Photo by Reuben Cox
Andrew Bird and Jimbo Mathus, who were once bandmates in the Squirrel Nut Zippers, have teamed up for a new album, their first collaboration in decades. The new record, These 13, is due out on Mar. 5. The duo have also shared the first single from the record, titled “Sweet Oblivion.”
“As former collaborators in Squirrel Nut Zippers, Mathus and Bird’s friendship dates back 25 years, but at the turn of the century their career paths diverged,” read a press release. “Both became highly accomplished, acclaimed and prolific solo artists, and though they remained close friends, they did not return to musical collaboration until 2018, when they started exchanging the fragments that grew into this set of 13 songs.”
Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird co-wrote all of These 13, sharing voice memos, finishing each other’s musical thoughts. Across the album they reveal themselves to one another again, and the conversation that unfolds is personal and profound. Produced by Mike Viola, the first half of the album was recorded in early 2019, and the second half was finished in early 2020. Every song was recorded live to analog tape, with Mathus and Bird singing and playing on opposite sides of a lone RCA 44 microphone.
The first half of the record was recorded in early 2019, while the second half was recorded in early 2020. The record was produced by Mike Viola, and, according to a press release, it had a very stripped down tracking set-up: “Every song was recorded live to analog tape, with Mathus and Bird singing and playing on opposite sides of a lone RCA 44 microphone.”
“Up until meeting Jimbo, all my musical heroes were dead. Jimbo was anything but and just oozed musicality of a kind I thought was extinct,” said Bird via press release. “Had I not met Jimbo, who knows, but I think my music would have gone on a much more cerebral, complex trajectory. He is an enigma, a walking contradiction: wild yet refined, worldly yet colloquial. He represents his own branch of the American musical tree. It’s been my dream for years now to make this record with Jimbo. Just guitar, fiddle and our very different voices. I wanted to make sure you can really hear him as if for the first time.”
“Musically speaking, Andrew challenged me early on,” added Mathus. “As I had the deep south rural musical upbringing but had yearned to know more of the Chicago and New York scenes of those early days of American popular music. Bird had schooled himself on that, absorbing the European strains of American music and theater, as well as the Chicago-based indigenous albeit transplanted African American musical heritage. It was a true mutual benefit society and we both pursued those goals to a final conclusion. At some point after Andrew had been on the road as ‘Bowl of Fire,’ he began mutating his music and creating an entirely new form. In other words, he started to become the artist he needed to be at that time and so did I.”
Pre-order the new record here. Watch the official video for “Sweet Oblivion” below!