The Weepies on Lilith, licensing and love
It's funny that that new single from the Weepies is called "I Was Made for Sunny Days," because the metaphor that best suits their music might be the marine layer that's been lingering in the Southland this month. Songs by this singer-songwriterly married couple sneak up gently and make everything around them cool down. They never oppress. You can walk around in them comfortably.
Deb Talan met Steve Tannen (I know, it's cute; even their names are similar) at a Boston-area club in 2001; mutual admiration led to love, the pair married, and they had a son in 2007. Based in Topanga, the Weepies work at home with little Theo usually underfoot. Since becoming parents, Talan and Tannen haven't toured; they've kept active by licensing music to TV shows such as "Gossip Girl" and "How I Met Your Mother." The pair even appeared in an episode of "Dirty Sexy Money." Another thrill came when the Obama-Biden campaign used the calmly insistent song "Can't Go Back Now" in an ad.
With the fourth Weepies album, "Be My Thrill," due Aug. 31 on Nettwerk Records, Talan and Tannen are venturing forth on a few live dates. (They will tour extensively in the fall, with Theo on board.) They're on the Lilith Tour bill that stops at Irvine Meadows/Verizon Wireless Amphitheater on July 10 -- a natural fit, since Nettwerk is also behind the challenged-but-still-worthy tour.
Talan and Tannen recently played tag-team with me on the phone from their canyon home, sharing thoughts about their stay-at-home period and their newly active music schedule. An edited version of our chat is below, along with some lovely, misty, refreshing cloud-cover songs from "Be My Thrill."
You've chosen to stay home since your son, who's now almost 3, was born. Do you think your fans have stuck around for you?
DEB TALAN: People have taken our music into our lives just as they always have. We’ve never been the swinging rock stars, anyway. So we don't have as much to lose in that department. Whatever draws people into our music and our little world as we've created in it, [being parents] doesn't affect their ability to appreciate it.
It's admirable -- and a little surprising -- that Nettwerk didn't push you to stay on the road. Sarah McLachlan told me that the company demanded constant touring from her in the early days of her career.
TALAN: Part of what's been a good fit with Nettwerk is that they heard what we were doing and just said keep doing it. Another thing that's been really wonderful is their licensing abilities. We're both movie geeks, and the connection they've made, linking us musically with film and television, have been amazing. [Nettwerk CEO] Terry McBride is always thinking outside the box.
You guys are monsters of licensing!
TALAN: It's a lot more common now. Rather than the only way of making a living is going out and touring like crazy, there's this other way that is so effective in terms of reaching a lot of people. A bunch of other friends, it's happening in their careers too.
What are you expecting from your Lilith gig?
TALAN: I expect we'll see a lot of women! It’s a summertime festival, and from everything we've heard about the way it's run -- there are good aesthetics. Steve and I had a funny experience once. We played a bunch of festivals in Europe a few years ago. We ended up being slotted into a couple of almost heavy metal festivals in Germany. We played in front of Tool! I have a feeling this will be a bit more comfortable.
Did you ever attend a Lilith Fair back in the 1990s?
TALAN: I never did [go.] I was trying to think why. I think it must have been where I was living at the time. I was in Bend, Ore., teaching second grade and writing songs furtively at night.
Still, for me, the existence of Lilith was kind of revelatory -- oh, wow, here are all these women musicians whom I enjoy, and they're making a life of this. Even if I didn’t go to the show, just knowing it was happening, it was, like, aha ...
Oh, here's Steve.
[STEVE TANNEN TAKES THE PHONE]
So, Steve, what do you think about being one of the few male front-people on Lilith?
TANNEN: Fifteen thousand women and me. What's the question? I'm totally psyched. No, seriously, I became infatuated with Deb's music before I met her, and any time we get to highlight Deb, I love it. Plus, I'm such a big fan of all the artists on Lilith. We're so psyched to be part of it. A few guys in the mix to add just a tiny bit of seasoning is OK.
You're headlining your own tour in the fall.
TANNEN: Yes, a theater tour. It's going to be bigger than anything else we've done, because we haven't really had the opportunity to tour in years.
That's because of Theo. But you're bringing him along, of course. Is he musical?
TANNEN: He plays the guitar and drums. He plays guitar better than me, which is not saying much. He sings. He's amazing. He plays the harmonica. He was in utero while we were recording Hideaway; he was in the room while we were recording the new one. He was literally standing with these special headphones on right next to the drummer.
So he's having a rock 'n' roll childhood.
TANNEN: This is a pretty full house. Weepies Central is in our dining room. Everybody he knows plays instruments all the time. So he's growing up in it. And he's learning fast! I'm a little disappointed that my math and science lessons aren't taking hold yet, but the music lessons are.
The Weepies perform Saturday, July 10 as part of the Lilith Tour at Irvine Meadows/Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. Also on the bill are Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris, Brandi Carlile, Miranda Lambert, Jenni Rivera, Elizaveta, Susan Justice, Jes Hudak, Molly Jenson and Marina and the Diamonds. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
-- Ann Powers
Photo credit: Nettwerk Records
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