy of Saddle Creek, but there’s a reasonable chance that you’ve seen the band around town recently.  Last October they opened Boot & Saddle for Here We Go Magic, before returning for a headlining show in December, and this February they provided direct support for Eleanor Friedberger at MilkBoy.  The New York band are a perfect melding of classic Americana songwriting, the woozy rawness of ‘90s alt rock balladry, and a dash of art rock of yesteryear.

While Big Thief seems to be regarded as the brainchild of singer/guitarist/songwriter Adrianne Lenker, at its core is actually Lenker and longtime collaborator, guitarist, and singer, Buck Meek (The two already have two albums as a duo.), but when I ask Lenker in a recent chat how she thinks Masterpiece compares to her other work, she makes it very clear that, unlike her previous projects, Big Thief very much is a group (with Max Oleartchik on bass and James Krivchenia on drums).

“The most obvious thing is it’s a full band record.  This one is a pretty natural progression for me, from solo, to duo, to band.  It’s one complete piece. It’s heavier, has more dynamic range as a band, and the next record will have even more.  We’re just really excited to be giving it to people.”

Luckily for Big Thief, they will get an enormous opportunity to share Masterpiece with quite a few people in the very near future.  The band are about to do a short run of dates supporting Nada Surf, including a June 2nd stop downstairs at World Café Live, before doing a number of dates with M. Ward, in addition to headlining shows that will take them through mid-July.  Although she seems happy just to be out on the road with her latest music, Lenker does tell me that there are a few shows she’s extra special excited for: “I’m really excited to be playing with M. Ward at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and we’re playing 9:30 with Nada Surf, which we’ve heard really amazing things about.”  In regards to the show itself, Lenker tells me she is actually more excited for these shows than usual, after a minor accident forced her to look at performances in a slightly different way.

“I think there’ll be a lot of energy.  We’re really excited to release the new album.  But, also [laughs] I’ve spent the last month and a half with my hand in a cast, so I’ve been just singing, but learning so much about performing.  But I’m so, so, so excited to play guitar again, even though I learned so much just singing, which is something different, so now it’ll be a combination of everything we’ve learned.”

When I inquire about Big Thief’s influences, Lenker tells me that, although they all listen to tons of music (she goes on to cite Richard and Linda Thompson, Neil Young, and Bruce Springsteen), the band’s biggest inspiration is the attitude of themselves and the people surrounding them: “We have so many different influences, but our biggest is just our friends and the community we’re in now, traveling and getting to meet so many inspiring musicians.  We’re all just really curious people and we’re all very present when we travel, so we really get a lot out of the people that we meet.”  And when I ask what the near future holds for Big Thief, Lenker tells me it’s mostly going to be about more traveling and meeting more new people.

“We’re always putting stuff together, so hopefully we’ll get over to other parts of the world as well.  We’re always working on new songs, but we’d love to be all over the US and hopefully over to Europe.  I want to go everywhere. I’d love to make it to Australia.”

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During the day Izzy Cihak teaches transgression, subversion, and revolution at Temple University. At night he haunts Philthy's best venues to cover worthwhile acts for Philthy Mag. Morrissey is everything to him and, in their own heads, all of his friends see themselves as Zooey Deschanel.