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How The Past 10 Years Shaped The First New Bright Eyes Record In Almost A Decade

Bright Eyes
Danny Cohen
Courtesy of the artist
Bright Eyes

Up until about a decade ago, Bright Eyes was an incredibly prolific band. The group released a new album almost every year or two since it began in 1998. And then, after the 2011 album The People's Key, Bright Eyes' output stopped. Since then, frontperson and founder Conor Oberst has released solo work, opened a bar, started a band with Phoebe Bridgers and lost a brother. For Conor, the title of Bright Eyes' first new album in almost a decade, Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was, alludes to that loss.

"It's about the minutiae of experience," he says. "If you get 'down in the weeds,' you're paying too much attention to the little details. But I think that all those little details, that's actually what makes up life. Those are the things that anyone that's lost somebody — or even just lost love or lost a good friend — you don't really think of it in broad strokes. You remember all the littlest things and those are the things that pull at your heart; they're the things that keep you up at night."

Weeds are also the first thing that grows back up out of destruction. "If you blow up a building, what happens next? In comes the weeds, in come the forest that grows over the destruction," he says.

On today's episode, Conor and bandmate and composer Nate Walcott join me to talk about their new album, Down In The Weeds, Where The World Once Was — and to share live performances of Bright Eyes songs both new and old. Before we get to the new music, Bright Eyes begins with a performance of a song from their 2002 album Lifted or The Story Is In The Soil, Keep Your Ear To The Ground with a little help from Phoebe Bridgers singing backing vocals. Listen in the audio player above.

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Raina Douris, an award-winning radio personality from Toronto, Ontario, comes to World Cafe from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), where she was host and writer for the daily live, national morning program Mornings on CBC Music. She is also involved with Canada's highest music honors: Since 2017, she has hosted the Polaris Music Prize Gala, for which she is also a jury member, and she has also been a jury member for the Juno Awards. Douris has also served as guest host and interviewer for various CBC Music and CBC Radio programs, and red carpet host and interviewer for the Juno Awards and Canadian Country Music Association Awards, as well as a panelist for such renowned CBC programs as Metro Morning, q and CBC News.
World Cafe senior producer Kimberly Junod has been a part of the World Cafe team since 2001, when she started as the show's first line producer. In 2011 Kimberly launched (and continues to helm) World Cafe's Sense of Place series that includes social media, broadcast and video elements to take listeners across the U.S. and abroad with an intimate look at local music scenes. She was thrilled to be part of the team that received the 2006 ASCAP Deems Taylor Radio Broadcast Award for excellence in music programming. In the time she has spent at World Cafe, Kimberly has produced and edited thousands of interviews and recorded several hundred bands for the program, as well as supervised the show's production staff. She has also taught sound to young women (at Girl's Rock Philly) and adults (as an "Ask an Engineer" at WYNC's Werk It! Women's Podcast Festival).