Answers: River Rising

Andrew Sheivachman

Name: Will SheffAge: 31Hometown: Austin, TexasAchievement: Singer-songwriter and guitarist for renowned indie rock at Okkervil River. Was a rock critic and wrote a music column for file sharing site Audiogalaxy, before it was shut down. Graduated from Macalester College in Minnesota. Got into a knife fight once.Background: performing on a co-headling tour with The New Pornographers in support of his band’s hit 2007 album, The Stage Names

We’re doing a tour with The New Pornographers. They’re a great, great band, fun people, it’s been really good.

We’ve been around for 10 years, it’s been a really slow build, working real hard. I think there is a sense of people getting more of an awareness that we’re out there, and it always feels nice to have people appreciate what you’re doing.

Going into The Stage Names, I don’t know if anxiety is what I felt; I think I just felt a knowledge that certain people were going to respond to it in ways that were outside of my control and irrelevant to how the record ends up being. I knew that certain people were going to say that it was really good regardless of whether it was, and I knew that certain people were going to backlash against it.

You just kind of have these little guidelines in your head about things you’re going to focus on and things you are going to focus away on. And once you have those guidelines in place it’s not hard to sort of follow right along.

It’s not that I felt external pressure writing The Stage Names; I felt internal pressure from myself to not fit a certain image of me that I felt like I was seeing reflected back from people. And that specific image was a sort of, taking myself overly serious, overly dark pretentious artiste thing that was making me feel a little gross, and I just wanted to clear the air and make a record that expressed a certain amount of humor and a certain amount of joy and excitement.

I don’t think that if I hadn’t felt that way, I would have made that different of a record. I think that another part of it was that I was feeling like expressing those kinds of feelings at that particular moment in my life.

The line that some people have to worry about not crossing is feeling like they’re working for other people instead of working for themselves. I just want to get paid for what I would do anyway, rather than do something for pay. But I don’t think we ever had to cross that line (because we’re) on a great indie label and feel surrounded by friends. It’s made things a lot more fun, and it’s easier to keep doing things.

Just sitting down and writing and just bullshitting your way through some paragraphs has always been easy for me, it’s easier than some writing for me, actually. In songwriting, you have to very carefully choose your words and very deliberately organize them and also choose your sound. It’s a lot harder.

We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and one thing I learned from being ignored for eight of those 10 years is to not fucking really care very much.

It’s sometimes easy to get caught up and start to care, but the thing to do is focus on what’s fun for you, and as long as you are looking at your own enjoyment and what you find fun, I don’t think it’s too dangerous getting caught up in anxiety or anything like that.

When I was doing Don’t Fall In Love With Whatever You See, our first record, I didn’t know who was going to hear that record. That’s a different place to be coming from, because you’re just thinking, “Does anybody notice if a tree falls in the woods and doesn’t make a sound?”