You’d be hard-pressed to find a 90s girl that doesn’t cite Conor Oberst as one of her greatest influences. Emo trio Bright Eyes, with Oberst at the helm, penned the soundtrack to many a millennial’s formative years. In Stuck in Love, a 2012 rom-com about a family of writers, high-school junior Rusty receives “Fevers and Mirrors” from his beau with the disclaimer that, “this isn’t just a CD. It’s a roadmap to my soul.”
However, there’s more to Oberst than his Bright Eyes “emo heartthrob” persona. Having founded Saddle Creek records and its sister label Team Love, Oberst is one of the key players in Omaha, NE’s blossoming music scene. As a musician, he’s done bubblegum pop with Park Ave., indie folk with Monsters of Folk, Americana/alt country with Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band, and post-hardcore punk rock with Desaparecidos.
Each of these side-projects has been just that — a peripheral outlet for Oberst to explore a different aspect of himself without disquieting his myriad Bright Eyes devotees. Now, after a decade-long hiatus, Desaparecidos — named after the forced disappearance (read: abduction) of Latin American political dissidents by the government — seems to be breaking that mold. Oberst has reunited with singer and bassist Landon Hedges, guitarist Denver Dalley, drummer Matt Baum, and keyboard player Ian McElroy. They’ve signed to Epitaph, released their first studio album since 2002, kicked proverbial butt at Coachella, and are gearing up for a nationwide tour starting mid July.
How is Desaparecidos now different from Desaparecidos in 2002?
Conor: Strangely it isn’t very different. I think we have all grown as musicians over the years but when we all get together it always just ends up sounding like us for better or worse. I take a lot of comfort in that actually.
Ian: Older-weirder-wiser in some and most capacities.
Matt: I learned how to play drums.
What can we expect from the new Desaparecidos album?
Conor: 14 classic patriotic american tunes. Think “Yankee Doodle Dandy” in 2015.
Matt: Better production, better songwriting, and better drumming (see my last answer).
What’s the funniest story you’ve got from a previous tour?
Matt: Denver and I used to play in a band named Statistics, and once during a rather disastrous European tour with our other friend — Jeff Klein of My Jerusalem fame — we had the worst Thanksgiving ever in Hamburg, Germany. We played a small punk club opening for a Dutch Liberal Socialist art/punk band, The Ex (who I admire), but we had no business playing in front of this intensely anarchist/socialist crowd who scared the hell out of us. Afterward, we slept on the floor of a room upstairs from the club with a broken window. As ice rained in through the hole in the window we laughed at how funny we would find the situation in the future while we listen to our driver have sex with a prostitute in the next room. It was a bonding experience I will never forget. I remember drinking ourselves to sleep and crying with laughter.
Do you have a go-to tour drink?
Conor: Mountain Valley Sparkling Water!
Denver: Coors Light, Miller Lite.
Ian: Backrub, [my rap group]’s name for red wine on ice with three splashes of coke.
Landon: Busch Light.
Matt: [In the] summer, I’m a vodka rocks guy. Chopin works but preferably Tito’s. Winter, bourbon/irish whiskey. Neat. Love Booker’s and Buffalo trace/Jameson 12 and Redbreast.
What website do you visit the most?
Denver: Probably delta.com. I fly a lot. I’m obsessed with all that stuff and I only fly with them. I get status and upgrades and it’s a whole nerdy complicated thing. It’s funny though, because I’ll always be upgraded and be in like the sky club and everything and everybody’s like who is this fucking guy? I’m like, have they started to board yet and they’re like, yeah, it’s only first class, sit down. I am like excuse me?
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Denver: Also delta.com. Same answer.
Matt: People who claim to be a part of the “moral majority.”
Do you have a go-to karaoke song?
Ian: “Made You Look,” Nas.
Landon: Cardigans, “Love Fool.” Ronettes, “Be My Baby.” Billy Joel, “Uptown Girl.”
Matt: If I’m feeling soulful I go with Patrick Swayze’s “She’s like the Wind” from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack. When I want to cut loose I’ll take off my shirt and belt out any Danzig song available. Or “She’s a Beauty" by the Tubes.
What was the biggest lie you ever told?
Denver: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
What was your first encounter with Playboy?
Denver: I think one of my buddies, when I was in third grade, like eight years old, his dad had a stack of them. I’d probably seen like the Marilyn Monroe posters or something, but that was definitely the first time I opened one up. Third grade. I remember it perfectly.
Do you have a pop culture blind spot?
Denver: Mumford and Sons maybe? I just don’t get it. Don’t get me wrong, they’re laughing all the way to the bank. But the songs all sound the same to me. I mean I’m not trying to start a war with Mumford, but I would gladly stand behind that answer.
When you got your first big paycheck what did you spend it on?
Denver: I’m still waiting on my first big paycheck. At one point I did buy a dune buggy, though. I saw one when I was like four years old and I was like, I’m gonna get that at some point in my life. Then I found one for sale in Omaha where we’re originally from, just on the street with a “for sale” sign, and I bought it. I drove it for like a year and sold it before I died. Because I would have died. It had no seat belts. It was grandfathered, it didn’t have to have seat belts. And I’m taller than the roll bar, too, so…
Let’s pretend you’re on death row. What do you want to be your last meal?
Denver: Shake Shack. I’d just get a plain cheeseburger. I usually get two or three of them.
If you could get away with one crime consequence free what would it be?
Denver: I don’t know. Probably stealing a million dollars or something. A billion dollars.
Let’s get a little more specific. From whom would you steal the money? A bank? A person? McDonald’s?
Denver: From Mumford and Sons.
Check out their live performance on NBC’s The Late Show with Seth Meyers June 24th.