Images & Video by Jan-Willem Dikkers
“Life is the thing that makes itself through the music all the time.
Just every single moment of life shapes multiple,
infinite facets of the layers of everything, musical or nonmusical.”
— Adrianne Lenker
Big Thief is an indie rock band based in Brooklyn, New York. The band features frontwoman Adrianne Lenker on guitar and vocals, guitarist Buck Meek, bassist Max Oleartchik and drummer James Krivchenia. Their first album, Masterpiece (2016), was met with high praise. Big Thief’s newest album, Capacity, is out now via Saddle Creek.
“There is a darker darkness and a lighter light,” says Big Thief singer and guitarist Adrianne Lenker of the band’s newest album, Capacity. The album, their second release on the tail of last year’s debut Masterpiece, is a riveting examination of what Lenker calls “the world within,” the process of self-acceptance and the feminine side.
Where are you from?
Adrianne Lenker: Brooklyn, New York.
When did you start making music?
AL: Well, we all started making music individually at different times. We all started pretty young when we were kids, and started making music together in 2015 after we all gathered in New York and met there.
And who did you listen to growing up?
Buck Meek: I listened to a lot of Django Reinhardt and Lightnin Hopkins. Radiohead.
James Krivchenia: Jazz.
Max Oleartchik Keith Jarrett.
AL: Michael Hedges, Pat Metheny.
JK: Limp Bizkit.
How and when did you decide this is what you wanted to do?
AL: I don’t know if there was ever a moment of decision. It just kind of always felt like the only thing that I could see myself or feel myself doing.
JK: It wasn’t a specific time. We were just playing a lot of music, and I felt good about focusing most of my time on that and seeing what happens.
Born in Egypt, Raffi Cavoukian, better known by the mononym Raffi, is a Canadian singer-lyricist and author best known best for his children’s music, which was popular in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.
BM: I was obsessed with Raffi as a young boy, and from age 16 on I wanted to be a children’s musician. And that transformed.
AL: It would be cool to be a children’s musician but as a child.
“The only thing that I know to do if I do want to write is to sort of get myself out of the way. Be silent and still and hopefully connect to myself. I feel writing is more about listening.”
— Adrianne Lenker
What life event has affected you the most and what role has that played in your music?
MO: For me, it’s life as an event.
AL: That’s a really good answer because life is the thing that makes itself through the music all the time. Just every single moment of life shapes multiple, infinite facets of the layers of everything, musical or nonmusical. It all makes its way in.
What is the inspiration for the name of your recent album, Capacity?
AL: I wrote the song “Capacity” after a dream. I woke up at my sister’s house in the woods and basically just wrote down the dream. Every verse is a part of the dream. I took the word from the chorus, “Capacity.” And it just felt right to call the record that.
Tell me about the recording process and life at the studio?
JK: We recorded over a month at Outlier, which is a studio in upstate New York. And we did a handful of other songs in New York City at Figure 8 in Brooklyn and Lazy Lounge in Manhattan. We were very isolated. We made the bulk record in the winter and learned the songs and did the album.
AL: We put ourselves in that space with the time to do it and focus, and we just worked at it every day.
In the song “Pretty Things,” what do you mean by, “There’s a woman inside of me, there’s one inside of you too?”
AL: Speaking to the feminine energy and recognizing the feminine in all things—as well as the masculine—but this is just focusing on the voice of the mother. There’s a lot I’d like to leave unexplained, actually, because as I’m attempting to explain it I realize I could write many pages about it. But at this instant, I don’t think there’s any words I could say that wouldn’t maybe diminish what it could mean to a lot of people.
“I was obsessed with Raffi as a young boy, and from age 16 on I wanted to be a children’s musician.”
— Buck Meek
What is your writing process like? Or do you have a process?
AL: Not a formulaic process. It’s always different, but I could just say that the only thing that I know to do if I do want to write is to sort of get myself out of the way. Be silent and still and hopefully connect to myself. I feel writing is more about listening.
Where are your album art cover images from?
AL: Those are old family photos.
Who would you most like to collaborate with and why?
Destiny Nicole Frasqueri, better known by her stage name Princess Nokia, is an American rapper of Afro-Puerto Rican descent, who gained online popularity through songs such as “G.O.A.T” and “Tomboy,” before releasing her mixtape 1992 Deluxe in September 2017.
MO: I’d like to collaborate with Princess Nokia. Really. We all saw the show.
AL: Joni Mitchell.
JK: Yeah, it would be fun to have Joni Mitchell produce a song or our record.
AL: Oh wow!
BM: I’d like to work with Neil Young. He’s really fearless.
MO: Twain, an artist and friend of ours.
BM: Fearless artists.
MO: Luke Temple.
What are your interests and passions outside of music?
BM: Bicycles and backpacking in the mountains. Swimming in the river.
AL: Martial arts.
MO: Climbing trees.
“I’d like to collaborate with Princess Nokia. Really. We all saw the show.”
— Max Oleartchik
What are your favorite books, film and music right now?
BM: My favorite book is Letters To A Young Poet by Rilke, right now.
JK: Saw this movie Cameraperson a few days ago. Thought it was really special.
AL: Women Who Run With the Wolves by Clarissa Estés is what I’ve been reading. I’ve been listening to Julianna Barwick a lot.
MO: I listen to John Luther Adams a lot.
AL: I really like Terence McKenna as well, recently.
JK: I’ve been enjoying the new Twin Peaks season.
AL: Coffee. Water.