In the wake of last week's maddeningly brief
announcement that recording had wrapped and mixing commenced on the Decemberists' upcoming fifth release, Paste
got in touch with frontman Colin Meloy
—not to chat about meat
, but to further flesh out some details on the album now known as Hazards of Love
. And unless your indie rock crystal ball somehow indicated the band's eventual adoption of British stoner metal as a major sonic touchstone, what we learned might surprise you.
“Without giving away too much, it's definitely mossy and evil,” Meloy
said, confirming the band's achievement of the Black Mountain-inspired
goal he'd set earlier this summer, “It's ambitious. It's pretty dense.
There's lots of lots and lots and lots of guitars.” In terms of a release date, he said they're "shooting for April."
Meloy crafted the bulk of the album during the month he spent in
Southern France with his wife and son this spring. Some songs were just
"germs of ideas" at the time, but others, including a few he'd played at solo shows earlier
in the year (like the nine-minute track since circulating online as "Hazards of Love, Pt. 1 and 2"), were then almost fully-formed, though they were originally
intended for another project altogether.
“It's one continuous story throughout the whole album,” Meloy said of
Hazards' lyrical threads. “It was initially conceived as a musical
[...] but I decided about halfway through my time in France that it
wasn't going to work as a stage piece. But it would still work as a
rock record, so that's where it ended up.” (Meloy notes that he's
“still working with” some producers on “another project,” so perhaps
all hope's not lost on that musical.)
The end result is “an amalgam of motifs from folk songs, an experiment
of weaving them together into a narrative,” he explained. “Basically,
the product of listening to too much Anne Briggs and Nic Jones and
But the album's sonic reference points don't seem so traditional. Back
in Portland, Ore., Meloy's bandmates were apparently given little
insight into what lay ahead until the start of recording, for which
they were joined by longtime producer Tucker Martine. (Chris Walla,
with whom they also wanted to collaborate again, was busy on tour with
Death Cab for Cutie.) But when the band finally came together, they
landed on a few core reference points for the sessions: psych-folkers
Pentangle, early synthesizer pioneer (and composer of the A Clockwork
Orange and Tron soundtracks) Wendy Carlos and, yes, sludgy U.K. stoner
metalists Electric Wizard.
“If you can imagine an amalgam of those three things, that's what the
record sounds like,” Meloy allowed, further confirming both the new
record's potential for groundbreaking insanity and his love of the word
But if you can't imagine that amalgam (one more time: amalgam!), don't
expect the band's upcoming tour to be of much help: The Decemberists will mostly be
focusing on material from their Always The Bridesmaid singles series,
which launched this week. (Do check out the playlist below, though, for a sampling of tracks by the artists Meloy mentioned as inspirations and touchstones.)
The seven new songs, which the band felt wouldn't fit on Hazards of Love, mine familiar territory: Sweet, acoustic odes (“Raincoat Song”),
pensive domestic tableaus (“Record Year”) and giddy political character
sketches (“Valerie Plame”). Pressed on limited-edition colored vinyl,
the three singles are a lovely farewell to a side of the Decemberists
we might not be seeing much of for a while.