FRIDAY, JUNE 1
“When you’ve been a band for 17 years, inevitably there are habits you fall into,” says Colin Meloy of indie-rock band The Decemberists. “So our ambition this time was really just to get out of our comfort zone. That’s what prompted working with a different producer and using a different studio. We wanted to free ourselves from old patterns and give ourselves permission to try something different.”
With their eighth full-length studio album set for release in March, I’ll Be Your Girl, the Decemberists—lead vocalist and guitarist Meloy, guitarist Chris Funk, keyboardist Jenny Conlee, bassist Nate Query, and drummer John Moen— explore new approaches to making music and broaden their sonic range.
It’s the Portland, Oregon-based group’s first album since 2015’s What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World (which charted in the Top Ten and included the #1 AAA single “Make You Better”), though in the time since, they released the EP Florasongs; a 10th anniversary limited edition vinyl box set of their 2006 Capitol Records debut The Crane Wife; their own crowd-funded board game Illimat; and “Ben Franklin’s Song,” the first of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s monthly “Hamildrops” of bonus material from Hamilton; as well as launching Travelers’ Rest, a two-day musical festival of their own curation in Missoula, Montana.
The songs on the new album were being written while the band was recording The Queen of Hearts, an adventurous collaboration with English singer/multi-instrumentalist Olivia Chaney released under the name Offa Rex. That record, which NPR called “a match made in folk-rock heaven,” has been nominated for a GRAMMY in the Best Folk Album category. Working on the Offa Rex album, Meloy says, was a way to “exorcise the folk out of me and get a bit more of a clean canvas” for the next Decemberists’ album. “It was an opportunity to explore that side of our music to its fullest, and then be able to start with a feeling of fresh ideas.”
I’ll Be Your Girl is the sound of a veteran band finding new inspiration, a unit unafraid of challenging itself to re-connect with its creativity. “Making music is an infinite choose-your-own-adventure,” says Meloy (who is also, of course, the author of a series of best-selling children’s books), “and when you go down one path, the other paths get sealed off. So every time we could, we said, ‘If this is what our impulses would tell us to do, let’s try to imagine it in a different way.’”