Published Jan 10, 2011the Decemberists' fans have been eagerly anticipating January 18 for months. That date marks the release of The King Is Dead, the Portland, OR-based folk rockers' sixth full-length album. But according to lead singer/songwriter Colin Meloy, fans may have to savour it, as it may be the last Decemberists record for quite some time.
Last April, the 36-year-old frontman inked a three-book deal with publishing giant HarperCollins. The first book, Wildwood, a young adult collaboration with wife Carson Ellis, is due out in October later this year. For the next several months, he will juggle touring and editing, but with another two books left to pen, and diverging interests beckoning, Meloy concedes in an Exclaim! interview that he's ready to put the Decemberists on hiatus.
"While I won't ever leave music completely, I am really excited about exploring other modes of expression, stuff I've been putting off while we've been doing the Decemberists," Meloy says. "I think after this record, I might dive into that a little bit more... I think we're going to take a nice long break after this."
There was already little downtime between the band's last effort, 2009's Hazards of Love (an epic prog-rock opera that involved fantastical characters and a full narrative structure) and the rollicking country rock of The King Is Dead. But whether the Decemberists go on ice or not, Meloy and co. are focusing on the new LP, at least for the time being.
Meloy explains that he finally followed through on a long-running joke between him and the rest of the band: the next record would be a no-frills affair.
"I have been threatening to do [this] for the last three records," Meloy says. "Each record seemed to get more and more complex, and each time we finished it was the same threat: the next one's going to be the barn record. I think after Hazards of Love, you know, it was just the perfect time to make good on that promise. It felt like a natural and very normal thing to do to make something more stripped down."
The band holed up in a barn in Oregon, with Meloy recruiting two famous names for guest appearances: R.E.M guitarist Peter Buck plays on three tracks, while alt-country singer GIllian Welch provides backing vocals throughout. And while R.E.M were part of his inspiration, The King Is Dead boasts plenty of Celtic influences as well. Meloy acknowledges that English Celtic folk rock band the Waterboys played a significant role in this recording.
"In many respects, this is my attempt -- or our attempt -- at making Fisherman's Blues," Meloy says, naming the 1988 Waterboys album partially recorded in Spiddal House on the West Coast of Ireland. "Who knows how many records I have left in me or how many years I have left on this earth? I could get hit by a bus at any moment and I will not have made my version of Fisherman's Blues, which is an album that resonated hugely for me."
In support of The King Is Dead, which is being released by Capitol Records, the Decemberists are heading out on a North American tour, which includes Canadian stops in Montreal and Toronto. You can see all the dates below.
1/25 New York, NY - Beacon Theatre *
1/28 Boston, MA - House of Blues *
1/29 Boston, MA - House of Blues *
1/31 Montreal, QC - Olympia de Montreal *
2/1 Toronto, ON - Sound Academy *
2/2 Royal Oak, MI - Royal Oak Music Theatre *
2/4 Chicago, IL - Riviera Theatre *
2/5 Milwaukee, WI - Riverside Theatre #
2/6 Minneapolis, MN - State Theatre #
2/7 Kansas City, MO - Uptown Theatre #
2/9 Boulder, CO - Boulder Theater #
2/10 Denver, CO - Ogden Theatre #
2/12 Los Angeles, CA - The Wiltern #
2/13 San Diego, CA - House of Blues-San Diego #
2/14 Oakland, CA - Fox Theater #
2/18 Seattle, WA - Paramount Ballroom #
2/19 Portland, OR - Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall #
3/4 Dublin, Ireland - Vicar Street
3/5 Glasgow, UK - ABC
3/7 Birmingham, UK - Birmingham Institute
3/8 Bristol, UK - Bristol Academy
3/10 Manchester, UK - Manchester Academy
3/11 Leeds, UK - Leeds Academy
3/13 Antwerp, Belgium - Trix
3/14 Amsterdam, Netherlands - Paradiso
3/16 London, UK - Hammersmith Apollo
* with Wye Oak
# with Mountain Man