WITH THE exception of Electric Picnic, the only Irish show the great Okkervil River will play this year is in the Róisín Dubh on Monday September 7 at 9pm.
Combining folk-rock with alternative rock, Okkervil River, in the words of allmusic.com “create a particular visionary sound, strongly founded on dark and profound lyrics and on chaotic visions of patterned sound compounds”.
Okkervil River began life when Will Robison Sheff (vocals, guitar ) and Seth Warren were in high school in Meriden, New Hampshire.
“My first encounter with him was sitting next to him on a school bus,” recalls Sheff. “He was eating Handi-Snacks and had clear braces, so the artificial cheese was all caught up in there with the crumby crackers.”
In 1998 on a summer break from university, the pair reunited. Sheff had been writing songs and Warren was drumming. Along with bassist Zach Thomas, they decided to form Okkervil River.
“Zach, Seth, and I reunited in New Hampshire for a few days in the summer,” said Sheff, “and formed a band called My Wet, that existed for less than 24 hours and played one glorious gig at an open mic night.
“College droned on. I relocated to Austin, as did Seth, and Okkervil River was born. The name comes from a story by Tatyana Tolstaya, and it’s a real river outside of St Petersburg. At our first gig, they misspelled our name as Okkerut River. Later, Electric Lounge advertised us as Occerville River.”
In 1999 the band released its first album, Stars Too Small To Use. It impressed an ornithologist and songwriter called Jonathan Meiburg (later of Shearwater fame ) who joined the band. In 2002 Okkervil River recorded its first ‘proper’ album, Don’t Fall In Love With Everyone You See, but around this time Warren decided to leave.
“We ended up choosing Travis Nelsen as our new drummer,” said Sheff. “Travis was a corn-fed Wisconsin kid who’d been playing in punk rock and bar bands since he was 14.”
Okkervil River began regular touring and recorded Down The River Of Golden Dreams “in a breathless one-month sprint” in 2003. Touring took its toll and Thomas left to look after his new born child. The next album Black Sheep Boy was recorded with Zach and later Howard Draper, who Sheff describes as “an excellent musician and wonderful fellow who now plays in Shearwater”.
A permanent bassist was found in Austin native Patrick Pestorius while coronet player Scott Brackett and guitar teacher Brian Cassidy joined the fold.
“We had turned into a six-piece band, fast and close friends, with me as the only original band-member,” said Sheff.
Since then Okkervil River have recorded the acclaimed albums The Stage Names and last year’s The Stand Ins.
Tickets are available from the Róisín Dubh and Zhivago.