Column 121 — Conor’s leftovers…

Category: Blog — @ 12:33 pm April 11, 2007
This week’s column is leftovers from last week’s Bright Eyes feature, stuff that didn’t quite fit in the story. Will Bright Eyes top out on the Billboard charts for the week? Very unlikely, especially if it took 125k for Modest Mouse. The fact that Cassadaga currently sits at No. 5 on the iTunes downloads chart, below albums by Timbaland, Amy Winehouse, Linkin Park and Mika, is another unfortunate sign. My prediction for first week sales is 75k, taking into consideration that Wide Awake did 56,167 in scans its first week two years ago. One would hope that two years of touring and the added muscle of Polydor would grow first-week sales by at least 33 percent. But you have to remember (as it was pointed out to me) that Wide Awake and Digital Ash did receive a lot of hype, and that Oberst was coming off a tour with Springsteen and Michael Stipe at the time. We’ll see…
Column 121: Oberst Overflow
What didn’t make it into last week’s cover story.

Here are some leftovers from last week’s Bright Eyes cover story/interview with Conor Oberst.

Oberst explained why he and producer Mike Mogis built ARC Studio — which stands for Another Recording Company — in Omaha instead of, well, anywhere else in the world. The complex, located on the edge of Fairarcres, includes Mogis’ family residence, a house for visiting bands and the studio facility. “We chose here because it’s home,” Oberst said. “Our friends and families and our friends’ bands are here. For a long time Mike was looking outside of Omaha, in the country, but it obviously was much more convenient to be inside the city limits. The idea behind building the studio is that this is what Mike is going to do for the rest of his life, so let’s make something that can’t be improved upon. The hope is that a million amazing records will be made there by all kinds of people. Mike will produce some of them, and hopefully others will as well.”

Another outside venture is Oberst’s record label, Team Love, which, since its launch in 2005, has grown to a 10-artist roster that includes Tilly and the Wall, Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis, Dave Dondero and Simon Joyner. Oberst said he’s satisfied with the label’s growth.

“We keep putting out records that we love and looking for new bands,” he said. “Part of the reason we started it was as a reaction to how slow Saddle Creek can move sometimes, and the lack of risk-taking. There have been a lot of missed opportunities. We’re a much leaner operation. It’s going really well. We had a lot of success with Jenny’s album, which allowed us to expand and hire more people. We’re excited about this year, with new records by McCarthy Trenching, The Berg Sans Nipple, a Gruff Rhys (of Super Furry Animals) solo record, a new Dondero album and a 7-inch by Portland band A Weather. We’re just keeping our eyes and ears peeled. We have a couple pseudo A&R people with Eric Dimenstein (who runs Ground Control Touring) and Sean Foley, who travels with me a lot.”

Last year, Oberst toured with singer-songwriters Matt Ward and My Morning Jacket’s Jim James, and their influence can be heard on Cassadaga. “I admire their song writing,” Oberst said. “Jim is a very subtle song writer, lyrically anyway. His melodies carry a lot of the emotional weight, but he has a way of using very simple language that packs a pretty mighty punch. In the past, I’ve been guilty of over-writing a song and trying to cram too much into it. A sort of ‘less-is-more’ approach is what I’ve learned from him. From Matt, and more recently from Gillian (Welch), I’ve learned a great respect for the craft of song writing and the evolution from folk and blues to this modern version of what we all do. That’s something that I was just completely ignorant of when I started playing music. I started retracing the steps, back to where those basic concepts of music came from. Folk means functional. Folk art is what people make in spite of economic resources. It’s a functional form; and that’s what attracted me to it. You don’t need to go to Julliard to write a good folk song.”

And now, the real burning question: What’s the status of Desaparecidos, Oberst’s five-man punk band that released the explosive Read Music/Speak Spanish in 2002? There had been talk of a new recording and possible tour back in ’05.

“There are no immediate plans for the band,” Oberst said. “It’s just one of those things where it was timing, and where I and everyone was in our lives. It was a great moment in time. I have very fond memories of it. I think at this point we have to wait and see if it comes together again in a natural way. If we tried to force it, it would take the fun out of it. The one record we made was pretty inspired and good for what it was. The window’s already closed for what other people were encouraging us to do. Everyone was surprised with the success of the record, and told us that we have to make another one and capitalize on it. I didn’t want to do it, and maybe that disappointed my band mates.”

Still, Oberst said he likes collaborating with other musicians outside of Bright Eyes. “One thing we talked about, which I hope some time will become a reality, is a studio record with Matt (Ward) and Jim (James),” he said. “But once again, it’s not something I would ever want to force. If it works out, that would be a dream come true, but I’m not going to put any demands or feel negative toward anything if it doesn’t come naturally.”

Finally, there’s Slowdown, the entertainment complex being built a block west of the Qwest Center in downtown Omaha. Will Oberst be involved in its grand opening? “I’d love to be around for it, but at this point it depends on where the schedule works out,” he said. “We have obligations all summer for festivals in Europe, but maybe a window will open the last week of July where I could try to do it. I’d obviously love to be there. I think it’s a great thing for Omaha. I’ve been watching it all not happen for so long, and then finally it happened. I’m excited to see it become a reality.”

Cassadaga went on sale Tuesday. Will it reach No. 1 on the Billboard charts? It’s not impossible, considering that Modest Mouse topped the charts last week selling only around 125,000 copies. We’ll know next week.

–Got comments? Post ’em here.

No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.