In April, Colin Meloy’s releasing his first full-length solo album, the 17-track Colin Meloy Sings Live! (the Morrissey and Shirley Collins collections were EPs). We realize that’s a long time to wait for Decemberists fanatics, so this week’s Drop offers a sneak peak of the collection via a triumphal take on Picaresque’s “We Both Go Down Together,” recorded live at the El Rey Theater in Los Angeles. Since we had Meloy in our radar (and vice versa), we thought to ask him a little bit about the song as well as what it’s like keeping track of all those words in a live setting.
What inspired the narrative behind the song? It’s a prequel to “Leslie Anne Levine”?
I didn’t set out to write a prequel — it happened that the characters in “We Both Go Down Together,” as they floated into view, were taking on peculiar similarities to the peripheral (and dead) figures that the titular Leslie spends four minutes cursing. A wealthy cad, a ruined naif, and a bit about a non-consensual tryst. So I had it in my head that the impregnated mother of Leslie, standing there over the cliffs as her sweetheart/rapist attempts to convince her to commit suicide with him, politely declines, pushes him over the edge and heads off into the sunset, or at least into her fate of giving birth in a ditch and dying.
You’re obviously careful about your lyrics/word choices. Live, do you try to stick to what you’ve put to paper or are you fine with variations?
The only times where I vary from the original script is when I forget the words, which happens with disturbing frequency. I try to pass it off as creative extemporization but I don’t think anyone’s buying it. I rely on the kindness of the front row for prompting…
Colin Meloy Sings Live! is out 4/8 on Kill Rock Stars. He goes on a U.S. solo tour 4/7. Check out the dates at KRS.