Okkervil River Prep Career-Spanning Live LP 'A Dream in the Dark' - Rolling Stone
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Okkervil River Prep Career-Spanning Live LP ‘A Dream in the Dark’

“I miss playing music so much,” frontman Will Sheff says. “I would be beyond thrilled, at this point, to relive even the absolute crappiest gig of my career”

Okkervil River Prep Career-Spanning Live LP 'A Dream in the Dark'

Okkervil River announced a career-spanning live album, 'A Dream in the Dark,' out on Friday.

Shervin Lainez*

Okkervil River will release a career-spanning live album A Dream in the Dark: Two Decades of Okkervil River, out digitally on Friday and October 30th on vinyl.

The four-LP collection contains more than two hours of songs that range from 2006 to 2019. “I’ve always collected and cataloged every live recording of my band that I could, even from the earliest point when nobody was coming to the shows — it’s part of a kind of archival mania that turned out to serve me well,” frontman Will Sheff tells Rolling Stone. 

A Dream in the Dark is a condensed version of a massive digital series of the same name, which includes 20 hours of music. “I wanted it to be sleek and fun and satisfying, a complement to our studio albums,” Sheff says of the collection. “I wanted to include all the songs people always ask for live, but I went for versions that felt like exciting upgrades to the studio versions or drastically different approaches. Over the years, we’ve had a ton of fun re-imagining the songs completely and letting them breathe and mutate; I wanted to include a lot of that stuff since this felt like a rare opportunity to put more than one arrangement of my songs out into the streaming and vinyl universe. So in a way, this is like greatest hits and a rarities record that shows you a quite different side of the band than is on our albums.”

The band will perform a livestreamed show on October 29th at 9 p.m. ET where fans can request songs beforehand. They began Rarities & Requests as a touring format in 2017, but this will be their first-ever streaming performance. You can hear a stream of A Dream in the Dark below.

“We never did a ‘just yelling them out’ approach because that’s chaotic and tends to reward the most extroverted and the drunkest audience members (and there’s only so many times you can do ‘Freebird’),” Sheff cracks. “So we have people submit requests beforehand and we give them three choices, which get weighed differently. With this streaming show, there’s an added filter in the voting system, which is that votes from towns we’ve never played before — including places all over the world — are getting weighted more heavily in order to give people who have never seen a Rarities & Requests show before more of a voice.”

While quarantining at home in Los Angeles, Sheff tries to stick to a routine, hanging out with his dog, Larry, much of the time. He also writes, meditates, exercises and cooks. “I find that having a quite structured day helps me keep some of the submerged dread of quarantine and the election at a low simmer so it doesn’t bubble over as often,” he says. “I’m also really grateful that I stopped drinking a year ago — that’s worked wonders at helping me rein in runaway anxiety. I’m trying to just keep feeling and writing and not letting my heart close in the face of all of this very challenging bullshit.”

Like many musicians, he’s found it difficult to be unable to tour, but he’s thankful that he wasn’t working on a new album when the pandemic hit. “It’s a scary time for working musicians who were already so preyed upon and devalued and undermined by streaming services,” he says. “And now so many small venues are closing, and so many more just hanging on by their fingernails. I’m worried a bloodbath is coming. And we’re all pretending there’s going to be some ‘normal’ to come back to, even though we don’t really have any evidence to back that up.”

“I’ll say this: I’ve always believed that the communal togetherness of musical performance is as sacred as any church or mystical rite,” he adds. “But now I feel the truth of that more keenly than ever before since there’s nothing left to take for granted. I miss playing music so much, and I understand with so much greater depth what an honor it was to stand on a stage. I would be beyond thrilled, at this point, to relive even the absolute crappiest gig of my career.”

A Dream in the Dark: Two Decades of Okkervil River Tracklist

1. Westfall [Northampton, 2006]
2. No Key, No Plan [Ann Arbor, 2006]
3. Kansas City [Northampton, 2006]
4. Listening to Otis Redding at Home During Christmas [Austin, 2007]
5. For Real [Austin, 2007]
6. It Ends With a Fall [Richmond, 2008]
7. Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe [Richmond, 2008]
8. Unless It’s Kicks [Rees-Haldern, 2008]
9. It Was My Season [Minneapolis, 2008]
10. Down Down the Deep River [Bozeman, 2013]
11. Lost Coastlines [Bozeman, 2013]
12. A Stone [New York City, 2015]
13. Another Radio Song [New York City, 2015]
14. Okkervil River R.I.P. [Brussels, 2016]
15. Judey on a Street [Brussels, 2016]
16. So Come Back, I Am Waiting [Brussels, 2016]
17. Okkervil River Song [Seattle, 2017]
18. The Surgeon Above the Arbor [Seattle, 2017]
19. Skiptracer [Stockholm, 2018]
20. Black [London, 2018]
21. Pink-Slips [Stockholm, 2018]
22. External Actor [Cambridge, 2019]
23. Mary on a Wave [Washington, DC, 2019]
24. Your Past Life as a Blast [Cambridge, 2019]

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