by Steve McPherson
To say that the Weepies go for the jugular when it comes to heartfelt, heart-on-sleeve, heartstring-tugging music would be an understatement. Their debut CD, Say I Am You, is a study in the light melancholy and simple pleasures of the everyday moments that make up life. Opener “Take It From Me” begins with muted acoustic guitar and pining mellotron chords, adds wistful arpeggiated electric guitar, and then Deb Talan hits you with “What could I compare you to?/ A favorite pair of shoes/ Maybe my bright red boots/ If they had wings.” Her small and intimate voice, which often has a quizzical lilt, is the perfect vehicle for these kind of sweet sentiments.
She met co-vocalist/guitarist Steve Tannen at a show in Boston at Club Passim.
“We actually had two shows,” she elaborates via phone from a tour
stop in South Bend, Ind. “One in Boston where Steve played by himself
and I was in the audience and then two weeks later where I played in New York
and Steve was in the audience, so we each got to be on stage and completely
nervous in front of the other within a couple weeks of meeting.”
At the time, Tannen was based in New York and had already released his solo
debut, Big Señorita, while Talan was living in Boston and had
a CD of her own, Something Burning. As the story goes, they began writing
together that very night and went on to form the Weepies. If it sounds like
something out of a romantic comedy, it pretty much is. The cinematic connection
even comes up in the name.
“Basically, we called friends of ours who would weep at ‘Pinocchio’—when
we were weeping, they would be weeping—we called them weepies,”
says Talan. “So when we were looking for a name for ourselves—wanting
to make music that tapped into that place in people—and already having
that word in our lexicon, it encompassed the kind of people that we want to
noted. I once made a mix that I imagined to be the soundtrack to an untitled
movie: Clem Snide’s “Good and Evil” for the opening credits;
The Meters’ “Pungee” for the bank heist planning scene; Jeff
Buckley’s version of “Satisfied Mind” for the closing credits.
In the middle I had sandwiched a whole lot of boy-meets-girl music; stuff for
that scene where two friends hang out late into the night, the girl lets her
guard down a little, lets the boy take her home, they kiss and she falls asleep
in his arms. Pretty much any Weepies’ song would make a good fit for this
kind of moment, but not because they’re interchangeable. Rather, they’ve
done an excellent job of taking the emotions wrapped up inside the particular
and translating them to the universal.
When I bring up the soundtrack music question, Talan replies, “We’re
the kind of people who watch our favorite movies over and over again and analyze
them. Certainly they’ve been an artistic influence. I also think our songs
are creating these kind of emotional environments and trying to have them have
some sort of a story, but have an arc that has an openness to it in the writing.
There are two reasons [for that]. One is that we can keep coming back to it
and keep playing the thing and keep us interested, and so that other people
can see their own stories within them. And so, if it’s combined with a
TV story or a movie story, there’s the potential for them to work off
each other. Part of the move to L.A. was to get, by proximity, a little more
connected with film and [to be] able to ultimately write for film a little bit.”
ability to craft songs to gently nudge along stories hasn’t gone unnoticed
in Tinseltown. Their songs have appeared in Todd Solondz’ “Palindromes”
and Nicole Holofcener’s “Lovely and Amazing.” “World
Spins Madly On” from Say I Am You appears in the recently released “Friends
with Money,” but its appearance in the film was more than just happenstance.
“With ‘Friends with Money,’” says Talan, “we’ve
been in touch with the director (Nicole Holofcener) for the last couple of years,
and she actually sent us the script before she started filming and said, ‘I
know you guys said you were interested in writing toward the script,’
and she ended up using one of the songs we wrote.”
Their songwriting partnership has been fruitful thus far, but is Talan and Tannen’s
relationship ever beset by the same kind of stumbles that some of their characters
experience? Do they ever long for the days of being a solo act? At this point,
Tannen jumps on the phone: “What we think is—because we’ve
been asked this one before—we think that the difference between writing
alone and making music alone and writing with someone else and making music
with someone else, is the difference between having sex alone and having sex
with someone else. Yeah—the dimensions are just so much greater.”
The Weepies perform Thu., May 11 at Ginkgo
Coffeehouse. 7:30 p.m. $10. All Ages. 721 Snelling Ave S., St. Paul. 651-645-2647.
For more information on The Weepies, check out their official website at