Adri­anne Lenker

THE LEADER OF RIS­ING IN­DIE BAND BIG THIEF SPINS BIG, UN­WIELDY EMO­TIONS INTO AN IN­TI­MATE SOLO AL­BUM

Newsweek International - - CULTURE -

ORI­GIN STORY The 27-year-old Adri­anne Lenker was born into a re­li­gious cult and spent her early child­hood liv­ing out of a blue van with her par­ents. She wrote her first song at age 8, was gig­ging in bars by 12 and recorded her first al­bum at 13, with her dad as man­ager. “Who’s formed their artis­tic vi­sion when they’re 13? I was just a kid,” says Lenker. (Her real solo al­bum—the first one she counts, any­way— was 2014’s Hours Were the Birds.) She skipped high school and got her GED at 16. Af­ter a stint at the Berklee Col­lege of Mu­sic, Lenker moved to New York and formed Big Thief in 2015.

She’s im­pres­sively pro­lific: In less than three years, she has made two al­bums with the band and her new solo record, ti­tled abysskiss. “I get scared of the songs dis­ap­pear­ing,” she says. “It feels good to record them—i don’t have to carry them around any­more.”

SOUNDS LIKE The songs on abysskiss quickly veer into cos­mic re­flec­tion, which is how con­ver­sa­tions with Lenker tend to go. Ten min­utes into the in­ter­view, she’s ex­press­ing her thoughts on the cer­tainty of death and the chaotic mir­a­cle of child­birth: “It’s re­ally in­tense—it’s bloody and it’s loud and it’s wild!” Her songs, de­liv­ered in a haunted mur­mur, are frag­ile-sound­ing and sparse. Big Thief uses ramshackle gui­tar fuzz to em­pha­size that ef­fect; abysskiss is so quiet, you can some­times hear back­ground noises from the stu­dio’s kitchen. “There’s a lot of space on the record,” says Lenker, whose solo al­bum re­lies on hushed arpeg­gios and idio­syn­cratic melodies, with most tracks recorded in just one or two takes.

The al­bum was writ­ten dur­ing a whirl­wind two years of tour­ing with Big Thief, in ho­tel rooms or in a “cor­ner of a venue af­ter sound check.” Per­haps it is be­cause of the child­hood spent on the road with her par­ents, but Lenker has no per­ma­nent ad­dress. In be­tween tour dates, she crashes with friends or lives in the band’s tour­ing van, in­ex­pli­ca­bly named “Bonnie.”

BIG THIEF’S BIG FANS Since its first al­bum, Mas­ter­piece, came out in 2016, the band has drawn praise from, among oth­ers, Jeff Tweedy, Carly Rae Jepsen and the Na­tional, which se­lected Big Thief as its open­ing act for tour dates ear­lier this year. “It’s very lux­u­ri­ous,” says Lenker of tour­ing with them. “It kind of feels like go­ing to Dis­ney­land.” —Z.S.

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