EDIT 10:50 am THANK YOU ALL! Thanks for the great questions. Sorry if I couldn't get to all of 'em! Signing off now - watch us Kimmel tonight and we'll see you on the road soon!

Our new record, “What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World” just came out this week. If you’re so inclined, you can get this record on iTunes, at your favorite local independent record store, or even at decemberists.com (where you can actually get a limited edition box set — autographed, no less.) You’ll also find the dates of our upcoming tour there. Our tour, as yet, still doesn’t have a name, and all tours should have names, even if it’s only Zed. Maybe that’s something we can solve here.

Victoria is helping me get started today, AMA.

Anyway, I go on. I am now at your disposal. AMA!




Comments: 747 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

firemoo251 karma

Hi Mr. Meloy,

I want to start by sincerely thanking for doing this AMA. The Decemberists have been my favorite band for about 9 years now, and I really appreciate this opportunity to ask you a question. I would also like to add that I've seen you guys in concert at least 5 times, and you, hands down, give the best performance out of any band I've seen.

My question is this: What happened to the baby in Hazards of Love? Sorry if this isn't the most exciting question, but my husband and I have spent literally hours debating and theorizing this, or if it was even ever born, and simply must know. We even have this fan theory about infinitely repeating fates.

PS- I've really been enjoying the new album. My pre-order arrived a few days early, and I've had it playing in my car since. Thank you again!

colinmeloy709 karma

She's a dental hygienist, living in Tampa. Has a good practice. Moderately happy marriage. Likes embroidery and Zumba.

Joking. No, the baby dies in utero when Margaret and William drown in the river. Sorry.

DeusComrade223 karma

Where did the inspiration for The Mariner's Revenge Song come from? It's so sweeping, epic, twisted, and wonderful, that when my friend first had me listen to it back in 2005, I was hooked.

Do you remember climbing a balcony, singing Culling of the Fold, days after President Obama's election in 2008, at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia? What possessed you to do that? Because it was great.

colinmeloy123 karma

I have no idea what possessed me. These things happen occasionally, I suppose. Thanks for your kind words!

heyitsmikeyv109 karma

Colin! Two questions.

  1. I've been covering Make You Better ever since I saw the video a little while back. How was it working with Nick Offerman on set?

  2. In the song "We Both Go Down Together", is it a story of star-crossed lovers or is the protagonist a deluded rapist/murderer? 'You wept but your soul was willing' seems a touch suspicious.

Thanks for all the great music you've pumped through my ears. I always maintain that regardless of someone's taste in music, I can dig up at least one Decemberists song they'll enjoy.

colinmeloy205 karma

1.Nick Offerman is a gentleman of the truest sort. Let no one tell you otherwise, and it is unlikely that someone would. He'd come to the shoot after doing two other projects that day and was a phenomenal champ.

  1. Definitely the latter. The narrator of that song is an asshole and a sociopath.

tricksy_trixie105 karma

Hi Colin, thanks for doing this AMA. My husband and I are big fans and make it to every show that you guys do in the SF Bay Area. You did a show at the Fox Theatre in oakland, CA on 2/14/2011 that definitely stands out as our favorite. That was the night that my husband proposed to me and you invited the two of us up on the stage for a wedding ceremony performed by John. I just wanted to thank you and the band for making our proposal so memorable, and also for pretty much guaranteeing that our proposal story is better than everyone else's. I do regret that we didn't hang around after the show to meet you guys, but we had the pressing issue of our car being locked in the parking garage to deal with.

We'll see you guys at your show in Berkeley in May. Oh, I guess I was supposed to ask questions? Can you squeeze Yankee Bayonet into the setlist for Berkeley? And can we buy you guys a round of drinks or something after the show? We feel like we owe you one.

Up on the stage!



colinmeloy77 karma

I'll see what I can do! And congrats! I remember that well! Did you ever get actually married? (Though John being a ordained internet minister, I think we saw the real deal.)

jnj189893 karma

I hope this Thursday is finding you well! I had two questions. First, the Crane Wife song cycle is one of my favorites…I was just wondering what was behind the decision to start the album with Crane Wife 3 and then come back to 1 and 2 later on the album?

And second, are there any old songs that you’re finding live versions have now breathed new life into them and you’re excited to play them again out on the road on the upcoming tour?

I’ve greatly enjoyed the Decemberists’ albums and live shows, as well as the Wildwood series, so thank you for all of that! It is all much appreciated.

colinmeloy127 karma

Funny, that was Chris Walla's brilliant idea. I'd originally had the three Crane Wives together at the end of the record, going straight into Sons and Daughters (which were kind of designed to sit one into the other like a cute sonic matryoshka doll). But he being the contrarian that he was (and might still be) suggested that Crane 3 should start the record and it stuck.

As for new/old live songs -- we've got some nice new backing vocal arrangements for a few of the old tunes -- Sporting Life seems to have a new kick to it.

Itsthatgy83 karma

Hello Colin,

I'm wondering what you cite as your literary influences? You strike me as a well read man. I know you've read infinite jest, have any other books had a significant impact on your writing or style?

colinmeloy136 karma

Yeah, definitely, the books I read tend to find their way into the songs. Some times more overtly than others. I'd been reading Paul Fussell's "Great War and Modern Memory" around the time I was writing songs for "Her Majesty the Decemberists," hence all the WWI-era sexual innuendo. And Dylan Thomas. Hence all the early 20th c Welsh sexual innuendo (steamy). Also "You'll Not Feel the Drowning" was a line stolen from Bruce Chatwin's "Patagonia." I could go on.

puddinhead78 karma

What does Stephen Colbert smell like?

colinmeloy269 karma

Like a french dairy maid, awash in the scent of newly harvested provencal sage.

thatoneguywithpowers72 karma

  1. The Bandit Queen cut off of the bonus record from Picareque has a quaint little skit before it. Did you guys script that or just wing it?

  2. Would you consider playing some Tarkio material on your tour for the new album? That would be awesome.

  3. Ever think about doing story-based a film of The Hazards of Love, like the one Andy Smetanka did for The Tain?

colinmeloy81 karma

Oh my god, that skit. I think we thought we wanted to make, like, a hip hop record skit. It took us SO long to get a take of that. Chris Walla was producing and I remember him hating it. Which is why I kept his scare quotes in the title Bandit Queen (With "Dialogue" and "Tap Dancing") or whatever it was...

A few Tarkio songs do make their way into the set occasionally. I'm still pretty attached to "Save Yourself" and "Tristan and Iseult" and "Devil's Elbow," which is about being a stoned college kid on the Oregon coast.

The amazing film that Andy did for the Tain was such incredible feat I don't think we could remotely expect the same treatment for HoL. He's working on a full-length movie now called "And We Were Young." He did a successful kickstarter on it a few years ago but I think he's still not finished. It's laborious stuff, stop motion animation.

thatoneguywithpowers23 karma

Follow-up question: How did you come across the story of Edgar Watson for the song E. Watson? It seems like such an obscure footnote in history to write a song about.

colinmeloy43 karma

"Shadow Country" by Peter Matthiesen -- particularly the first book in the series "Killing Edgar Watson." So good.

CarrionBeetle46 karma

Hey Colin!

Recently my friend and I have been discussing the connection between Summersong and Anti-summersong and I'm so excited to get the chance to ask you about this myself! Summersong has been (and continues to be) one of my favorite Decemberists songs because of the breathtaking imagery, awesome alliteration, and themes particularly relevant to my life. So I'm wondering what inspired you to write a song that - as the title implies - is the opposite of Summersong? Is it meant to negate the message of the original song, provide another point of view, or something else?

Thank you so much for doing this; it means a lot to your fans! I can't wait to see you and the band when you roll through Atlanta in April!

colinmeloy129 karma

I don't think it means to cancel out Summersong at all. I'm still quite attached that song. I think it was a sort of jab at myself and my songwriting at a time when I needed to do that. I'd also always loved Morrissey's refrain from the end of "disappointed" where he sings: "This is the last song I will ever sing / No, I've changed my mind again..." There's something really therapeutic, I find, in making fun of yourself.

ADDENDUM: It's also not just a response to the song Summersong, but to all of the endless summersongs I've thrown into the world: June Hymn, July July etc etc. Like me saying to myself: jesus, man, get off it!

bearydrunk44 karma

Do you ever plan to do another Hazards of Love type album?

colinmeloy80 karma

Yeah, I think so. But I wouldn't know when. HoL felt like the summation of a funny experiment we started with The Tain back in 2004 (?). It also maybe came out of a time in my life where I might've had a sort of bleak perspective on things which I managed to shed. But who knows? These things tend to come and go.

hitalec43 karma

Hi, Colin! Big fan.

I always imagine the Hazards of Love as a play, with wonderful cut-outs of waves and smoke machines as I listen to the terrific lyrics -- I know you abandoned those plans initially, but have you ever reconsidered possibly going forward with it?

colinmeloy58 karma

The concept and the first few songs were, in fact, my attempt at writing a stage play. I've been hanging out with/corresponding with/meeting with Michael Mayer (of Spring Awakening & American Idiot fame) since like '07, talking about hatching some sort of theater project but we've never quite landed on the thing. We were full steam about Hazards of Love for a hot second before we both realized it worked better as a record than as a stage play. I know there's a few hardy souls out there who have attempted staging it, and I applaud them.

ThePenguinEater43 karma

Colin! The Decemberists are my absolute favorite band, so it's incredibly exciting that you're doing this AMA.

1) Fan question: Hazards of Love is still my favorite Decemberists album, and a lot of that has to do with the contributions from Shara Worden. Do you ever plan to collaborate with her or Becky Stark again? When I saw you guys at Merriweather Pavilion for that tour, one of my favorite parts of the show was when Shara and Becky came back out in white jumpsuits and did "Crazy on You" by Heart.

2) Craft question: You are hands-down the best lyricist I know of. In my own song-writing, one of the big things I struggle with is including concrete, specific details in my lyrics - something you are brilliant at. What tips do you have for including more visual imagery in my lyric writing? I always start with music first, btw, so I'm wondering if your approach differs.

Thank you for doing this AMA and for continuing to produce amazing music. See you at your show in Philly in April!

colinmeloy59 karma

1) I would love to do something with Shara and Becky (known as the Diamonds in our circles) down the line. They are two incredibly gifted and visionary women. "Crazy on You" was a blast to do every night.

2) Oh man, songwriting is such an elusive thing. I feel like there is little advice that can be given other than this: write every day. Even if it's shit. Just get it down. Listen to a lot of music. Listen to old music, listen to new music. Go see shows. But always be writing.

thrawn_207139 karma

Hi Colin!

  1. Culling of the Fold is one of my favorite songs of yours. I love it's manic energy. Do you have any insight into the creation of it? It seems like many don't know about it since it was a bonus/exclusive track. Any chance we'll ever hear it live again?

  2. You're an incredible writer and I loved the Wildwood books. Have you ever considered writing an adult novel?


colinmeloy66 karma

  1. In retrospect, I actually wish we'd put it on the record. For whatever reason, it was between that and "When the War Came." It ended up being such a great song to play live that I long regretted leaving it off the record. "When the War Came," on the other hand, I'm kind of meh on.

And re: adult novels (aka grown up novels, not, like, porn) I would like to do that. When I have time...

sunnyspells39 karma

Hey Colin, thanks for doing the AMA! Can't tell you how many times I've listened to the new album at this point.

My question is: You've mentioned that We Both Go Down Together is more or less a prequel to Leslie Anne Levine. Have you ever considered that the mothers in A Cautionary Song and Mariner's Revenge are one and the same as well? It always seemed to me that the link could exist! And further, with Anti-Summersong, do you see yourself writing more interconnected songs in the future?

colinmeloy67 karma

I never have, actually, considered the two connected. But I don't see how they couldn't. I could definitely see the narrator's mother in "Cautionary" be the sort to fall in with such a fellow as the villain in "Mariner's." Poor woman.

Once you do start building a body of work, I find, the temptation the thread them together is pretty great. It's a very different experience writing songs when you're younger, when each song is a new direction. By the time you've written however many songs I have (maybe 150? More?) there's lots of grist for the mill. And I do love making fun of myself.

prettiestwhistle31 karma

Hi Colin!

Who is next up on “Colin Meloy Sings…?”

Do the novel writing and the song writing process differ much? How so?

I have never connected to a band like I have yours and I’ve found myself on some pretty crazy adventures and met some delightful people whilst traveling to see your shows. So thank you for all you do.

Love the new record!

colinmeloy87 karma

I don't know who's up next in the cover EP thing. It's always something I leave to the last minute when I embark on a solo tour. The Morrissey one came easy, I'd always wanted to cover some of my favorite Moz deep cuts -- but since then it does involve some brain-wringing.

I've said before regarding writing books and writing music: writing books is like good, honest manual labor. Like stacking wood or something. You know how much you have to do and how much you've already done. So you just steadily work. Songwriting, on the other hand, requires long listless hours sitting on a couch, strumming a guitar, staring into space and humming to yourself. In that sense, it mostly resembles unemployment.

Thanks for the kind words!

russjames25 karma

Hi Colin! Bought the new album yesterday! Love it!

Will there be an EP similar to "Long Live the King" for this album?


colinmeloy55 karma

There are still some songs leftover, all of which I think could've been good contenders for the record, but we felt it was already a bit overlong. So yeah: you'll be hearing more music from the WATWWABW sessions in due time.

The_Waiting23 karma

Hey! Two questions, feel free to answer one, or both would be nice. :-)

1) What is your favorite book/what are you reading now?

2) What's on your guitar's pedalboard?

Really appreciate you taking the time out to do this. Love the new album!

colinmeloy72 karma

1) I'm reading a few things: "Kaputt" by Curzio Malaparte, which is great. I'm reading "At The Mountains of Madness" at my son's behest, who is, probably unadvisedly, a massive Lovecraft fan. And just finishing up Simon Vance's reading the audiobook of Dickens' "Bleak House," which is incredible.

2) My guitar pedalboard is sort of laughably simple. I run my electric straight to my amp, which is a Carr Viceroy. My acoustics run direct to a couple Phoenix preamps/EQs. I've got a few delays for psychedelic jamz, should they ever materialize, but that's it. Chris Funk's, however, looks like the dashboard of a Soviet-era moonrocket.

feverdown21 karma

Hi, Colin,

How likely are we to see the following any time soon:

1.) Another (less expensive) release of The Unfortunate Demise of Whitley Rackham? An ebook perhaps?

2.) A new live DVD

3.) Another live solo album (I NEED a quality acoustic version of "Lake Song" and "Why Would I" in my life!)

colinmeloy45 karma

Oh man, The Unfortunate Demise... was a bit of a lark. It was actually written for a ghost story themed party, never meant to see the light of day. I can't imagine it would it exist in any other form.

New Live DVD: perhaps! We have some a full extant filmed show of the Hazards of Love, in all its glory, except I remember being nervous about the cameras and muffing a few lines -- but that's nothing new for a Decemberists show. I would imagine it might eventually see the light of day.

Solo live album: perhaps perhaps perhaps. Though I tend to think that one might be enough.