Published Apr 24, 2011Comparing music to politics, Will Sheff of Okkervil River is an elder statesman. Despite the solid attention his band have received from music press, along with appearances on Letterman and Austin City Limits, the sharp-dressed Texan still believes the best promotion comes from shaking hands and kissing babies. Since the release of Okkervil River's 2008 LP, The Stand Ins, Sheff has plastered his name across album credits far and wide as producer (Bird of Youth), songwriter (Norah Jones), backing musician (New Pornographers) and "all of the above" (Roky Erickson).
With the release of their sixth album, I Am Very Far, Okkervil River may be primed to reach their largest audience yet. Working for the first time without long-time co-producer Brian Beattie, Sheff felt that another approach should be explored. "I kept wondering about this producer and that producer and then I thought, 'I don't really need a producer.' I had made the Bird of Youth record, followed by the Roky Erickson record and came out feeling really confident."
Setting the record straight on their split with Beattie, Sheff continues, "It's not really Brian's fault. The previous records have always been this draining process of sitting in the same studio and slowly going insane. I always felt that art should be fun, that you're really missing the point if it's not."
If mistakes have been made on I Am Very Far, they have only made Okkervil River stronger; early reviews have presented the album as joyous, focused and mature. "Maybe there is a little bit less spazziness in favour of funkiness and that was maybe a deliberate thing but I don't think that we were laid back during the process. Every single record, you want to feel like you were just born and you've just opened your eyes for the first time. And I think that feeling was in abundance on this record."