An Interview with the Husband and Wife Folk-Indie Duo, THE WEEPIES on Their Latest Release “Sirens” And More!
Posted On 13 May 2015
Tag: AIR, All Access, All Access Music Group, Artist Interview, Ben Watt, Brian Wade, David Bowie, Daytrotter, Deb Talan, Elliot Smith, Elvis Costello, Ever Said Goodbye, Fancy Things, Foo Fighters, Gerry Leonard, Lindsay Buckingham, Madonna, Mark Knopfler, Matt Chamerlain, Nettwerk Music Group, No Trouble, One Tree Hill, Paul Oakenfold, Pearl Jam, Pete Thomas, Peter Gabriel, Rami Jaffe, Rihanna, Say Anything, Say I Am You, Singer-Songwriters, Sirens, Soundcloud, Steve Nieve, Steve Tannen, The Attractions, The Weepies, Tony Levin, World Spins Madly On
Singer-songwriters Deb Talan and Steve Tannen make up The Weepies. On the strength of their simple yet insightful songwriting and distinctive harmonies, they have sold more than a million records,with over 17 million streams on Spotify, and 20 million views on YouTube. They are married and have three children, rarely touring but continuing to release their music.
Just before Christmas 2013, when their youngest son was 17 months old, Deb Talan was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer. She was in chemo by New Year’s Eve. In 2014, Deb beat cancer and The Weepies recorded the best album of their career. At 16 songs and almost an hour long, their latest release, “Sirens” shows a band at the height of their career.
“Sirens” was released by Nettwerk worldwide on April 28th. Learn more about the album and how Deb and Steve work together in the following interview:
Thanks so much for taking the time for this interview! What’s on the agenda for you two today?
We’re trying to stay grounded! There’s a lot going on in the next few months with touring and promo for the new record. Right now it’s 7AM… Today is homeschooling, rehearsing, then heading to Illinois to play a Daytrotter session. I’m thinking we’re ordering out for dinner.
Honestly, I first got to know your music through watching the show, “One Tree Hill”. Do you still think that’s how many people are learning about music today?
We’ve always discovered music that way too – from way back when Peter Gabriel’s song came through the boombox in “Say Anything”, to Rickie Lee Jones to Air… It’s definitely a significant way to hear music. No matter how people get to see movies or TV shows or whatever we’ll call those visual stories in the future, music will be an important part of that experience.
“World Spins Madly On” is one of my absolute favorite songs. Can you tell me a little about the inspiration for that song?
Elliot Smith had just died, and though neither of us knew him, it hit us both hard – he was a suicide, it seemed preventable, he wasn’t that much older than us, he had briefly crossed paths with Deb, etc. It’s not about him of course, but at that time in our little house there was a lot of emotion and looking back, that probably was a big part of it. We didn’t talk about it, but that terrible feeling of loss was around. We turned the mics on to get a “demo” of it, and that’s the take we ended up releasing.
What is like to work with your spouse? Do you find you argue about silly things or not really?
It is the best of times, it is the worst of times! There’s really nowhere to hide – everything comes out in the open quickly, so things can’t fester. It makes for a healthier life overall probably, but there is also bloodletting. We still enjoy each other, and making music together, and raising kids. We feel lucky.
How did you pick your band name? What other names were you considering?
Picking a name seemed pretty inconsequential at the time. It was just an organic thing we were doing, playing in the moment and we needed a name so we wouldn’t be “Deb & Steve” – it was maybe 2 months between first calling ourselves a “band” and releasing the first Weepies record. The fact that it worked, that people came out and supported it in a way we had never experienced, was totally surprising. And by then, there was no going back on the name that we more or less picked one morning because it made us smile.
There were some other early name contenders, The Full Catastrophe, (from Zorba The Greek – “Wife…Kids…the full Catastrophe.”), and also the Weeds, but both were taken.
I have read that you recorded your second album, “Say I Am You” in your bedroom in Pasadena! Is that true? What was that experience like?
We’ve always recorded at home because that’s what we could afford. Now we have an attic and call it a studio, but it’s the same we’ve always done. We find working at home the most natural – you just put up the mics and play.
You just released your newest album, “Sirens”. Did Deb’s diagnosis, treatment, and recovery from Stage 3 breast cancer affect the
creation of this record? How do you feel that the songs on “Sirens”
captured specific steps along that specific journey?
We hope it hangs together like a musical photo album. We didn’t write specifically about anything that happened – it’s much more satisfying and interesting to just be open in the moment and see where the music goes, but “Sirens” was made literally upstairs from some very heavy emotions. 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, but this is a record of that long, extended moment.
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?
We rung up our heroes and they all said yes! Mark Knopfler was the only person we approached who couldn’t do it (they were really nice about it, he was just swamped in the middle of everything he’s doing). We wanted these specific people on these songs – we’ve listened to their work and admired them for years, so we had an inkling those players would vibe with those particular tracks. Still, everyone far exceeded our expectations – gorgeous playing that we simply say Thank You for. We are deeply grateful.
Sure! A thousand people! Lindsay Buckingham, Paul Oakenfold, Ben Watt, Brian Blade, Rihanna. I think Madonna could probably produce the hell out of a Weepies track. We’re totally open. And Mr. Knopfler, we still have that track with your name on it!
What songs are you most excited for fans to hear?
“Ever Said Goodbye”, “Sirens”, “Fancy Things”, “No Trouble”… All right, all of them! But seriously, we are proud of this collection, we feel it caught a moment, and the supporting band is fantastic. The radio remix of “No Trouble” and “Fancy Things” are probably the most experimental groovy tracks we’ve done in awhile.
With touring and recording, how do you keep a balanced family life with you children?
We homeschool and work at home, and the boys see what our lives are like every day. We share as much as possible. Kids can handle a lot, and so we include them. Every parent worries, (we’re no exception), but we hope we’re doing a good job of balancing things.
I’m excited to see you perform this summer here in LA. What can fans expect from one of your shows?
It’s a 6 person band, great players, including our 10 year touring band with the addition of Pete Thomas from The Attractions for this run. We’re readying quite a number of new songs, with a healthy dose of some older material. And a ton of unbridled enthusiasm – we cannot wait to play!
The Weepies “No Trouble” Soundcloud: