Big Thief were one of 2016’s shining highs in a year so full of misery, delivering a beautiful brand of folk-rock in their debut Masterpiece off the back of frontwoman Adrianne Lenker’s precise and emotional songwriting. Set to continue their upward spiral this year, we caught up with the band for a few questions before they play York’s own Crescent Community Venue.
The songs on Masterpiece feel very different musically to Adrianne’s releases under her own name, beyond just having the full band behind them. Is the songwriting process for you guys more like an Adrianne brings in demos and you all flesh them out together or a joint song writing situation? And if the former, is there a different mindset to writing these songs than under a solo project?
We were going through a lot around the time ‘Masterpiece’ surfaced. The songs came out pretty effortlessly as a way of consoling myself and the people around me, and it was recorded with a similar effortlessness. It was a new song when we recorded it – the band hadn’t really even worked out an arrangement yet.
We made the album with almost no money in our pockets. With the help of friends, we gathered the recording gear and drove out to our friend’s parent’s old summer house on a lake in upstate New York. We set up our own recording studio there and made the record in twelve days. Our friend, Andrew Sarlo, recorded it. We’ve worked with him on everything we’ve recorded.
On a different topic entirely – how did the band meet?
Buck and I met in Brooklyn the first day I moved there. We ran into Max walking down the street. He and Buck knew each other from a music summer program but hadn’t seen each other for years. James engineered Masterpiece and started playing shows with us after we made the record. New York is layered with creative collisions all the time. Constant stirring of energy, creation and destruction. It’s simultaneously blossoming and decaying. The contrast and sparks are electrifying and invigorating.
Lastly, are there any artists on the scene right now that you guys would recommend?
Twain is always an inspiration and a true hero.
Big Thief play York’s Crescent tonight, the 6th of February, with Mega Bog and Parker Lee. Tickets are available here.By Jowan Mead