Getting to know Conor Oberst and Phoebe Bridgers’ new band, Better Oblivion Community Center

Better Oblivion Community Center plays the Bunkhouse on March 9.
Photo: Nik Freitas / Courtesy
Annie Zaleski

Who: Although the name is cryptic, the players are familiar. Better Oblivion Community Center is the new project helmed by two prolific musicians: Conor Oberst—known for his work with indie-rockers Bright Eyes and abrasive punks Desaparecidos—and Phoebe Bridgers, who pens well-wrought, indie-leaning rock and pop both as a solo artist and with the supergroup boygenius.

Sound: The band’s 2019 self-titled debut is refreshingly kaleidoscopic and eclectic, in no small part due to guests such as Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner, Autolux drummer Carla Azar and members of Dawes. As expected, acoustic-driven folk is a touchstone, although other songs alight on easygoing twang, grungy indie, throwback ’90s emo, and even Pavement-esque pop. Best of all are the duo’s raw, empathetic vocals; especially when they harmonize, their voices melt into one another.

Shared history: The musicians are no strangers to collaboration. Oberst alternates vocal lines with Bridgers on her haunted folk number “Would You Rather,” and once contributed backup to her earnest live cover of Sheryl Crow’s “If It Makes You Happy.” Bridgers, meanwhile, dueted with Oberst in 2018 on a sparse, piano-heavy new spin on his song “LAX” and has toured with him.

Origin story: The tale tends to shapeshift from interview to interview. In one version, Bridgers complimented an Oberst cover of the Replacements’ “Here Comes a Regular”—a fact he amusingly remembered incorrectly when he later asked if she wanted to form a band. “A week into our Euro tour that we did together, Conor came up to me after a show and was like, ‘Look, I know you hate The Replacements, but I really want to start a band that’s like The Replacements with you,’” Bridgers told GQ.

Spin: The (admittedly) Replacements-esque ragged rocker “Dylan Thomas”; “Exception to the Rule,” a keening tune driven by taut spirals of buzzing synths and sparkling keyboards; and the first song the pair did together, a smoldering rumination on the weight of personal responsibility and self-loathing called “Didn’t Know What I Was in For.”

BETTER OBLIVION COMMUNITY CENTER with Sloppy Jane, Christian Lee Hutson. March 9, 9 p.m., $20. Bunkhouse Saloon, 702-982-1764.

Tags: Music, Bunkhouse
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