LICENSE TO THRILL: I’ll be the first to admit that The Weepiesseem too precious to be true. The story goes something like this: boy folkie meets girl folkie at a show in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the two gush over their mutual love of each other’s tunes, start collaborating, fall in love, and eventually start a band, get married, switch coasts, and start a family. Now, two kids and four albums later, the duo of Deb Talen and Steve Tannen are a long way off from their humble first meeting and — lucky for us — still playin’ tunes for a living.
On their latest, August’s NPR-approved Be My Thrill, the Weepies return swinging, with 14 new tracks and a strong and achingly poignant outlook on life. Take, for example, Thrill’s opening track, where Talen gently intones lines like “Don’t say words that you don’t mean / When I’m gone, please speak well of me,” creating an ode to her family that’s heartbreaking in its simplicity.
“It felt like an introduction to this particular chapter,” explained Talen. Elsewhere, Thrill moves between straightforward folk record and something a little more rocking. “I Was Made for Sunny Days” is a buoyant, country-tinged number that finds Talen and pop songstress Colbie Calliat sharing vocal duties over a twangy steel string guitar hook, while the OK Go-esque “How Do You Get High?” gives Tannen a chance to channel his inner rock ‘n’ roller. I recently chatted with both Weepies about their new album, growing family, and how bandmates double as babysitters.
How did you guys meet? And which came first, the romance or the music?
Deb Talen: [Laughs.] It was the music that came first?
Steven Tannen: That’s true. I was a big fan of Deb Talen and I went to play a show in Cambridge, in a club called Club Pastine, and I was rolling into town, playing her first record in my car, and thinking, ‘You know, Deb Talen lives here. It would be cool if she came out and went to my show.’
DT: And I had been listening to Steve’s record already for about a month and I was a rabid fan. I just felt like he was writing for me, that these were all songs for me. And the idea of actually meeting him was very unsettling, but I just had to go to the show.
ST: It was sort of a fancy. It was like going to Washington, D.C. and wondering if the President was going to come to the show. You never know. Maybe. And she came to the show and we met and we started writing together. So first we wrote together, then we played together, then we eventually fell in love, had babies…
DT: … And here we are. [Laughs.]
Where did the name the Weepies come from?
DT: It was partly from our own life experience of calling each other — and feeling-filled, open people — “weepies;” people who tear up when they’re telling you something that’s meaningful to them. We wanted to write music that taps into that place in people, [the place] that we write from.
You guys have two little kids. How do you negotiate touring?
ST: [Laughs] We don’t know yet!
DT: We’re trying it for the first time this time around. Luckily we have a great support team.
ST: We’re bringing our best friends to help out. We’re bringing a big van, a tour manager. The whole thing is to try to surround ourselves with friends and family and people who are awesome at what they do because mistakes will be made — I guarantee it — but if you have your friends and family around you, you’ll be fine.
The bigger the band, the more babysitters, right?
ST: Actually, yes! We were playing with the band in preparation for Lilith Fair and the band didn’t know this, but we were auditioning for us and also seeing how the kids liked them and got along with them. [Laughs.] The kids loooove the band.
Obviously a lot has happened to you both since the last record. Can you tell me a bit about how Be Your Thrill came together?
DT: Well, we actually sat down and wrote for about three months, and just wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote — and lived our lives at the same time. Then at the end of that we just sort of culled through [it all] and started recording.
ST: We had about 70 or 75 songs.
DT: So we just started putting down what seemed like it was working, and what we were still excited about, and then the record really started to emerge.
ST: We are obsessive compulsive writers, both of us. We write pretty much all the time, whether it’s scribbling ideas down on paper or reaching for our phones or recording devices. This morning at 6 a.m. [the baby] and I were sort of clapping out a song about being up before the sun.
”Please Speak Well of Me” is fantastic and lyrically very deliberate. Can you tell me a bit about how it was written and how it came to be the album’s opening track
DT: Sure. I can speak to why it’s the first song on the record, partly because it felt like an introduction to this particular chapter, which was nice. And we liked starting with the line “I’ve been away a year and a day,” just because we’ve been away from actually playing for people for a very long time.
ST: I think that song came about because we have kids now. There’s this face-to-face with your mortality thing that happens when you have kids because you really do have to start answering the question, ‘Ok so what’s going to happen when I’m not around?’ The reason why we’re the Weepies is because I’m tearing up right now, and so is Deb. That sort of question casts its shadow on the rest of your life, on your relationships with your friends, your family, the people you work with.
DT: We became much more keenly aware of that, kind of thinking about what you will leave behind.
The Weepies play SOhO (1221 State St.) this Tuesday, October 12 with openers Les Shelleys (myspace.com/lesshelleys) and Threadspinner (myspace.com/threadspinner). For tickets and info, call 962-7776 or visit clubmercy.com.