Homegrown talent Drummer Spencer Tweedy
drummer SPENCER TWEEDY
IN 2002 a documentary about the band Wilco was released. Titled I Am Trying to Break Your
Heart , the film followed Jeff Tweedy and his bandmates through a difficult period during which they recorded their breakout album,
Yankee Hotel Foxtrot , struggled through turmoil within the band, and were unceremoniously dumped by their record company. About an hour and a quarter into the film, the band takes to the road on a tour bus with the Tweedy family along for the ride. At one point, a cute towheaded boy, about five, is shown playing an impromptu game of Name That Tune with Jeff. The young boy is now a handsome young man in his late teens. His name is Spencer Tweedy, and he is currently on tour with his father as drummer with the band Tweedy. In addition to father and son, the Tweedy touring ensemble is rounded out by bassist Darin Gray, guitarist Jim Elkington, keyboardist Liam Cunningham, and vocalist Sima Cunningham. Tweedy plays the Lensic Performing Arts Center on Thursday, March 26.
Jeff Tweedy married Spencer’s mom, Sue Miller, in 1995. They met when Miller was booking bands for the Cubby Bear, a bar across the street from Wrigley Field in Chicago. Miller became co-owner of Lounge Ax, a club where Tweedy’s bands frequently played. Tweedy professes online that when his son Spencer was born, before he and Miller took him home, the first place they went was to the club. Lounge Ax closed in 2000, the year that Spencer’s younger brother, Sammy, was born. The youngest Tweedy participates with his dad and brother in a thrashy band/ recording project called the Raccoonists. Spencer is a member of the Blisters — a band that has been playing and recording for the past 11 years. He played drums on the 2013 Mavis Staples album, One True
Vin e, produced by his father, and also on the recently released posthumous Pops Staples album, Don’t Lose
This , also produced by Jeff. Wilco has recorded eight studio albums since 1995, in addition to three collaborations with Billy Bragg (the Mermaid Avenue series), and a two-disc live recording. Jeff Tweedy has performed regularly as a solo act. Sukierae, Tweedy’s debut album, released last year, was initially conceived of as a Jeff Tweedy solo project, but it became apparent that Spencer’s drumming was integral to the development of the songs.
On a February morning when it was freezing in both Chicago and Santa Fe, Pasatiempo had the opportunity to chat with Spencer Tweedy.
Pasatiempo: The era of digital media and the internet, which you have grown up with, offers almost limitless possibilities for expression and communication. You seem to be exploiting these possibilities quite effectively. Spencer Tweedy : It’s amazing. I feel really grateful. Growing up and listening to music, mostly music that’s not from this — my — generation, I think there are times when kids are tempted to say, “I wish I was born in the ’50s or the ’40s so I could have been a young adult in the ’60s.” There’s definitely something romantic about that, but it’s a really awesome time to be alive, especially for kids who need a creative outlet [outside of school]. It was really great for me when I was going to school to have an outlet outside of that. It’s really healthy. It keeps you sane. Pasa: Were you one of those kids who was always beating on things, in terms of your interest in drumming? Tweedy: Absolutely. I was always a good student, but what I got in trouble for most often was just annoying the crap out of my teachers by playing drums on every surface in the classroom. And that continued on, growing into an adult. I’ve had to curb it a bit. Pasa: All the songs on Sukierae were written by your dad, but is songwriting part of what you’re aspiring to? Tweedy: Yeah. Being a drummer and that being the focus of the music I’ve played since I was a little kid, it seems a little weird calling myself a guitar player or a songwriter or a singer. I’ve been putting together a studio at home, and I’ve been recording as much as I can when we’re off the road. Pasa: Are you actually a Wilco fan? Tweedy: Absolutely. I am 100 percent a fan. People think it’s weird, but I love Wilco records. I’m a massive fan. Pasa: I think it’s pretty typical for any kid growing up that, at some point, no matter who they are, they begin to think their parents are boring and embarrassing. Have you gone through that stage, or have you managed to avoid it entirely? Your parents seems like pretty cool people. Tweedy: I don’t think of my parents as being boring. It’s a weird thing, because I’ve been aware of that for a long time from watching movies and TV shows and seeing it in media, like, the parents that were once cool, like in a Judd Apatow movie where Paul Rudd is chained down now and not fun anymore. Or trying to still be fun even though he has kids. My mom is really cool. All my friends think she’s cool — she used to run a rock club, after all. And my dad obviously has the “rock star” benefit. I’ve always thought that both of them were funny. If anything in my perception of my parents has changed, it’s that I realize now just how less omniscient they are. When I was a little kid I thought, Wow! My parents know everything! Now I realize they’re more human in that sense. I don’t think that they’re lame, and, seriously, thank god for that, because it’s one of the more depressing things that can happen. Pasa: What’s the outlook for college? Tweedy: I’m enrolled in a liberal arts school, and I’m starting this fall — because, if I don’t, my mom will murder me. But I’m looking forward to it. I do pretty well in school, and there are parts of the academic environment that really work for me. I at least have to experience a little bit of college.