words by tom johnson
The best secrets are always the hardest to keep.
Towards the end of 2018 we became privy to the news that Phoebe Bridgers and Conor Oberst had made a record together, not as a series of duets, but as a whole new functioning band, complete with a bunch of their talented friends to back them up. If that was exciting in itself then hearing the album for the first time was something truly special.
Bursting out into the world, the self-titled Better Oblivion Community Center is a heart-thumping, limb-shaking treasure, a record that packs a helluva punch before dropping you to your knees. Surprise-released in full today, it’s ten songs of pent-up angst and poignant sensibility. We were lucky enough to spend some time with Phoebe and Conor, and the full interview features in our brand new physical publication which is released next week. To celebrate the album’s release we’re offering FREE SHIPPING! on the magazine for the next couple of days (UK and U.S only), so if you’ve been waiting for an excuse to order your copy then do that right now, here:
Check out an excerpt from the interview, and the stream the whole album in full, below right now…
GFP: I first saw you play together almost two years ago now, and it seemed to be a really natural pairing. Is that what inspired working together? Was there an immediate desire to do so?
Conor: Well, I sang on Phoebe’s record and she mixed her album here with (Mike) Mogis. Also we knew each other from around LA and stuff. But I guess post that tour is when we wrote the first song, which is actually the first song on the record: I Didn’t Know What I Was In For. It all sort of snowballed from there.
Phoebe: I was just getting to know Conor then. Conor sang on my record, but only remotely. I was mixing with Mike, but Conor and I hadn’t hung out that much, which is so weird in retrospect. And then he asked me to go on that tour, and that was definitely the most time we’d ever spent together.
He played a show in LA that I had opened for, which was one of the first times we hung out. He played a Replacements cover and after the show I said that was so good and so cool, I fucking love The Replacements so much. Then on that tour, right at the start, after one of the first shows, he came up to me and was like ‘Hey dude, I’ve got this crazy idea. I know you love The Replacements, so I think we should start a band together, and we should sound like The Replacements!’ – and I was just like ‘What the fuck are you talking about?!’
We wouldn’t write a song together for about six months after that, but that was when the first initial idea came.
GFP: What was it about each other’s work that grabbed you?
Conor: I’m not alone in this, but I was completely blown away by her record and I think she’s an amazing writer. She has one of those voices that doesn’t come along that often. The limited times we sang together in a live setting it was like, wow, this sounds really nice.
Phoebe: I mean I was, and am, the biggest Conor fan ever. I’ve loved all of his bands, as a teen and an adult. I was just super stoked. Getting to know Conor at the beginning it never crossed my mind that he would want to do this with me. It was so natural, though. It was also cool realising that he’d never really written with people before. Me and my friends write together all the time, for each other’s projects or just when sitting around. It was cool knowing that he’d never done that. I was really excited…
You can also stream the album via Bandcamp here
The physical version is released next month, via Dead Oceans