NPR logo

Okkervil River's Music: Spookiness and Bloodshed

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5040648/5132401" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Okkervil River's Music: Spookiness and Bloodshed

Okkervil River's Music: Spookiness and Bloodshed

Okkervil River's Music: Spookiness and Bloodshed

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5040648/5132401" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

Okkervil River, from left: Will Sheff, Jonathan Meiburg, Zachary Thomas, Travis Nelson Mary Sledd hide caption

toggle caption Mary Sledd

Okkervil River, from left: Will Sheff, Jonathan Meiburg, Zachary Thomas, Travis Nelson

Mary Sledd

Hear Songs

For Real

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5040648/5040651" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

King and a Queen

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5040648/5040653" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

So Come Back, I Am Waiting

  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5040648/5040649" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Singer and songwriter Will Sheff found his band's name in a story by Russian writer Tatanya Tolstaya. But Okkervil River's most recent influence comes from the 1960s American folk scene.

Black Sheep Boy is a dark, loosely knit song cycle spanning two albums. Sheff's inspiration for the albums was a 1967 Tim Hardin song of the same title. In an essay about Hardin, Sheff praises the song's "mysterious lyrics and darkly confident theme."

The music of Okkervil River offers similar attractions. "It's like deciphering a puzzle when you listen to their lyrics," says music critic Alison Stewart. Those lyrics are filled with macabre imagery and menacing violence, but Sheff maintains a sense of humor about it.

"The funniest is when people call us Overkill River," he says. "We were thinking we should just change the name of this band to Dirge Overkill."

Correction Oct. 30, 2007

The report misstates the degrees earned by Okkervil River band member Jonathan Meiburg. He is working on his master's degree in geography.

Purchase Featured Music

Black Sheep Boy

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Black Sheep Boy
Artist
Okkervil River
Label
Jagjaguwar
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

Black Sheep Boy Appendix

Purchase Music

Buy Featured Music

Album
Black Sheep Boy Appendix
Artist
Okkervil River
Label
Jagjaguwar
Released
2005

Your purchase helps support NPR programming. How?

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.