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Okkervil River Taking ‘Names’ On Fifth Album

On the heels of its melancholy 2004 breakout, “Black Sheep Boy,” indie rock outfit Okkervil River explores a more pop/rock-oriented sound on its fifth album, “The Stage Names.” Due Aug. 7 via Jagjaguwar, the nine-song set was penned while founder Will Sheff was living in Brooklyn last year, and recorded earlier this year in Austin, Texas.

“I felt that everything we were doing was going to be scrutinized a lot more this time, because of the success of ‘Black Sheep Boy,'” Sheff said. “But when I was writing ‘Black Sheep Boy,’ I wanted to roll around with it, and make it very dark and unsettling. I felt like if I did that again, I’d fall into the trap of repeating myself, where I would end up being a cartoon of myself. I wanted to write an album that was light and friendly, but still serious [this time.]”

Indeed, “The Stage Names,” is still characterized by Sheff’s literary-leaning lyrics but several new approaches were taken on this time around. “With ‘Black Sheep Boy,’ we wanted a rough sound and did a lot of the recording unrehearsed,” Sheff explains. “[This time], we rehearsed it every day in December. The overdubs we did were kept very minimal, and used only really to provide accents.”

And even though the album has already leaked online, Sheff is still feeling jittery in the last few weeks prior to its release. “You’ve finally gotten recognized after nine years, and then follow it up with something different. It is a bit unnerving. But, I think I had to do that artistically,” he says.

Okkervil River kick off a fall tour on Sept. 3 in San Diego and will cover the U.S. and Canada with Damien Jurado opening all dates.