During the photo shoot for this interview, the photographer asked me to talk to Will Sheff—so he would look more natural, I think. I started by asking him about what, if anything, he misses most about Austin, the city he lived in for nearly a decade before coming to Brooklyn in 2007. The food, he said. He doesn’t think we’ve made quite the strides we think we have where Mexican food and barbecue are concerned.
This, I would learn when we continued our interview on the phone a few days later, is but one of the many strong and potentially unpopular opinions Sheff is willing to share. He’s openly critical of recent trends in indie rock and the culture as a whole, but he’s also refreshingly willing to step up and offer what he sees as a solution.
The Silver Gymnasium is the seventh Okkervil River record in just over a decade, and it’s the first one that’s comprised of songs about Sheff’s personal experiences—specifically about his childhood, growing up in the small town of Meriden, New Hampshire. Admittedly, it might be difficult to imagine how another indie-rock singer making a record about his own life could be a solution to anything, but it’s also hard to argue with him. Sheff is thoughtful and deliberate about how he uses his art to interact with the world around him, always questioning his own decisions even more so than anyone else’s. Also, he made fun of BuzzFeed, so that was pretty cool, too.