halls for two thousand people are already too small

Big Thief with Adrianne Lenker in the middle, to the left of her Max Oleartchik and to the right ex-husband Buck Meek.Statue Alexa Viscius

‘What I have to get used to the most are the big halls where we suddenly perform’, says Adrianne Lenker (30), singer and guitarist in Big Thief, one of the most acclaimed and successful indie bands of recent years. “I am used to doing everything from our van. We drove from one bar to another creepy scene, it was Big Thief five years ago. And now I’m sitting here in the locker room in a decent room, and I do not even know where the other band members are.

Links is playing at The Anthem in Washington DC this April night. The Big Thief tour, which came to an abrupt end in Europe in the spring of 2020 due to corona, has finally given the band the opportunity to continue. There is a new album, Dragon New Warm Mountain I believe in you. ‘Excuse the silly title,’ apologizes Lenker, ‘it’s a phrase that came to my mind and that just would not let go without knowing why. These are always the best rules for me and I want to respect them. ‘

broken marriage

This fifth Big Thief album, which lasts nearly eighty minutes with twenty songs, was universally praised when it was released earlier this year. It covers a wide palette of colors and styles. From folk to indie pop to country: many genres are touched. But it is always Lenker’s fragile but intense voice that adds value to the sometimes frayed, sometimes meandering melodies. This weekend, Big Thief, who hosted the last pre-corona concert for many in Paradiso in March 2020, will perform at the Best Kept Secret Festival.

Links: ‘We’ve been back in Europe for a while and noticed in London that halls with two thousand people are already too small for us. It was really crazy. Apparently, the pandemic has done Big Thief good. ” To add after a short pause: ‘Also myself’.

Adrienne Lenker even drew the cover for the album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.  Picture

Adrienne Lenker even drew the cover for the album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You.

For perhaps the forced break with the band was the best thing that could have happened to Lenker. “Not even the boys around me were what I needed that summer of 2000,” she says in the locker room, where she speaks to V via Zoom connection. “There were some issues I had to address that I did not get around during the Big Thief carousel that has been running uninterrupted for five years. A broken marriage followed by a love affair that also ended is a couple of events that kept grinding. ‘


Difficult, especially if, like Lenker, you were married to the band’s guitarist, Buck Meek. “Without Buck, Big Thief would never have existed. We got to know each other about eight years ago and turned out to fit perfectly musically. Or maybe I should say: just musically. We played street musicians together in Brooklyn. His guitar playing matched mine so well. , it’s still a miracle I do not understand. We also had a preference for the same songs. I like melancholy music by songwriters like Townes Van Zandt and John Prine. Buck did too, and he also knew the work of every singer. -songwriters from Nashville, it seemed. ‘

But there was also the thick notebook in which Lenker wrote texts and made drawings. ‘The cover of our new record has such a sketch, of a few birds. I like to draw it, because it calms me down ».

Like writing, Links always give you rest. ‘Originally, those lyrics weren’t even meant as songs, it just grew that way. Why don’t you sing them, Buck said at one point. That’s what I started doing and he played good guitar parts around it. ‘

With bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia on board, the loving couple became a band, as from the debut album masterpiece (2016) was on the move non-stop to perform and record. In between, Lenker also released a couple of solo albums with ‘songs that I did not really want to share with the band. Nice, always all the men around me, but sometimes I also like to seek isolation. ‘

The cover of Masterpiece, Big Thief's debut album, contains a childhood picture of Adrianne Lenker's mother.  Picture

The cover of Masterpiece, Big Thief’s debut album, contains a childhood picture of Adrianne Lenker’s mother.

The same was the spring of 2020, when Big Thief was forced to cancel their European tour. “I literally sat down in a cabin on the moor, somewhere in Massachusetts, to make a record on my own, Songs and instruments† You can hear the birds chirping. ‘


The few months alone taught her a lot, she says. “I really had to take the time to deal with everything that has happened to me since childhood. I had never done that before. I had a strange childhood, moved often, stayed in a kind of cult with my parents in a ‘for a while and never got a chance to settle anywhere. That anxiety will never leave me. Just as much as I enjoyed making a solo record in the woods, I loved going back to Big Thief.’

But there was still a stay of a few days in a hospital in New York. ‘I had done too fast. Well, I sang some relationship grief on my record, but physically I was really exhausted in May 2020. Four days in the hospital helped me recover. And yet also to see the boys again. ‘

Big Thief complete with drummer James Krivchenia (with cap).  Statue Alexa Viscius

Big Thief complete with drummer James Krivchenia (with cap).Statue Alexa Viscius

The new Big Thief album was recorded in four sessions in four locations in the United States. “We had already agreed to that before the corona drove us out of Europe. Four different environments, New York, California, Colorado and Arizona, would lead to diversity in musical colors. It was the idea from Max, our bassist, who also produced everything. I think that plan has been successful. If you listen carefully to the album, you will hear different atmospheres. Songs from Tucson, Arizona have a typical country vibe, those from New York sound like just people, and in Topanga we went crazy with producer Shawn Everrett with soundscapes and more complex arrangements. ‘

hund oso

Links is most proud of the variations in the theme of the songs. “I love humor in songs, but it’s never been so easy as it was for someone like John Prine. I still think so Spud Infinity finally a witty Big Thief song. Just see how I am potato kinish, a kind of potato pie, let it rhyme on Exit† Facing this is a pretty serious number like Simulation swarmwhere I try to express some of my inner struggles. ‘

And yet the album sounds like a unity, which according to Lenker has an important reason: ‘My dog ​​Oso.’

Links had long wanted their own dog, which they used to have at home. ‘I almost ordered one on the internet that I was in love with, but Buck did not allow me. You’re crazy, he said. I had no roof over my head, preferred to drive around in a trailer and then I wanted a dog?

“But when I ran aground with that trailer in New Mexico a few weeks later, I ended up at a kennel with dozens of dogs. I have to pick one. It was Oso. I took it with me in the trailer, and it’s always been with me. ‘Such a dog is an ideal distraction for everyone. If you can not find out anything, you quarrel with each other about a guitar voice or a line of text, then Oso will come by. Just cuddle, play and go, everything is solved.’


Adrianne Lenker has finally arranged everything, thanks in part to Oso, she says. ‘When I think back on the pandemic, I see myself struggling with everything. Like everyone really. But the forced isolation of confronting myself with all sorts of problems that I never dared to face before has, in my opinion, led to beautiful things. As Big Thief we are a close group of friends, I love the boys very much. And I think we’ve made something very special with our new album. Twenty songs that start with doubt in the song changes, and end with a resounding yes to life. In the last song, blue lightning, I sing a line I would not have dared to sing a few years ago: I want to be the shoelace you tie† I’m apparently so happy and full of love that I want to be the shoelace that the boys tie in Big Thief. ‘

Big Thief plays on Saturday 11 June at Best Kept Secret, Hilvarenbeek and on 27 June in TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht.

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