The Decemberists on life in Trump’s America, and the trouble with being a Morrissey fan

2018: "The US is in the hands of idiots" and "Morrissey is a terrible person"

The Decemberists‘ frontman Colin Meloy has spoken of how their new album ‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ looks to “celebrate the absurdity” of life under President Donald Trump.

Leaning towards a more synth-based sound inspired by their teenage love of the likes of New Order and Depeche Mode, the band’s acclaimed eighth album came out last week – and is currently sitting at No.5 in the UK midweek charts.

Renowned for their overtly political leanings in their songs, Meloy told NME that he was inspired by “finding the balance between rage and humour” since Donald Trump was elected US President in 2016.

“It celebrates the absurdity of our current predicaments,” Meloy told NME. “I think it really is a reflection of my outlook immediately post the 2016 election, where there was immediately this onset of despair. Like real despair. Real depression, and then sort of climbing out of it. Seeing other people feeling the same way, similarly climbing out of their hole and just witnessing events as they came along, rather than with tears. “

He continued: “There was almost like an ironic humour but with anger and those sort of go together. It was about finding the balance between real rage and humour – discovering the wild absurdity in it, but not being blithe.”

Reflecting on comedy writer Armando Iannucci’s recent comments to NME that politics had become ‘too ridiculous’ to be satirised, Meloy agreed that we were “living in the ironic world that’s been created by television, and somehow managing to even outstrip it.”

“For good or ill, the US is in the hands of idiots,” said Meloy. “I’m telling myself that this is a stress test on democracy. My great hope is that democracy will survive it, and if it doesn’t then it wasn’t really well-built to begin with. I guess we’ll see where it goes with from there. I think it’s a similar experience over there with the Brexit debacle.”

He went on: “There’s a lot of disparity and I think that social media has definitely lent a hand to that. Cable news is depicting everything as if it were a boxing match. They’ve just pushed people into their own sides and getting all their information from Facebook or Twitter where they’re able to curate their own input. We are all living in these homogeneous little bubbles. Each one of us echoing and getting our own viewpoints thrown back at us. I think it’s sort of terrifying and then on top of that we have a President who’s playing into that, and is creating divisions. It’s terrible. It’s awful. It’s shitty.”

Beyond the ‘stress test on democracy’, Meloy said that he wouldn’t be surprised if Donald Trump was elected for another term.

“Nothing is predictable,” he admitted. “If you want to go into it, if you’ve seen how the Republicans have responded to all the allegations and the major ethics issues with this administration with an indictment from Mueller, I’m cynical about anything actually happening.”

Meanwhile, we also asked Meloy about his current feelings on Morrissey. For his debut solo outing in 2005, he recorded six covers for the EP ‘Colin Meloy Sings Morrissey’. However, the frontman admitted that his fandom didn’t stretch as far as the former Smiths‘ singer’s recent work – or his string of controversial comments.

“I’m still absolutely invested, in a certain era of his work,” Meloy told NME. “I thought there was a lot of great stuff on the 2004 record ‘You Are The Quarry’. To me that was a return to form because I had ‘Maladjusted’ and ‘South Paw Grammar’. I had kind of fallen away. My thing with Morrissey is I that I just wish he had different songwriting partners. I feel like his guitar wall, arena rock thing it just doesn’t work. During the era of ‘Bona Drag’ and ‘Kill Uncle’, there was a lot of really weird, interesting decisions being made. And also he’s a terrible person!”

Asked if he was able to celebrate an individual’s art from their views, Meloy replied: “I think with Morrissey you’re primed for that. It was no secret that he was a terrible person, I think going way back. Even as a teenager. He’s nobody that you want to spend that much time with. He’s the one hero of mine who I haven’t met who I think I’m OK with not ever having met. But I think that’s sort of something that we have to grapple with.

“Like with Woody Allen, ‘Crimes And Misdemeanours’ is one of my favourite movies of all time. But how do you divorce that from the guy who made it who is sort of a sociopath? We’re kind of figuring it out as it goes along. It’s awful.”

The Decemberists, 2018

The Decemberists, 2018

Check back at NME soon for more of our conversation with Meloy.

‘I’ll Be Your Girl’ is out now.

The Decemberists tour and tickets

The band’s full upcoming UK tour dates are below. Tickets are available here.

NOVEMBER
Sunday 4 – DUBLIN Vicar Street
Monday 5 – GLASGOW O2 Academy Glasgow
Wednesday 7 – LONDON Eventim Apollo
Thursday 8 – BRISTOL O2 Academy Bristol
Saturday 10 – LEEDS O2 Academy Leeds
Sunday 11 – NOTTINGHAM Rock City
Monday 12 – MANCHESTER Albert Hall