Russell Baillie writes about movies for the Herald

Wilco's Jeff Tweedy brings his other band to Auckland

Jeff Tweedy of American art-rock masters Wilco talks life after Star Wars and playing in a band with his son
Father and son Jeff and Spencer Tweedy of the band Tweedy.
Father and son Jeff and Spencer Tweedy of the band Tweedy.

So instead of Wilco, which released Star Wars last year, you're coming here with Tweedy, the band with your son Spencer on drums and which released the Sukierae album in 2014. So is it a side project or its own thing?

It's kind of semantics really. It's a side project if you are using which band is my primary source of income. Or my day job or whatever. I don't think anything would take the pale off Wilco under that criteria. In terms of creative satisfaction or energy it's an equal endeavour.

You're playing Wilco songs too?

I will be playing a fair amount of stuff by myself after a Tweedy set of songs from Sukierae and then we'll all be back on at the end of the set.

You released the Star Wars album for free. How did that work out?

It worked out great for people who wanted to hear it. I think 500,000 people downloaded it for free and we ended up selling a little bit less that we usually sell when we put out the CD and the vinyl but not in any way that is devastating. It's really not the point of the band that we can only exist off selling pieces of plastic.

So it worked out great. It really did what we hoped it would do - sidestep a lot of expectations. A band that has been around as long as we have and made as many records as we have, one of the struggles is you have to compete with yourself.

Any flak for the name?

We asked permission from Lucasfilm and they said no. We went ahead and did it anyway and they haven't said anything. They said no but the way they said no didn't make us feel like they understood what we were asking them. It seemed like they thought we were asking them if we could like use the Star Wars logo and really make it tie into Star Wars. And since that isn't what our intentions were, we took their no to be a yes -- do what you want.

It's not too late. they might still get mad at us. It did produce one of my favourite reviews we have ever gotten. On Amazon a user review said "this album has absolutely nothing to do with Star Wars" and then they gave it two stars anyway.

That's kind.

I thought that was pretty good. I thought we would be lucky to get one star.

What's happening on planet Wilco?

We've got a new record done, probably going to put it out later this year. We're still having fun playing Star Wars so we are not in any hurry to put it out until we have exhausted our energy for the Star Wars record.

Is the next one going to be titled The Empire Strikes back?

No, Schindler's List. No it's not. With Star Wars we had the same artwork with a different title ready to go in case. In my mind by now Star Wars would be called "Cease and Desist."

The Tweedy album was considered a personal album for you. Has that made Wilco songs since less personal?

No. I think that the record that we just finished is a little more direct in some places lyrically, maybe more personal than some of the Star Wars material. That is part of how and why I write songs, to communicate some kind of emotion, or to share some feeling, but there was a certain circumstance around Sukierae that contributed to the whole project having not really an overarching theme but more of an overarching feeling.

And playing those songs live?

It's beautiful. It's been a very warm and comforting thing. Audiences have been super-welcoming and comforting. I think whatever nervousness we may have had about Spencer and I playing together in front of rabid Wilco fans eased pretty early on.

People are generally along for the ride. We have won over a fair number of people who came in not knowing the Tweedy material that well. I think it is a band that can hold its own.

I hear the drummer's pretty good.

He's really taken to the family business. I am happy that he enjoys it. I wouldn't advocate for it unless it was something he was really excited about. It wasn't any grand plan but even before Spencer could hold himself up he would sit at the drums on people's laps and play them. As long as anyone could remember he would gravitate to the drums. He's got to be really fabulous. He's a great collaborator. I'm really fortunate.

Who: Tweedy, the band featuring Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and his teenage drummer son, Spencer

Where: Powerstation

When: Easter Sunday, March 27


- NZ Herald

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