INTERVIEW // Big Thief


This article originally appeared on God Is In The TV

Alt rock four-piece Big Thief released their debut album Masterpiece in May. As its title suggests, the record is an almost perfectly pitched combination of folk and DIY rock that toes the line between lo fi angst and heightened emotions, exploring the concepts of life and love in detail. From the earworm of the title track to the raw scuzz of ‘Real Love’ and the tenderness of ‘Paul,’ the album takes the listener on a moving journey through each of its tracks.

The band are currently touring America with M Ward, but chief songwriter and frontwoman Adrienne Lenker still took the time to quickly answer a few questions about the band’s formation, the LP and what makes a good breakfast (an essential component of being on tour).

Hi guys! What are Big Thief up to at the minute?

We’re on tour right now supporting M Ward.  At this exact moment we are driving through Kentucky.

Since Adrianne is Minnesotan, Buck’s a Texan and Max originally from Tel Aviv, and James is from Chicago I was wondering how you met each other and decide that you wanted to make music together?

We all met in New York. I met Buck the day I moved to New York at Mr. Kiwi and we’ve been playing songs together ever since. Buck and I ran into Max walking down the street in my neighbourhood in Brooklyn, and we got to know James through the recording process of Masterpiece; he was the engineer.

When you formed, how did you decide on the name Big Thief? Does the name have an added meaning for you?

It means different things to me at different times.

The end of May saw the release of your debut LP Masterpiece. How long had it been in the making?

Depends on when you start counting.  We toured the songs for about a year before we recorded the record. We made the album in 12 days in a house on Lake Champlaign.

When you started writing the songs and putting the melodies together, did you have a clear vision of how you wanted Masterpiece to sound?

No, not really.  We just wanted to make a record. It was more about getting our headspace right and having songs we really believed in.

The record combines elements of alt-rock, DIY and folk. What attracts you to these genres in particular?

That’s just how the songs and arrangements came out. We try not to ever think about “genre.”

In the past you’ve said that some of the songs, particularly tracks like ‘Real Love’ and the title track, tap into “the process of harnessing pain, loss and love, while simultaneously letting them go.” I was wondering if the lyrics come from a very personal place or if they’re fictional narratives exploring these concepts, particularly since songs such as ‘Paul’ do a very good job of sounding very real and raw.

Nothing is fictional. I don’t how to write fictional songs yet.  Sometimes I’ll shift around perspectives but it all still stems from my experience.

Sharon Van Etten described your music as being “driving songs that take you on a real journey.” She was probably being metaphorical but since the LP contains songs like ‘Interstate,’ how much does being on the road actually influence your music?

Life is constant travel, even when you’re not moving. You can travel without leaving your house. Travel through past present and future is a constant and the songs always come from that.

I also read in the past that, at least for Adrianne, Masterpiece is a memorialisation of discovering the catharsis of rock and roll. What records or artists first introduced you to this catharsis?

It wasn’t records, it was more just holding an electric guitar and playing with a band and feeling the power of that sound. It came from going to shows and just playing and practicing with the band. I wanted to play louder.

Do you think modern rock and roll still has that cathartic aspect to it?

Yes. Rock n roll is a spirit, it’s freedom, it’s not a style or a genre. “Hey hey my my rock n roll can never die, there’s more to the picture than meets the eye.

Do you have any plans to come to the UK at any point in the future?

Yes, we’re working on it ASAP.

Finally, Buck once stressed the importance of a good breakfast on the road. What, in your opinion, is the best breakfast to kick off the day?

Olives, plums, cashews, almonds, keefer, coffee.


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