The five current members of the Chicago band, however, have spent years finding more than enough time to divert their efforts to other parallel, less lucid and medical but also very substantial projects. Sometimes, even complementary. And of course, always valid to understand the particular idiosyncrasies of the five personalities that make up this cast of extraordinary musicians, the closest thing to a new band that this century has illuminated.
Apart from what the rich alternate trajectories of Jeff Tweedy (vocalist, guitar and main composer), Nels Cline (lead guitarist), Mikael Jorgensen (multi-instrumentalist) or Glenn Kotche (drums) can be found, if there is a project linked to them Represent the emotion of pop in its most transparent and pure state, those are The Autumn Defense. They are also composed of multi-instrumentalists John Stirratt (bass, piano, violin) and Pat Sansone (guitar, keyboards), have just released their fifth album together since 1999 and present on May 12 in Madrid (Teatro Nuevo Lara), on the 14th in Valencia (Crazy Club) and 15 in Barcelona (sidecar), logically-much smaller than he frequents with Wilco, and accompanied by his third man, drummer Greg Wieczorek, who also recorded with them since the dawn of training.
The album whose contents come to be cleared is an authentic delight, an ambrosia pop of filiation 60s and 70s, with The Beatles, sunshine pop or soft rock marked on the horizon, marinated by a contemporary production and with all the traces of sharing buckets with the albums of other contemporary artisans such as Bart Davenport, Josh Rouse, Ben Kweller or Joe Pernice. They have decided to call him simply Fifth (Fifth), without complicating too much the life. John Stirratt is our interlocutor to talk about him, and openly recognizes that "there has never been a big change stylistically in the band from one album to another, but often we have problems when encapsulating everything we want to convey in a single phrase. , since it is something complicated to do when you have two composers, so we have called this album Fifth for the same reason that we call the third The Autumn Defense: we do not worry because we believe it is a collection of songs that is held by yes alone without the need for a more evocative title ".
The danger, as is often the case with works of this kind, is to sound so scrupulously retro that the temptation to catalog them as a band purely anchored in the past. "We do not want to sound too mannered," says Stirratt, who says they always try to update themselves and "sound contemporary, although there are aspects of our heroes, like The Left Banke or The Zombies, that sound refined and neat, but hey, that's at the end of the day in what was the chamber music ". In spite of that, he defends that "our vocal identity and the sound of our records clearly respond to The Autumn Defense".
The own tour of the band has been very influenced by Wilco. Not only because of what is usually said about parallel projects as an escape valve against the routine of the mothers' bands. But because of the very dynamics of the referential band from Chicago: "At first, there was so much energy in Wilco's concerts, that The Autumn Defense was a refuge for me, but I was realizing over the years that I should increase the energy of the project, especially with this last album, because if it does not become too one-dimensional and relaxed ".
John Stirratt has been linked to Wilco since the genesis of the band, in the mid 90's. He was also part of the last formation of his seed, those Uncle Tupelo that were the hinge between what was called New American Rock and what then it was renamed alternative country. But Pat Sansone joined them in 2004, just before starting the tour of A Ghost Is Born (2004). When we asked Stirratt when he saw that The Autumn Defense would have long-term visions and renown project with entity, he is clear: "I think that working with Pat on the first album, and see how we sang together, made things easier , but what really sealed the project was the song "The Answer", from the second album, because it came out with such fluidity that I understood that we had a third voice when we sang together ".
Both Stirratt and Sansone have developed more projects outside of Wilco, of course. The first recorded Arabella in 2003, an album in the name of Laurie and John, who was no more than a duo formed with his sister, member of the band Blue Mountain, and whose entente hope to resume "this summer, see what happens" , since that came out of a parenthesis in their respective bands, when they lived in the same city, and their continuity is stuck because "she now lives in New Orleans, which makes things a bit difficult, although I would love to spend more time down there "
Pat Sansone, meanwhile, has worked as a guest instrumentalist in a string of albums of the most varied, from the digital soul of Jamie Lidell to the rock roots of Dawes, through his contribution to the keyboards in the fantastic You Are Not Alone (2010), the album that the legendary soul singer Mavis Staples recorded with Jeff Tweedy.
And it is precisely Tweedy, alma mater and informal spokesman of Wilco, who has been more lavished in many projects outside the band, although most of his group adventures have to go back to the late 90s, perhaps because they are the times in which he had to share the limelight with the ill-fated Jay Bennett (who died in 2009), the partner who was "invited" to leave the band after the tense recording of the celebrated Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002). By then, Wilco had already recorded with Billy Bragg the two great volumes of the Mermaid Avenue series (in 1998 and 2000), in which they returned to Woody Guthrie's songbook from a current perspective. Later, the band also became involved in Down With Wilco, the album that the super band The Minus 5 (with Scott McCaughey of The Young Fresh Fellows or Peter Buck, of R.E.M.) recorded in 2003.
Jeff Tweedy formed the band Loose Fur in the year 2000, along with Jim O'Rourke, the best fifth man of American alternative rock (Gastr Del Sol, later in Sonic Youth) and Glenn Kotche (Wilco's own drummer), dispatching a couple of albums (Loose Fur in 2003 and Born Again in the USA in 2006) which can be considered as the germ of Wilco's experimental vein, which is logically developed with O'Rourke as a producer in the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot (2002) ), to the chagrin of the mentioned Jay Bennett.
And among all this swarm of projects are not going to miss the uninitiated, because Tweedy has still had time, in all these years, to be part in the second half of the 90's of another American super rock band in a timely manner: Golden Smog, with Dave Pirner of Soul Asylum, Gary Louris of The Jayhawks or Chris Mars of The Replacements, in a more traditionalist journey than the other ships in which it has been shipped. Less prolific is his solo career, barely reduced to the soundtrack of Chelsea Walls, the debut in the film direction of Ethan Hawke, in 2001, as well as to countless solo tours (like the one that brought him to our country, including Valencia, in 2009), in a career punctuated by collaborations with White Denim, brief cameos in series such as Portlandia and other episodic works. Resolved their compositional concerns at the helm of Wilco, it seems logical that he has not neglected to bill only his name.
The curious thing is that Cline's music outside of Wilco is frankly experimental, strongly influenced by avant-garde jazz, as proven by the distant Nels Cline Trio (from 1991 to 2002) and the more recent The Nels Cline Singers (although in reality do not sing anyone on their albums), with albums as juicy as Initiate (2010) or the recent Macroscope (2014), to which Stirratt alluded. All are located in a level of melodic abstraction and formal temerity to which even the most adventurous Wilco had not approached, and immerse themselves in its content is a worthwhile experience.
Along similar lines moves the drummer Glenn Kotche, who entered Wilco through Jim O'Rourke, early last decade, and who has just released the splendid Adventureland, a disc halfway through contemporary classical (by Something collaborates The Kronos Quartet, with whom he had already worked on the similar Anomaly, in 2007, presented at the San Francisco Jazz Festival that year) and the minimalism of Steve Reich, in a race that also highlights Mobile (2006 ), in the same line. Another meridian example of how different can be the works that the band members dispatch on their own, within that creative biodiversity to which John Stirratt alluded.
The least prolific of all its components is the keyboardist Mikael Jorgensen, also the youngest of the current members of Wilco. In 1999 he released the unknown album Western Hamlet, with the band Movere Workshop, but the most relevant of his career outside of Wilco is Bunny Hate Wolf, an album of seductive landscape electronics that he edited in 2013 with percussionist Greg O'Keefe (with who had previously published material under the name of Pronto), and that, it jumps in your ear, has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the pranks that have been perpetrated by none of the members of the Chicago sextet in all these years.
His is another of the facets of a range of sounds as heterogeneous as broad, which shows that Wilco is not only one of the most prominent bands of recent times, but also an exceptional hotbed of sound adventures without corset. Enjoying them or the exquisite The Autumn Defense is an irresistible experience, but entering into any of its other tributaries also brings juicy gratification.