Saturday, April 18, 2015

Interview with The Weepies

Apart from being one of my favorite bands, The Weepies are genuinely one of the best husband-and-wife musical duos you could ever hope to hear. Deb Talan and Steve Tannen effortlessly mix their crisp vocal interplay with catchy melodic hooks and inventive instrumental passages to make ear-catching, heart-piercing music that’ll sink deep and stay with you. Get ready for their upcoming album Sirens (out April 28 on Nettwerk Records) by grabbing their exclusive NoiseTrade retrospective sampler Who the Hell are The Weepies? and checking out our interview with Deb and Steve!

NoiseTrade: With the upcoming release of your brand new album Sirens (out April 28 on Nettwerk Records), you guys have compiled an exclusive retrospective sampler titled Who the Hell are The Weepies? What made you pick these specific songs to introduce yourself to folks who may not be familiar with your music?

Steve Tannen: We have a monkey named Chantal, and she threw darts at a stack of Weepies CDs… 

Deb Talan: No, don’t listen to him! These are the most popular songs from each of the major projects of the last few years. So, people can see who we are without having to delve too deep in the catalog. Sort of a “Hi, my name is the Weepies” type thing.

NT: As a huge fan of Be My Thrill, I was stoked to see “I Was Made for Sunny Days” included on the sampler. Man, that bassline! Can fans expect some more of those bouncy, melodic moments on Sirens?

Deb: Thank you! Yes yes yes! Eli Thomson, that bass player, joins us again on several tracks here, as well as an amazing cast of other musicians. We feel there’s a good mix of up and down on this record. It reflects the emotions of the year, which turned out to be full of life!

NT: One of the major life ingredients that went into the writing and recording process for Sirens was Deb’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from Stage 3 breast cancer. How do you feel that the individual songs on Sirens captured specific steps along that journey? 

Steve: Rather than steps, I think it hangs together like a musical photo album. We’re not that intentional, where one thing leads to another. We tend to work better when not looking too directly at anything. It lets in a little more of the unexpected and strange. Sirens was made literally upstairs from some very heavy emotions, but it wouldn’t have made sense to just sing about exactly what happened. The songs that made it to the surface are all informed by what went on below. It’s hard to say what exactly happened way down there, you can just feel it.

NT: I read that many of the vocal performances were recorded while Deb was still undergoing chemotherapy treatments, particularly the song “Sirens” which was captured in just one take. Can you describe what you hear and what you feel when you listen back to them now?

Steve: I hear some fear in there, but I think Deb sounds great.

Deb: It’s like looking at pictures of yourself from last year. You think, “Remember this? That was rough,” or “Hey you look cute here.” We don’t generally listen to our own records though – not after mixing them over and over!

Steve: It’s nice to hear. Though sometimes when we’re out and about, we have a kinder ear than we used to, even for ourselves.

NT: Your list of guest musicians on Sirens is beyond impressive: Pete Thomas and Steve Nieve (Elvis Costello), Gerry Leonard (David Bowie), Rami Jaffe (Foo Fighters), Tony Levin (Peter Gabriel), and Matt Chamberlain (Pearl Jam), just to name a few. How did you manage to wrangle all of them onto one album and how did you decide which songs to put them on?

Steve: We were isolated from everyone during treatment. So we thought “If we could have ANYONE play on this…” Then we literally rung up our heroes, and they all said yes. They were very kind and genuine. It was what you hope when you talk or work with someone you admire. It was a bit surreal. A lot of support came from very unexpected places this year. We’re grateful.

NT: Finally, Sirens includes a cover of Tom Petty’s “Learning to Fly” that feels so joyous and spirited. What made you choose that specific song to cover and also to take it up a notch from the original?

Steve: We really weren’t trying to challenge a classic! After we had given a new album of original songs to Nettwerk, Deb was healing and full of energy and we still had time in the studio. Since we had just finished a big project, we felt freed up to do just about anything. We were goofing around with songs we adore by other artists, just literally playing, and after we listened back this take sounded so hopeful. We shared it with Nettwerk, they loved it, and it made it’s way onto the record. Again, not much planning, we just followed the music.

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