Conor Oberst says he’s looking forward to playing a show in Kurt Vonnegut’s hometown.
Oberst, considered to be one of the top songwriters of his generation, follows Vonnegut’s thematic blueprint of humanistic sci-fi on current Bright Eyes album “The People’s Key.”
“I used to dream of time machines, now it’s been said we’re post-everything,” he sings on “People’s Key” track “Approximate Sunlight.”
Oberst, 31, grew up as an indie-rock celebrity, releasing an album at age 13 and recently collaborating with Jim James, M. Ward and fellow Bright Eyes member Mike Mogis in the Monsters of Folk supergroup. Bright Eyes will appear Thursday, Aug. 4, at the Egyptian Room in Old National Centre.
Oberst, a native of Omaha, Neb., talked to us about Vonnegut’s influence and the evolution of Bright Eyes:
Do I hear some of Kurt Vonnegut’s philosophies on “The People’s Key”?
Definitely. He’s one of my all-time favorite authors and people. I feel like he’s the modern Mark Twain. He gave so much knowledge and compassion. I love his fiction and also his non-fiction — “Palm Sunday” and “Fates Worse Than Death.” That’s where you really get his philosophies.
“New York” magazine recently published an overview of Vonnegut’s early writings, and it mentioned his balance of “hellacious pessimism and utopian love.” Does that ring any bells in terms of your approach?
I think that’s the essence of the human condition, really. Another one of my all-time favorite people is Woody Allen, and he has that similar vibe: “We’re spinning in this sometimes pointless, violent, crazy universe. Yet within that, we all can relate to a feeling of loving someone or something and how mysterious and magical that is.” I think life and existence is such a mixed bag. It’s really all about what you focus on. That’s what makes your reality.
Compared to earlier work, you explore different sonic textures on “The People’s Key.” Would power pop be the accurate connecting thread for these songs?
Yeah. I’ve always appreciated melodic music. When I was a teenager, a lot of people called it pop-punk. You can find examples in every decade. When I was first getting into that music, a big one for me was Superchunk. They write such great melodies, and the sound of power chords chugging along can be very satisfying if you’re in the right state of mind. I think it's always been part of what we do. We have a big closet of different costumes we like to put on at different times. That’s what keeps us interested.
You played Coachella this year, and the day after you visit Indianapolis you’ll play one of the big stages at Lollapalooza. Is it fun to embrace that type of muscular pop in those settings?
Festivals are always a challenge. They can be great, and we’ve played a lot of them this tour. They’re crazy about that stuff in Europe. But we’ve learned to stay in the upbeat world of our catalog. A lot of times there’s the logistical thing of competing with other stages. On some of the European dates, we literally hearing four or five stages at once. If you’re not loud enough, it gets frustrating.