Seattle Weekly: You sang and played drums with the Decemberists for three years as well as performing as a duo under the name Norfolk & Western. What prompted you to leave the Decemberists recently?
Rachel Blumberg: It was a hard decision because we're all close. Their music is wonderful and they're doing incredibly well, but it wasn't totally where my heart was. I was stretched thin with no time to explore other areas musically, neglecting Norfolk & Western entirely. When M. Ward invited us to be his backing band and open for the tours, it seemed like an obvious exit. It felt sort of serendipitous.
Your last release was 2003's Dusk in Cold Parlours, which was melancholy and old-fashioned, like it was recorded straight to gramophone. How does If You Were Born Overseas, which is currently only available for purchase at your shows, differ from Dusk?
Adam Selzer (guitarist and singer): Quite a few people play on this record—Rachel and I did a lot, but there are many instruments we didn't know how to play. It's more upbeat, slightly more poppy, and definitely more of a "band" record.
Blumberg: Last year Adam had a creative explosion and wrote a million new songs, so when I came off tour, he had already set dates at [Type Foundry, our] studio, to record. It's also the first album we've properly mastered, and we were surprised at what a difference it makes. Our local labels, Hush and Film Guerrero, were amazing, but it was time to work with somebody new. We couldn't wait, so before the M. Ward tour we printed 1,000 ourselves, and our friends at Stumptown Printers did a beautiful letterpress cover. When we put it out officially, it'll include new things and rerecordings, but we're in the process of talking to labels and can pursue that further now that we're home.
Now that you're focused on Norfolk & Western, how do you work together and stay married without killing each other?
Blumberg: I prefer it. I've always admired couples who share not only their relationship but their life's work together, like (Ira Kaplan and Georgia Hubley in) Yo La Tengo. My parents were in the Oregon symphony together for a long time, and it's important for me to be creative with the person I'm with as well.
You recently returned to Portland after a weekend at Bonnaroo and three months of touring with M. Ward. How do you plan to relax?
Blumberg: Adam and I bought a house a year and a half ago, and I remodeled one of the garages into a painting studio for myself, so I'm excited about getting to use it. It's hard when I leave all the time, but hopefully I can discipline myself enough to go in the studio every day for at least a couple of hours.
Norfolk & Western play the Tractor Tavern with Inara George and Mt. Egypt at 9 p.m. Sun., June 26. $12.