Okkervil River is an indie rock band from Austin, Texas. Formed in 1998, the band takes its name from a short story by Russian author Tatyana Tolstaya. They self-released their first album, Stars Too Small to Use, which led them to the South by Southwest music festival. After recording their first album in a garage, they signed with Jagjaguwar. Okkervil River continued by releasing four more albums, including critically lauded concept album Black Sheep Boy.
After a period of touring for Black Sheep Boy, Okkervil River followed up with The Stage Names. The album sold 10,000 in its opening week in the United States. The group released a free covers album, Golden Opportunities Mixtape from their live performances.
The band has garnered positive critical reception. Especially noted are each song's lyrics, intricate instrumentation, and thematic albums. In addition, they were recently featured on the talk show Late Night with Conan O'Brien and have performed with high profile bands such as The Decemberists, The New Pornographers, and Lou Reed.
Okkervil River released their most recent album The Stand Ins on September 9th, 2008. They are promoting the release with a series of cover songs from the album on YouTube by people they've met as a band.
Okkervil River's founding members became friends in high school in Meriden, New Hampshire, and after parting ways for college moved to Austin, Texas to live together and start a band. The band consisted of singer-songwriter Will Sheff, Zach Thomas on bass and mandolin, and Seth Warren on drums. Their first gig was at Steamboat in Austin on January 11, 1999.
Bedroom EP and Stars Too Small to Use
In 1998, the group self-released their first disc, Bedroom EP. Over the course of two weekends in the summer of 1999, they recorded a seven song self-released album titled Stars Too Small to Use, with recording engineer Jeff Hoskins.
Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See and Down the River of Golden Dreams
The band met recording engineer and producer Brian Beattie at their SXSW showcase on March 18, 2000 and soon agreed to make a record together. They spent much of the rest of that year working on Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See. Warren moved to Berkeley, California in December and was replaced on drums by Mark Pedini.
By the time of that year's SXSW festival, Okkervil River had received interest in their new record from the Bloomington, Indiana-based record label Jagjaguwar. The record was released on Jagjaguwar on January 22, 2002.
One year later the band traveled to San Francisco and reunited with Warren to record their third album at Tiny Telephone with engineer Scott Solter at the console. Jagjaguwar released Down the River of Golden Dreams on September 2, 2003.
In 2003, Pedini left the band to pursue his graphic design work, leaving Okkervil River without a drummer for that year's SXSW. They invited Travis Nelsen, fresh off a tour filling in on drums for sister labelmates Secretly Canadian's Swearing at Motorists, to perform with them. He soon became the band's full-time drummer. The next year, during a long bout of touring, the band added keyboardist and lap-steel player Howard Draper as a fifth member.
Black Sheep Boy, The Stage Names and "The Stand Ins"
In August 2004, the band began recording with Beattie again, finally putting the finishing touches on their third full-length album, Black Sheep Boy in November. It was released on April 5, 2005. As a result of the album's overwhelming success, Okkervil River followed up with an EP entitled Black Sheep Boy Appendix on November 22, 2005. This was the first recording with Draper, horn and keyboardist Scott Brackett, guitarist Brian Cassidy, and touring bassist Pat Pestorius, who eventually replaced Zach Thomas in the band.
On April 17, 2006, Okkervil River signed with Virgin/EMI in Europe. The label re-released Black Sheep Boy and its follow-up Black Sheep Boy Appendix as a double disc on April 28, 2006. Jagjaguwar eventually followed suit, releasing the Definitive Edition with extra songs and videos.
The Stage Names, their fourth full-length studio album (produced again by Beattie), was released on August 7, 2007. The disc features the solidified line-up that toured extensively on Black Sheep Boy and the Black Sheep Boy Appendix, with Cassidy replacing Draper who joined Shearwater. The album was met with critical acclaim and debuted at number 62 on the Billboard 200 with 10,000 copies sold.
Okkervil River released their fifth album The Stand Ins on September 9th 2008. The album was conceived as a sequel to The Stage Names. The album charted at #42 with 11,000 copies sold, according to the Billboard 200. On December 12, 2007, the band freely released a nine-song mixtape entitled Golden Opportunities Mixtape via their website. These recordings, along with the upcoming appendix, are the first to feature contributions from new touring keyboardist, Justin Sherburn, who joined the band in November 2007.
At a show in Wellington, New Zealand on 5 March 2008 it was announced that guitarist Brian Cassidy would be stepping down from the band as a full-time touring member. Shortly after this on 12 March 2008, it was subsequently announced that Cassidy's temporary replacement would be Charles Bissell of The Wrens for their spring and summer tours. In the autumn of 2008 Lauren Gurgiolo, singer and songwriter of the Austin, Texas band The Dialtones, joined as a permanent member, playing electric guitar, mandolin and banjo.
On April 21, 2009, the "Pop Lie" single was released backed with the B-Sides "Millionaire" and "Pop Lie (One Man Band Version)".
In 2001, Meiburg and Sheff founded a second band known as Shearwater. Originally an outlet for Meiburg songs and some Sheff songs that didn't fit the Okkervil mold, Shearwater has gradually evolved into a full fledged band. The band's 2006 release, Palo Santo (sans Sheff's vocals, but including his musical input), has seen Meiburg receive great critical acclaim. The groups still share many fans, and, while on tour together in 2004, they released a limited edition split-CD entitled Sham Wedding/Hoax Funeral. In 2008, Meiburg left Okkervil River to focus exclusively on Shearwater.
- On April 30, 2007, the band played at the grand opening of New York's Highline Ballroom at the request of Okkervil River fan Lou Reed, who headlined the show.
- On July 14, 2007, the band played the Capitol Center for the Arts in Concord, New Hampshire. This was the first time Will Sheff had played live in New Hampshire, where the band was originally formed.
- On August 28, 2007, the band performed "Our Life Is Not a Movie or Maybe" on NBC's Late Night with Conan O'Brien.
- On March 12, 2008, Okkervil River performed as the backup band for legendary Austin musician, and psychedelic pioneer Roky Erickson at the Austin Music Awards.
Biography from Wikipedia