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Indie rock band Big Thief talks Berklee, Boston, and being vulnerable

Since the release of their first album, 2016’s “Masterpiece,” Big Thief’s intimate, folk-based rock has taken them around the world on tour.
Since the release of their first album, 2016’s “Masterpiece,” Big Thief’s intimate, folk-based rock has taken them around the world on tour. (Eva Maldonado)

Though all four members of indie rock band Big Thief attended Berklee College of Music at some point, it wasn’t until after graduation that they found each other — quite literally — walking the streets of Brooklyn. Since the release of their first album, 2016’s “Masterpiece,” Big Thief’s intimate, folk-based rock has taken them around the world on tour, moving audiences by balancing lyrical vulnerability with graceful restraint. They released their critically acclaimed second album, “Capacity,” in June 2017, and performed at Pitchfork Music Festival on July 20, where all four members sat down for an interview with the Globe.

Q. In terms of your formal music training at Berklee, what do you find yourselves coming back to — or rebelling against?


Adrianne Lenker (guitar, vocals): I think most of it for me is definitely rebelling against, or forgetting. I kind of realized that there’s so much more in music that you can’t really be taught. That you just have to find your own way. I got a lot out of being there as well, and made a lot of good friends.

James Krivchenia (drums): There is like the “school extreme pressure” part, and that kinda kills it for a lot of people, and that definitely almost killed it for me many times. But there’s also tons of little beans of awesomeness all around. You just like walk by a door, and you’re like “Oh my God, that’s the best drummer I’ve ever heard in my life,” and it’s just a little 17-year-old.

Adrianne Lenker.Anthony Williams

Q. Which Berklee teachers made a difference in your lives?

Buck Meek (guitar): Dave Tronzo changed my life as a guitar player. He was really big for me.

Krivchenia: Susan Roberts was one of my faves.

Lenker: Abby Zocher.

Max Oleartchik (bass): Same here [Abby].

Q. Is there anything you miss about Boston?


Meek: It’s so beautiful — I miss the fall there, I miss riding my bicycle around. I used to live in JP, and riding my bike to JP down the Southwest Corridor. Or when I lived in Cambridge, riding my bike across the Mass. Ave. bridge.

Krivchenia: Biking is definitely, probably number one for me.

Meek: And I miss all the schools. I used to sneak into classes, like in the art schools and MIT, just to sit in. Being surrounded by so many driven people I think was my favorite part about it.

Q. The process of recording “Capacity” seemed to be very holistic. Could you talk about favorite memories or moments that really stand out to you about that time?

Meek: Max built a gigantic bonfire every night. At one point it was almost this tall [gestures above head] with wood.

Q. What is it about the fire?

Oleartchik: I think it’s life. I think it’s like the source of life. Also when we play music into it, like around the fire, I feel like the acoustics of fire is something else.

Lenker: It absorbs everything into it. And it kinda feels like your thoughts don’t bounce back at you, like it can all just go into it.

Meek: It’s like the best compressor on the market.

Q. For songwriter Adrianne: Once you put a song out into the world, it’s kind of on its own, it has the potential to develop infinite meanings to whoever listens to it. How hard is it to offer up pieces of your life to strangers?


Lenker: Sometimes I feel more vulnerable than other times, sometimes it feels scarier and harder than other times. I do want to push more into things that feel scariest. Like, in a way, I think those are the things that I want to bring to light more, the things that are the most tender. Because oftentimes I feel like the things we can all resonate with collectively, like the reason so many people will love a certain song or certain record, is because when you get down to it, we all experience a lot of similar things. And music can be a binding force in that way. So yeah, I do have an interest in continuing to excavate my own . . . whatever that fragility is.

Q. Do you have advice for young artists who are trying to be vulnerable?

Krivchenia: Find a community that feels safe to share your thing in, and really go for it. You don’t have to just shout into the ether, you know?

Lenker: And be gentle with yourself. Go at a pace that feels good, and it’s OK too if there’s a moment where it doesn’t feel good to share something.

Big Thief will play the Paradise Rock Club on Oct. 18.

Eva Maldonado can be reached at eva.maldonado@globe.com.