With Radiohead returning to the stage in less than three weeks, the band officially ignited fervor for the band’s upcoming album by sending mysterious leaflets in the mail to U.K. fans Saturday.
“Sing the song of sixpence that goes ‘Burn the witch,'” the leaflet said while adding ominously, “We know where you live,” hinting at a mass surveillance theme. The tan paper was also furnished with an imprint of Radiohead’s bear logo as well as a variation of the oily artwork that was recently posted on the band’s social media accounts.
It’s long been rumored that Radiohead’s new album, the long-awaited follow-up to 2011’s The King of Limbs would arrive in the first half of 2016 and perhaps prior to the band embarking on their summer tour, where they are expected to introduce their new music to audiences.
— Si (@SiTume) April 30, 2016
“Burn the Witch” refers to an Radiohead unreleased song that is at least 13 years old; the first mention of the track appeared in Stanley Donwood’s art for 2003’s Hail to the Thief. In 2005, “Burn the Witch” reemerged on a chalkboard bearing the song titles of potential tracks destined for the band’s 2007 LP In Rainbows.
Thom Yorke teased performing the song during a few concerts in the lead-up and wake of In Rainbows, but a full version of the track has never been played. However, in February 2007, Yorke posted the song’s lyrics on Radiohead’s Dead Air Space site, including the line “Sing the song of sixpence that goes ‘Burn the witch.'”
The band has a history of resurrecting old songs for new albums, as studio versions of songs like “Nude,” “Last Flowers” and “Morning Mr. Magpie” have been released by Radiohead years after they first appeared in live sets.
As fans on Reddit noted, depending on the year, April 30th or May 1st happens to be Walpurgisnacht, or “Witches Night” in German lore. Further fueling speculation, Sunday, May 1st, also marks International Dawn Chorus Day; Radiohead named their recent limited liability partnership (LLP) Dawn Chorus.
Radiohead kick off their 2016 tour May 20th in Amsterdam, which marks the band’s first concert since November 2012. In July, the band will head to North America for New York and Los Angeles concerts mixed in with headlining festival performances at Lollapalooza, Osheaga and Outside Lands.
The band also recently transferred the copyright of their pre-In Rainbows catalog from Parlaphone to XL.