Okkervil River Lighten Up

Okkervil River Lighten Up
This Austin, TX band seemingly came out of nowhere with its fourth album, Black Sheep Boy. A record marked by emotional and musical extremes, its songs were marked by lead songwriter and singer Will Sheff’s contemplative, yet rough crooning that would quickly switch into a cathartic shout of his confessional lyrics. Thus, that album’s orchestral, yet rootsy, indie rock made people very interested in the recently released follow-up, The Stage Names.

But even though both albums share a love of classic rock and brass flourishes, The Stage Names is no sequel. “I believe Black Sheep Boy was an attempt to make an overwrought piece of work, a kind of a melodrama,” Sheff says. “I felt like we needed to mute the power a little bit. You just can’t be continually dark and gothic or else you’re some kind of caricature and that may appeal to a certain kind of listener but it doesn’t really appeal to me. I wanted it to be more playful and have more humour. In my mind there’s a lot of humour on the new record.”

The best example of Sheff’s sly cleverness comes in the closer, “John Allyn Smith Sails,” where he combines his lyrics about the life of poet John Berryman with the classic Beach Boys melody of “Sloop John B.” Yet despite the album’s literary feel and look, Sheff is definitely a musician. “The band is a full-time job and I would hate for people to think that I don’t take music seriously. I consider going around the world and singing songs to be my job and I’m lucky to have it so it’s not like I’m just waiting for the day that I can turn it all in for a tweed jacket with leather elbows and a pipe with a book shelf behind me.”