Decemberists Get Religion

Portland quintet records third album in a church

By |
On the heels of the July release of The Tain EP, the Decemberists spent August in a Baptist church in their native Portland, Oregon, tracking new songs for their third record. Produced by Death Cab for Cutie guitarist Chris Walla, the tentatively titled The Infanta is due out in the spring on Kill Rock Stars.

The album will be the hyper-literate indie folkers' third full-length (plus two EPs) in the span of four years. The title track is about "the coronation procession for a child Spanish princess," explains songwriter Colin Meloy. Another track, "The Buxmoll," deals with male prostitution in downtown Portland.

The Infanta continues the band's evolution from the acoustic guitar-based 5 Songs EP (2001) through the symphony of accordion, glockenspiel, pedal steel and "tin toys" showcased on The Tain, a five-part song suite based on an Irish folk cycle.

"On 5 Songs and the first record, we were sort of going on default settings: these are the instruments we have, and this is how we're going to play," says Meloy. "As we've gotten closer as bandmates, we've really started to flesh out a better sound. On this record, a lot of the emphasis is going to be on the instrumentations themselves.

Meloy's lyric-writing also received a jolt from his experience penning The Replacements' Let It Be, his non-fiction chronicle of the seminal 1984 indie rock album. "I had a renewed vigor for writing songs," he says of immersing himself in the ramshackle mind of the young Paul Westerberg, "and writing really out-of-control, over-the-top, imaginative ramblings."