The Decemberists return, renewed and a little relaxed

January 20, 2015

Four years ago, The Decemberists released The King Is Dead, an album that debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and launched a Grammy-nominated single, "Down By The Water." It was an unexpected breakthrough for a band who'd once reveled in quirk and mischief, coming off more like theater kids than rock stars.

Colin Meloy remembers when there was literally no one listening to his music. The group's singer and songwriter got his start playing basement bars in Portland, Ore., and as he tells NPR's David Greene, sometimes even the bartender would leave the room.

"I didn't really care what people thought because nobody was thinking about it. There was no audience to not care about, and I think it led me to a lot of experimentation," he says. "Not ever taking yourself so seriously seemed to me a really important part about good music."

That might be why the latest Decemberists record has taken a little longer than usual. Meloy spoke with Greene about taking time to be a father, explore new sides of his relationships and write — without pressure or expectation — before getting started on the new album What a Terrible World, What a Beautiful World. Hear their conversation at the audio link.

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