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Big Thief Discuss the Making of “Cattails” on Song Exploder Podcast

INDIO, CA - APRIL 14: Adrianne Lenker of Big Thief performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival Weekend 1 at the Empire Polo Field on April 14, 2018 in Indio, California. (Photo by Matt Cowan/Getty Images for Coachella)

Big Thief were the latest guests on the Song Exploder podcast, currently hosted by Thao Nguyen, and outlined the genesis of their U.F.O.F. single “Cattails.” Lead singer and songwriter Adrianne Lenker discussed writing the chord progression while the band was in the studio recording U.F.O.F., after everyone else had gone to bed. She also described how the song’s lyrics reflect elements of her childhood in Minnesota. Lenker claims the “Violet” in the song is a reference to her great-grandmother, who played music throughout her life and picked up electric bass when she was in her 80s.

Lenker and drummer James Krivchenia also explained how the initial arrangement for the song came together in a jam session over breakfast, with no discussion between the two of them; the engineer captured the performance without telling them he was recording. The two said the band built the song’s background ambience by carefully layering high bass tones, improvised dual piano takes, and loose guitar counterpoint. Lenker described the spontaneous process like a “gust of wind bl[owing] through the studio.”

U.F.O.F., Big Thief’s third album, came out last month; read our Spin Essential review of it here. Listen to the (charming) Song Exploder episode below.