About Bright Eyes
Bright Eyes is an American indie rock band founded by singer-songwriter and guitarist Conor Oberst. It consists of Oberst, multi-instrumentalist and producer Mike Mogis, arranger, composer and trumpet and piano player Nate Walcott, and a rotating line-up of collaborators drawn primarily from Omaha's indie music scene. Between 1998 and 2011, the band's albums were released through Saddle Creek Records, a Nebraska-based label founded by Justin Oberst and Mogis. In January 2020, the band announced their return, having signed with Dead Oceans.
A founding member of Commander Venus – which disbanded in 1997 – guitarist/vocalist Conor Oberst turned to focus on his new project, Bright Eyes. In 1998, he released 20 of the songs he had been stockpiling as the first official Bright Eyes album, A Collection of Songs Written and Recorded 1995–1997. The album saw Oberst beginning to experiment with drum machines, keyboards and other instruments. The sound of the album ranges from bleating vocals to acoustic guitar songs and techno-style synthesizer instrumentals. Critical reaction was negative, with AllMusic saying that many of "the songs disintegrate as his vocals are reduced to the unintelligible babbling of a child. Any balance the music maintained up to that point, however fragile, is lost and so, more than likely, is the listener."
On November 2, 1998, Saddle Creek released Letting Off the Happiness, a ten-track album that displayed a more focused and clearer sound than the previous album. According to the Saddle Creek press release, it features members of Lullaby for the Working Class, Neutral Milk Hotel, and of Montreal. Park Ave. bandmate Neely Jenkins also contributed vocals. It was predominantly recorded in the Oberst family basement in Omaha on an analog eight track reel to reel; with some work also done at keyboardist Andy Lemaster's Athens, Georgia studio. Although almost all of the tracks feature a full band, "June on the West Coast" is performed with only acoustic guitar and vocals. "Padraic My Prince" gives a dramatic fictional account of the death of his baby brother, a story with a multitude of symbolic meanings. Oberst has referenced the song "Padraic My Prince" more than once in his music. The song "An Attempt To Tip the Scales" on the album Fevers and Mirrors has a faux-interview near the end of the track. Oberst is voiced by Todd Fink, who was a label-mate and had played in other bands with Oberst.) The interviewer is Matt Silcock, another labelmate on Saddle Creek Records. The interview was meant to be somewhat sarcastic and most of what the Oberst impersonator said was not true. At one point the interviewer asks the question: "So some of these references like babies in bathtubs are not biographical?" The Oberst impersonator replies: "Well I did have a brother who died in a bathtub . . . he drowned. Well actually I had five brothers that drowned." "No, I'm serious. My mother drowned one every year for five consecutive years. They were all named Padraic, and that's why they only got one song. It's kind of like walking out a door and discovering that it's a window." Oberst also references the song in "Cartoon Blues" on the Four Winds EP.
In November 1999, Bright Eyes released the five-song Every Day and Every Night EP, which included "Neely O'Hara" and "A Perfect Sonnet."
In 2000, Bright Eyes released Fevers and Mirrors, with new instruments such as the flute, piano, and accordion introduced into the song arrangements. After "An Attempt to Tip the Scales", there is a mock radio interview that features Todd Fink of The Faint doing an impression of Oberst while reading a script that Oberst wrote. In this interview, the fake Oberst presents a strange, contradictory explanation of his attitude towards his music. It acknowledges criticisms of his lyrics as overblown and insincere, which had begun to appear as the popularity of the band increased, but responds by stating that the lyrics are meant for personal interpretation. Oberst later commented that "It was a way to make fun of ourselves because the record is such a downer. I mean, that's one part of who I am but I also like laughing."
The album placed 170 on Pitchfork Media's best 200 albums of the decade.
With Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground in 2002, Bright Eyes became one of the year's most celebrated "new" artists, despite having been recording under that moniker for a few years. They received national attention, including in several notable pieces in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Time magazine, Rolling Stone, Blender, and Spin, many of which proclaimed Conor Oberst to be a significant new artist. The album was a commercial success and has sold over 250,000 copies, a breakthrough for the label and for all of the band's peers at that time. Oberst stated that, before making this record, both he and Mike Mogis had an idea for a "sort of grandiose sound" that neither could really put into words. This was also the first album made after Oberst's break to play with Desaparecidos.
Map & Directions To Venue