Okkervil River Biography

Founded in 1998 by New Hampshire-based school friends Will Sheff (vocals/guitar), Zachary Thomas (bass/mandolin) and Seth Warren (drums), this US indie rock band made its recording debut later in the year with the Bedroom EP, which was quickly followed by the mini-album Stars Too Small To Use. These early releases established the Okkervil River (the name is taken from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya) sound, a compelling mixture of folk rock and alternative rock with insistent, organic melodies. Multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Meiburg (ex-Kingfisher) was added to the line-up at the end of 1999 and was present for the recording of the band’s follow-up, Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See. Released via the US independent label Jagjaguwar Records, the album saw a marked progression from the rough-hewed charm of the earlier releases, and on tracks such as ‘Red’ and ‘Westfall’ revealed a lyrical acuity that placed songwriter Sheff on a par with more established literary singer-songwriters.

Mark Pedini replaced Warren shortly after the recording of Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See was completed, and was in place to tour in support of the album. Warren returned to the line-up on a temporary basis to help record 2003’s Down The River Of Golden Dreams, which demonstrated a growing confidence and maturity in the song arrangements. Travis Nelsen replaced Pedini for 2005’s Black Sheep Boy, another fine collection that included two Tim Hardin covers (the title track and ‘A Stone’) alongside some excellent Sheff originals. The fruitfulness of the album sessions was apparent when a companion EP, Black Sheep Boy Appendix, was released shortly afterwards. The new material on the EP featured the first appearances on record by new members Howard Draper (bass), Scott Brackett (trumpet/keyboards), Brian Cassidy (guitar) and Patrick Pestorius (bass). The two releases were later compiled onto a double-disc by Jagjaguwar and the band’s new European licensee Virgin Records. Meiburg and Sheff are also active with their companion band Shearwater.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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