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Big Thief talks new album

ELISSA NADWORNY, HOST:

The band Big Thief is a tight-knit bunch.

JAMES KRIVCHENIA: Check, check. Just do yours real quick, Annie.

ADRIANNE LENKER: Check one, two.

NADWORNY: That's lead guitarist and singer Adrianne Lenker and drummer James Krivchenia figuring out their system for answering questions in a radio interview.

LENKER: Oh, when you tap me, it means I'm on. I'm going talk.

KRIVCHENIA: No, that means I'm going to talk.

LENKER: Oh, OK.

KRIVCHENIA: But you go first.

LENKER: OK (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF BIG THIEF SONG, "SIMULATION SWARM")

NADWORNY: The other two members of the band are nearby. They're all in a house together, rehearsing and decompressing from making their latest album.

LENKER: We do everything together as a band. We make all of our decisions together. It has to feel good to all of us.

KRIVCHENIA: If someone doesn't feel passionate about something, they'll try and be convinced and, like, heard.

NADWORNY: For the past two years, they've channeled their collaborative spirit into that new album, which just came out. It's called "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You." The 20-track project, which Krivchenia also produced, was recorded in four distinct locations across the country.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIMULATION SWARM")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) Once again, empty horses gallop through the violet door. Follow red, crooked courses, shadows on the moonlit floor.

KRIVCHENIA: We came up with this idea of structuring the record by recording in four different places with four different engineers with four different batches of Adrianne's songs.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIG THIEF SONG, "DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU")

KRIVCHENIA: First session we did was in upstate New York.

LENKER: Just outside of Woodstock.

KRIVCHENIA: Second session was the bombastic session in Topanga Canyon, Calif. The third session was the pensive, celestial session in Telluride, Colo. And the fourth session was the...

LENKER: Raucous.

KRIVCHENIA: ...Raucous...

LENKER: Rambunctious.

KRIVCHENIA: ...Rambunctious, hot, sweaty session in Tucson, Ariz.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "DRAGON NEW WARM MOUNTAIN I BELIEVE IN YOU")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) It's a little bit magic, like a river of morning geese in the new warm mountain where the stone face forms and speaks.

LENKER: The different environments, climates were part of our thinking as well. Are we going to be sweating while we're making this music? Are we going to be cold while we're making this music? What are we going to be seeing around us in the landscapes?

Like, Telluride, we were at, I think, almost 10,000 feet elevation. And so there were just aspen trees everywhere, and it was covered in snow. Like, it was deep nature there. And so we were just imagining the spaces we'd be in and who we'd be working with and what songs would be most appropriate for those spaces.

(SOUNDBITE OF BIG THIEF SONG, "SPUD INFINITY")

KRIVCHENIA: I sort of viewed it as, like, let's do an experiment of trying to make an album this way. It was sort of purposefully kept kind of vague as we were doing it so as not to suck the life out of it and, like, let it actually grow.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SPUD INFINITY")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) What's it going to take? What's it going to take? What's it going to take to free this celestial body?

LENKER: When we were in upstate New York, we were recording with Sam Owens. The power went out because there was a storm. And I had stayed up most of the night writing a new song, and we finished the song pretty much in time for the power to go out completely. So Sam brought down a four-track tape machine and rigged it up so that it would be running off of the car battery. And we played the new song that we had just written, and it was "Certainty."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CERTAINTY")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) My certainty is wild, weaving. For you, I am a child, believing. You lay beside me, sleeping on a plane...

LENKER: In the past, I've excluded certain things from what I bring to Big Thief because I felt like, oh, this isn't a Big Thief sound, or, this isn't a Big Thief song. But now I think we're starting to give ourselves more and more permission to bring all aspects of ourselves to the table of what Big Thief is.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RED MOON")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) Bedroom rising from an old growth tree.

LENKER: But what I always get down to is all the songs that I've ever written - I think they're honestly just about the most basic of themes. The mystery of being a human being, the pain of loss and longing, the yearning for a deeper understanding and connection to that which is intangible - you know, I feel like these themes have been sort of what I've been writing about since I was 10.

KRIVCHENIA: I can attest to that. I've heard the early recordings.

LENKER: Oh, no (laughter). Please don't play any of my early recordings.

KRIVCHENIA: Hit it, now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RED MOON")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) I've been here before, looking at the wild country, opening the screen door, talking with Diane Lee. That's my grandma.

NADWORNY: That's Adrianne Lenker and James Krivchenia of the band Big Thief. Their new album, "Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You," is out now.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "RED MOON")

BIG THIEF: (Singing) Radio singing in the corner of the kitchen. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.