Songs and Instrumentals are two distinct collections from Big Thief's Adrianne Lenker, both written and recorded in April after Big Thief’s March tour was abruptly cut short due to coronavirus. After returning to the states from Europe, Lenker decamped to a one room cabin in the mountains of western Massachusetts. “I grew really connected to the space itself,” says Lenker . “The one room cabin felt like the inside of an acoustic guitar -- it was such a joy to hear the notes reverberate in the space.” With a hankering to capture the feel of the space, Lenker enlisted the help of engineer Philip Weinrobe, gathering a mass of tape machines, a binaural head, and a pile of XLR cables.
After almost three weeks of setup and troubleshooting, the studio finally was operating - although the only functioning tape recorder the duo had was Phil’s battery powered Sony Walkman. Whilst at peace with the idea that they might just be recording the whole record on cassette tape, a friend was able to dig a Otari 8 Track out of storage and deliver to the pair right before they’d lost all hope. Nine of these songs were written freshly during the recording session. Lenker and Phil began and closed each day with an improvised acoustic guitar instrumental, later making a collage of their favourite pieces, which became the first side of the instrumentals album. “We wanted to make a record that put you, the listener, in the most intimate position possible,” explains Weinrobe.