For its major-label debut, The Crane Wife, the Decemberists consummated a long flirtation with prog without straying from the stylized bucolic pop of its best work. The result: last year's most accessible cult album. Frontman and songwriter Colin Meloy talked to the Pitch about the weight of expectation and the unbearable lightness of his eggs.
The Pitch: The inevitable backlash has begun.
Colin Meloy: I do think we became a target. Switching to a major was a big step, but also increasing in popularity and being on more people's radar. We're playing big theaters, and suddenly we become not human beings — public figures rather than individuals. That's when you become fair game. It bummed me out, some of the bad press, because it wasn't about the record as much as lashing out. Hopefully, this record proves people wrong who thought we would somehow compromise ourselves to sell records.
How did you approach the studio for your first major-label album?
I initially thought this record would be scaled back. [Producer] Chris Walla insisted that we do it on 24-track tape. The last was done on a digital system called Radar. Some of those songs are using 63 tracks, just out of control. For his own sanity, he wanted to scale back. I discovered that you can be more successful making something sound big using more space and more tone and fewer instruments.
The "O Valencia" video looks like a big production.
I have a hard time with videos. Typically, my idea of what is a good video is not what a record company will think is a good video. We knew going in that "Valencia" wouldn't get played on MTV because it was violent. Our fans would see it online anyway, and I think that's where most video consumption is happening. I like doing them, but they take a lot of time and energy and money. I'd just as soon be recording a cover.
Your band is a favorite of bloggers. What would you blog about?
I'd like to have a cooking blog. Simple, kind of homey. When we're eating out at nice places in exotic places, I long for my own stovetop.
What are you known for?
I take particular pride in my omelets. This morning, I made this sherry-glazed-mushroom [omelet] with thyme and goat cheese and smoked salmon.
Favorite vending-machine food for the road?
I love Nature Valley granola bars.
Reunions: Jesus and Mary Chain or the Police?
Jesus and Mary Chain. They got me going with Psychocandy. It kept me playing guitar. I'd like to see Hüsker Dü get back together, but I don't think it'll ever happen.
What's the last argument you had?
From the beginning of the band, there's been a conflict about where [bass player] Nate [Query]'s monitor is. It's a big black box, and he's just stage-left of me, and he wants to sit the monitor just behind me, 8 o'clock, and I've tripped over it a number of times. But the most has been civil discussion.