Courtesy of Okkervil River
With all the worldwide praise and success it's attracted in recent years, Okkervil River can't really be viewed as "a local band" in its hometown of Austin, Tex. On this year's The Stage Names, the group's songs are both sad and happy, sometimes at the same time. Apart from showcasing some of the album's songs, the guys shared the origin of their sound, touring, South by Southwest, insomnia and influences.
When they came into Studio 1A to chat with host Jay Trachtenberg, they were fresh off a tour of the U.S. and about to head out to Europe. Led by guitarist and vocalist Will Sheff, the literate indie folk-rock outfit becomes more inventive with each subsequent release. The Stage Names showcases Sheff's emotional caterwauls and a searching, volatile, string-laden sound.
Listening to The Stage Names, I was pleasantly surprised to hear a change of pace from the brooding sound of Black Sheep Boy, the band's critically acclaimed 2005 album. During our talk, Sheff explained that "it's more fun to do something different," and with this recording, the band treads not-so-lightly into new musical frontiers. My favorite moment was its cover of a brilliant John Cale tune, "Antarctica Starts Here."