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The Austin ornithologist and rocker has enchanted audiences with the lush, intense music of his band Shearwater. Thanks to the group’s recent signing with the independent label Matador, its 2006 album, Palo Santo, is getting the reissue treatment (with previously unreleased tracks).
How did the band end up on Matador? I wish I had a good story. I e-mailed [label co-owner and current Austin resident] Gerard [Cosloy], and to my complete astonishment he wrote me back in, like, fifteen minutes and said, “Send me a record.”
You rerecorded some songs. We remade half the record. We weren’t satisfied with our own performances on the other version. It seems like something you’re not supposed to do, like going back to high school.
You and bandmate Will Sheff are both in another group, Okkervil River. While you used to share songwriting duties in Shearwater, it has become primarily your band. For Palo Santo, I had all these songs, and we thought, “You know, these all just go together. Let’s just do these.” And since then, the bands have diverged even more. It’s been very natural.
Yet you still perform and tour with both bands. How do you manage? With great difficulty.