A decade between albums is beyond an eternity in the world of music. “Down in the Weeds, Where the World Once Was,” Bright Eyes’ first album in nine years, finally dropped in 2020.
“We never broke up,” multi-instrumentalist Nate Wolcott said while calling from Syracuse, New York. “We just took a break. It was healthy for us. We had a lot to get out of our system.”
Singer-songwriter Conor Oberst, who launched Bright Eyes as a bedroom project in 1995, released a couple of solo albums, which he toured behind. Oberst also formed Better Oblivion Community Center, an underheralded side project with Phoebe Bridgers.
Wolcott focused on “The Stand” soundtrack he recorded with fellow Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis. Wolcott also spent considerable time on a Bright Eyes album reissue project that involved the production of nine companion EPs, which featured Bridgers and such indie darlings as M. Ward and Waxahatchee.
“Mike and I had our hands full,” Wolcott said. “It was a great period.”
Wolcott also toured the world with the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
“Going out and playing with those guys was just amazing,” Wolcott said. “I had the greatest time. Incredible experiences throughout all of those years, but sooner or later we had to get back with Bright Eyes.”
Oberst, Wolcott and Mogis started work on “Down in the Weeds” in 2018. “It took us quite a while to write and record this album,” Wolcott said. “When we finished it, the pandemic hit. We’re so happy to finally be on the road with this record.”
The band’s 10th album is a logical follow-up to 2011’s “The People’s Key.”
Much of the new album is quirky, poignant and some of the best songs are melancholy, just like the best of Bright Eyes albums.
“It’s a Bright Eyes album,” Wolcott said. “You hear that immediately.”
It’ll be curious to see if Bright Eyes donates its time for shows helping raise political awareness prior to the midterm elections in November.
“If you have any ideas about those sort of events, let me know,” Wolcott said. “You know we’re up for that kind of stuff.”
Bright Eyes was part of the Vote for Change Tour in 2004 on a bill with Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band as well as Michael Stipe. The liberal rockers backed former Secretary of State and Sen. John Kerry who lost his bid for the presidency to incumbent George W. Bush.
“It’s funny since I just saw a photo of myself and (late E Street Band member) Clarence Clemons from that tour,” Wolcott said. “We did all that we could to support (Kerry). It just didn’t work out. It was depressing.”
But Wolcott was hit even harder when Donald Trump became U.S. president.
“I was on tour with the (Red Hot) Chili Peppers in Amsterdam when I heard the news,” Wolcott said. “I just cried. I’m hoping things get better, not worse politically. It’s going to be a fascinating year.”
Don’t expect Bright Eyes, which appears Thursday at the Knitting Factory, to take such a long break between albums since they have material for the next album.
“Nothing is planned, but I think we’ll be back much sooner with the follow-up to this album,” Wolcott said.
Bright Eyes appears Thursday, June 16, at the Knitting Factory, at 919 W. Sprague Ave. Hurray for the Riff Raff will open. Tickets are $39.50. The show time is 8 p.m. For more information, call (509) 244-3279 or visit www.sp.knittingfactory.com.
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