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Though many male-female vocal duos lean heavily on duets, this pair elected to skirt that norm by singing mostly in unison and in harmony rather than engaging in the sometimes cheesy call and response.
Oberst has dozens of records to his name, most notably with the angsty indie outfit Bright Eyes, as a solo artist and with bands like Desaparecidos and Monsters of Folk.The two are also particularly fond of their fiery closing vocals on “Big Black Heart,” which is the pinnacle of reckless abandon on this record. “I had little ideas for that floating around and it was pretty mellow.And then Conor was like, ‘You need a fucking emo outro!“I was immediately struck by her voice,” says Oberst.“There are not a lot of people whose voice stops you in your tracks like that.” Rather than each of them writing songs on their own and showing them to each other, Bridgers and Oberst wrote this record together in the same room.Like Kurt Vile and Courtney Barnett’s Lotta Sea Lice back in 2017, the self-titled album from Better Oblivion Community Center brings out the eccentricities of both musicians while emanating a carefree, sentimental warmth. We’re like, ‘Oh maybe we’ll make a seven-inch’ and then we wrote a couple more songs and we were like, ‘Maybe it will be a ten-inch.’ And finally, we were like, ‘I guess this is going to be a full record.’” Bridgers and Oberst weren’t complete strangers before this record.
“I don’t think we really knew it was going to be a full record or project,” says Oberst. Oberst and Bridgers have toured together and Oberst contributed vocals to Bridgers’ song, “Would You Rather.” Bridgers met Oberst while opening for him in 2016 on his solo tour in Los Angeles and after the show, Oberst asked for a copy of her record.
If there’s anything that the past few years of volatile politics has taught us, it’s that our future is uncertain, so it’s best to cross off those long-held goals off your bucket list before we descend into whatever ominous abyss swallows us whole.
Thankfully, the stars aligned just in time for Bridgers and Oberst to write, record and surprise-drop a haunting new album together for a brand new project: Better Oblivion Community Center—which really is their band name and not actually the name of a utopian old folks home.
“It always felt like a band, so for the most part, we were like, ‘We should sing in unison’ and then I sing harmony, usually, but I made Conor sing some harmony to mix it up. A lot of it emerged during the writing process too, just what we naturally sang.” “I felt like it was cooler that way,” Oberst chimes in, “to have our voices together as much as possible.” Oberst also mentions their desire to dodge the folky troubadour stamp by making a dynamic record with several sonic reference points.
Though much of the record could still loosely fall into the folk camp, there are moments that you wouldn’t expect from Oberst and Bridgers.
“We totally forgot about that song,” says Bridgers.