Posts Tagged ‘Nathaniel Walcott’

Down in the Weeds

Sometimes it feels like you hear a Bright Eyes song with your whole body. From Conor Oberst’s early recordings in an Omaha basement in 1995 all the way up to 2020, Bright Eyes’ music tries to unravel the impossible tangles of dissent: personal and political, external and internal. It’s a study of the beauty in unsteadiness in all its forms – in a voice, beliefs, love, identity, and what fills up the spaces in-between. And in so many ways, it’s just about searching for a way through. When Bright Eyes announced their first new album since 2011, the media excitedly reported on the band’s reconciliation. But, in reality, Bright Eyes never really broke up. They wandered in different directions, sure, but there were no hard feelings. Gathering to record Down in the Weeds Where the World Once Was was a matter of good timing and schedules aligning. Frontman Conor Oberst suggested the idea for a new record at bandmate Nathaniel Walcott’s Christmas party in 2017, and the pair called the third member of their trio Mike Mogis from the bathroom to pitch the idea.

The year 2020 is full of significant anniversaries for Bright Eyes. Fevers and Mirrors was released 20 years ago this May, while Digital Ash in a Digital Urn and I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning both turned 15 years old in January. The latter, a singer-songwriter tour-de-force released amidst the Bush presidency and Iraq war, wades through incisive anti-war rhetoric and micro, intimate calamities. On the title track and throughout the record, Oberst sings about body counts in the newspaper, televised wars, the bottomless pit of American greed, struggling to understand the world alongside one’s own turmoil. In its own way, I’m Wide Awake It’s Morning carved out its place in the canon of great anti-war albums by being both present and prophetic, its urgency enduring 15 years later.

In 2011 the release of The People’s Key, Bright Eyes’ ninth and most recent album, ushered in an unofficial hiatus for the beloved project. In the time since, the work of the band’s core members – Oberst, multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis, and multi-instrumentalist Nathaniel Walcott – has remained omnipresent, through both the members’ original work and collaboration.

In recent years, Mogis produced records for beloved folk acts First Aid Kit and Joseph, among others, as well as mixed the fine-spun ennui of Phoebe Bridgers’ breakthrough 2017 debut, Stranger in the Alps. Mogis and bandmate Walcott also teamed up to write the original scores for The Fault in Our Stars, Stuck in Love, and Lovely Still, and Walcott worked as a solo composer scoring number of independent feature-length films. Walcott spent extensive time on collaboration; in addition to his arrangement work for Mavis Staples, First Aid Kit, and M. Ward, he contributed studio work to artists ranging from U2 to jazz guitarist Jeff Parker, and also toured heavily as a member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Oberst, who’s nearly 30 years into a prolific musical career, spent the last decade in similarly productive fashion. Across three years he released a string of solo albums: Salutations (2017), Ruminations (2016), and Upside Down Mountain (2014), as well as guested on records by First Aid Kit, Phoebe Bridgers, and Alt-J. His punk band, Desaparecidos, emerged from a 13-year hiatus in 2015 with the thunderous sophomore LP, Payola, a white-knuckled disarray of hollered political fury. And at the top of 2019, Oberst and Bridgers debuted their new band, Better Oblivion Community Center, digitally dropping the critically-lauded eponymous debut LP alongside a surprise performance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

The heart at Bright Eyes’ songwriting still looms culturally, in films and TV shows and through re-imaginings by other artists. Mac Miller covered both Lua and First Day of My Life; Lorde’s version of the penultimate The People’s Key track, the funereal-waltz Ladder Song, was a focal point of The Hunger Games’ soundtrack; The Killers covered Four Winds for their Spaceman EP; and Lil Peep’s Worlds Away samples Something Vague while Young Thug’s Me Or Us samples First Day of My Life.

Bright Eyes’ expansive catalogue has traversed genre, sound, and countless players; unpolished demos or fuzzy folk, electrified rock or country twang. The sharp song writing and musicianship is all anchored in Bright Eyes’ singular ability to flip deep intimacy into something universal. For so many, for so long, listening to Bright Eyes has been like hearing yourself in someone else’s song – a moment of understanding or illumination, knowing you’re on the same team looking for a way to move through of all this shit.

And while 2020 is a year of milestones for the band, it’s also the year Bright Eyes returns, newly signed to indie label Dead Oceans. Amidst the current overwhelming uncertainty and upheaval of global and personal worlds, Oberst, Mogis, and Walcott reunited under the moniker as both an escape from, and a confrontation of, trying times. Getting the band back together felt right, and necessary, and the friendship at the core of the band has been a long time pillar of Bright Eyes’ output. For Bright Eyes, this long-awaited re-emergence feels like coming home.

They certainly did some of their best work on Down In The Weeds The album sounds undeniably like a Bright Eyes record, but it ebbs and flows with new anxieties and darknesses. Fans will delight in a true-to-style Bright Eyes record, but, at the same time, any music fan will be able to appreciate the gruesome grandeur of this folk-rock mastery.

Bright Eyes’s Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was feels less like a monumental happening and more like a seamless continuation, the sound of a band shrugging off a long hiatus and simply getting back to work. They’re still making deeply emotional indie rock songs, still flirting with the same grandiosity that helped cement the legacies of albums like Lifted and Fevers and Mirrors, and the songs still revolve around Conor Oberst’s warbling search for the reasons we insist on continuing to exist when the world quite frankly seems to be crumbling all around us. No matter how much time has passed, Bright Eyes continues to be unmatched at tackling the biggest questions with a profound, heart-wrenching intimacy.

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When Bright Eyes announced their first new album since 2011, the media excitedly reported on the band’s reconciliation. But, in reality, Bright Eyes never really broke up. They wandered in different directions, sure, but there were no hard feelings. Gathering to record “Down In The Weeds Where The Worlds Once Was” was a matter of good timing and schedules aligning. Frontman Conor Oberst suggested the idea for a new record at bandmate Nathaniel Walcott’s Christmas party in 2017, and the pair called the third member of their trio Mike Mogis from the bathroom to pitch the idea. “It was just something we wanted to do for ourselves, because we were all in this stage of our lives…” Oberst says. “Between kids being born and people dying and divorces and people falling in love and all of the crazy amount of life that’s transpired for the three of us, personally… It was just like, what are we going to do? Let’s do the thing we do best. Let’s make a record.” They certainly did some of their best work on Down In The Weeds… The album sounds undeniably like a Bright Eyes record, but it ebbs and flows with new anxieties and darknesses. Fans will delight in a true-to-style Bright Eyes record, but, at the same time, any music fan will be able to appreciate the gruesome grandeur of this folk-rock mastery.

“Mariana Trench” the new song by Bright Eyes off ‘Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was’ out August 21 on Dead Oceans.

Bright Eyes, photo by <a href="http://shawnbrackbill.com/">Shawn Brackbill</a>

Conor Oberst were coming to New York, L.A., England, and Japan, Bright Eyes signed to Dead Oceans for a new album and then announced their first live performances in more than nine years. Conor Oberst was about to play England’s End of the Road festival festival in September. befor the lockdown happened.

Dead Oceans co-founder Phil Waldorf said in a press release, “Bright Eyes is not just a formative artist for me personally, but for countless people who work at Dead Oceans. To get to work with a band that is part of our own origin stories in falling in love with music is the rarest of privileges. We are thrilled to be part of another great chapter in Bright Eyes enduring legacy.”

Bright Eyes’ last studio album was 2011’s The People’s Key. Earlier this month, the group launched an Instagram account, posting a mysterious teaser video. They’ve also shared images of posters plastered on city walls via their Instagram stories. Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott signed to Dead Oceans and have been recording, with intentions to release new music this year. The band have also shared a teaser video featuring them recording in the studio with an orchestra.

Their shows were to include a stop at Dorset, England’s End of the Road festival, There has been speculation that there might be more in the works from Bright Eyes this year after the band popped back up on social media recently.

Since Bright Eyes went on hiatus, Mogis has kept busy as a producer and Walcott has worked as a film composer. Oberst’s punk band Desaparecidos also reformed for 2015’s Payola.

“Persona Non Grata” features Conor Oberst (vocal, piano), Mike Mogis (bajo sexto), Nathaniel Walcott (Hammond organ, electric piano), Macey Taylor (bass), Jon Theodore (drums, percussion), Joe Todero (bagpipes), Malcolm Wilbur (bagpipes), Joe Fuchs (bagpipes), and Susan Sanchez (vocals).

It is produced by Bright Eyes, engineered by Mike Mogis with assistance from Adam Roberts. Mixing by Mike Mogis. Mastering by Bob Ludwig.

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Bright Eyes are the Omaha, Nebraska based band consisting of Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott.

Bright Eyes have returned with new song “One and Done,” the third track released from their upcoming new album, following the previously shared “Forced Convalescence” and “Persona Non Grata.”

“One and Done” is built with some lovely string arrangements that give reminds a bit of some of The Last Shadow Puppets earlier work, just with a more introspective and vulnerable folk performance from Obsert as well as some welcome horns.

It’s another wonderful new track from the band who are back in fine form. We need that album as soon as possible.

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Released May 27th, 2020

Bright Eyes (Conor Oberst, Mike Mogis, and Nathaniel Walcott) have shared their first new song in nine years, “Persona Non Grata.” The band previously announced that they had signed to Dead Oceans and had been recording, with intentions to release new music this year. They also previously announced a world tour. In January they also shared a teaser video featuring them recording in the studio with an orchestra. Check out the track “Persona Non Grata” below, followed by a statement from the band and the band’s tour dates (hopefully they won’t be postponed or cancelled due to COVID-19).

While Oberst has kept busy in the last decade with solo and collaborative projects (such as last year’s Better Oblivion Community Center duo with Phoebe Bridgers), the band with which he made his name have not released an album since 2011’s The People’s Key.

In a previous press release Dead Oceans co-founder Phil Waldorf had this to say about signing the band: “Bright Eyes is not just a formative artist for me personally, but for countless people who work at Dead Oceans. To get to work with a band that is part of our own origin stories in falling in love with music is the rarest of privileges. We are thrilled to be part of another great chapter in Bright Eyes enduring legacy.”

Since Bright Eyes went on hiatus, Mogis has kept busy as a producer and Walcott has worked as a film composer. Oberst’s punk band Desaparecidos also reformed for 2015’s album release Payola.

“Persona Non Grata” by Bright Eyes out now on Dead Oceans Records.

Conor Oberst Releases "No One Changes" and "The Rockaways"

Conor Oberst dropped two new gloriously melancholy singles on Bandcamp Wednesday morning: “No One Changes” and “The Rockaways” The former is a somber, introspective piano number which elegantly drops lyrics like “a goddamn shit show.” The latter is somber, introspective, post-breakup acoustic song with Bright Eyes’s  Nathaniel Walcott contributing keyboard parts.

The songs can be purchased digitally now and will be made available as a double A-side 7″ single on February 1st, 2019.

In August, the Oberst’s song “LAX” was featured on the soundtrack to the Ethan Hawke film Juliet, Naked. Hawke covered the song as his aging Gen X singer-songwriter from the film. Oberst then re-recorded a new version of the song with Phoebe Bridgers added vocals for Amazon Music’s “Produced By” series. The track was produced by Simone Felice of the Felice Brothers (his backing band) for Amazon Music’s “Produced By” series. Felice’s session also features songs by Bridgers, Wesley Schultz (the Lumineers), and more. Oberst’s song, indeed, does take its name from the Los Angeles airport. The artist formerly known as Bright Eyes includes lines in his bittersweet narrative like “It’s raining in L.A./and everyone’s gone mad” and “I’ll pick you up, just tell me when you land” over simple solo piano chording and snippets of electro acoustic ambience.

Conor Oberst’s last proper full-length Salutations came out in 2017, which was mainly a reworking of his 2016 album Ruminations.