Indie-folk group Decker is a band on the move. When I called guitarist and singer Brandon Decker for an interview, he was signing the paperwork for a brand new van for the band.
“I think it’s the nicest vehicle I’ve ever owned. It’s gonna be very nice to not have to worry about being stranded roadside.” Decker admitted.
And with their busy touring schedule, Decker needs reliable transportation now more than ever. I chatted with Decker about his musical roots, his prolific songwriting, and the Wu Tang references on his new album Patsy.
TL: How did you get started in music?
BD: My mom had great music taste and I grew up listening to vinyl records of Crosby Stills Nash and Young, Neil Young, Rolling Stones, Beach Boys and stuff like that. I liked rock and roll at a young age and I enjoyed singing.
So how it all came together for me is that I’ve always enjoyed emotively singing music and I also enjoyed writing, more so just words, like prose and poetry and short stories. I started playing guitar in my late teens, just covers.
I went through a really profoundly dark time in my mid-twenties, and when I came out of that I just wanted to write songs and I’ve been trying to write songs ever since.
You have written a lot of songs since then, in fact you have a few albums under your belt. What’s your process like when you’re creating an album and has it changed since you started out?
I’ve done five albums in the last six years, and I don’t know if I have a process. I don’t mean to sound mysterious or something. I feel like my songs really come out of the ether. I never know when it’s gonna happen.
I found that all my records tend to happen in these flurries. The pattern that I’ve gotten into is you make an album and it’s exhausting and all encompassing. You go and you tour it for some length of time. Then the touring ends and you just start writing another one.
All of a sudden I’ll have this set of songs and go, “this is it”, and start recording. I don’t know what’ll happen.
I’ve been going so hard for so long I haven’t been able to write lately. It’s really left-brain, right-brain. Being an artist of our stature which is so working-class and do it ourself, it requires a lot of right-brain functioning just to keep the wheels in motion.
But I’m looking forward to when this phase settles down for our most recent album that I feel really proud of and we worked really hard on, I’m looking forward to not worrying about that stuff and being musical and artistic again instead of working.
Yeah, you have to be a songwriter, a bandleader, a marketer, a business-person…
Oh I wear many hats!
Of all those hats, it’s clear to me that you’re a great songwriter, plus you have some wonderful musicians in your band with you as well. How do you choose the people you work with?
The number one requirement is that they have a pulse [laughs]. Kidding!
They have to be able to put up with me. I tend to be in my own world sometimes. Really sensitive artists don’t do well with me.
But I feel like I’ve got a very talented group of musicians playing with me and they’ve all been playing with me a few years, with the exception of one singer who just joined us.
My bass player is classically trained. The keyboard player and pianist is classically trained. She also teaches a ton of lessons and has her own studio. Same with my drummer, he is a percussionist and it’s his life, he teaches a lot (Ed. note: Decker’s drummer Henri B. teaches drums, guitar, and songwriting with TakeLessons in Phoenix).
I think it’s so many things, fate, destiny, and you wind up meeting these people. It’s just like how you don’t choose your family. When you’re playing in a band with people they end up kind of becoming your family.
So you have a new album, Patsy, out now, and a new video coming out soon. I’m hearing a lot of gospel, folk, and soul, but also some Wu Tang references? Can you talk about that a little bit?
I have this longtime friend and we always enjoyed our inside jokes, and definitely had a shared enthusiasm for ODB.
One of the first songs written on the record, one of the more gospel sounding songs, was inspired by all these people where I live talking about me that I didn’t even know, and I kinda started writing this song, and I don’t even know how the ODB thing happened. It just happened.
Obviously ODB is not a role model for life.
But I feel like there’s one thing about him, if you watch him, he didn’t give a shit about much of anything. He was just in his own world. I felt like paying tribute to how necessary that is for all of us aspiring to put ourselves out there whether it’s artistically or anything. It’s the way you have to learn to live.
I’ve seen your music described as psychedelic desert folk, and you live in Sedona which is a really special place. Are you really inspired by locations, nature, and where you live?
I think so. I love Sedona. I’m standing out in front of my house right now and I live under two mountains that I like to climb a lot, I live right by the trailheads.
When I moved here in 2008, I don’t think I would have considered myself so easily inspired by nature or anything, but I definitely believe that the lifestyle that is kind of fostered by living in this desert-mountain extremely unique place is.
I don’t know if I would say that it inspires me, but it’s fuel for my existence on a cellular level. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.
You’re about to head out on the road again. What are you going to be listening to on this tour?
I don’t know the answer to that. I put out a post on Facebook asking for recommendations and I got a lot of suggestions to check out. I just heard of this singer Angel Olsen, she has a record out called Burn Your Fire For No Witness and I guarantee that that will be happening on tour frequently. On our last tour the album of choice was Kendrick Lamar. We like to keep a good mix.
Photo by Matty Steinkamp