Saturday, 3 October 2009

Saturday Spotlight: The Weepies

Unlike some of the other artists I've featured in Saturday Spotlights, The Weepies might be a group you've already heard of, whether it be on Grey's Anatomy, in a commercial, or somewhere else I haven't discovered yet.

Don't take this to mean that The Weepies have sold out; rather, Steve Tannen and Deb Talan have just found ways of getting their name out there, and anyone that immediately labels their music as overtly commercial because of this should really take another listen.

What you get from The Weepies is heartfelt folk-pop that, befitting its newfound home in primetime dramas, is the perfect score for the best -- and worst -- days of your life. Both Tannen and Talan sing on their albums, although Talan does most of the vocals, in a voice that IndieMuse described as "Joni Mitchell... [or] a folkier Frou Frou [fronted by Imogen Heap]."

Both of these comparisons ring of some accuracy, but as far as I'm concerned, Deb Talan has more in common with Joni Mitchell's earthy soprano than with Imogen Heap's ethereal vocals.

Unlike Joni Mitchell, however, I'm pretty sure Talan doesn't smoke. And if she does smoke, as you can hear on "Gotta Have You" (from their major-label debut Say I Am You), she's doing a first-rate job of hiding it.

How Deb Talan and Steve Tannen first met is a complicated story to tell, so I'll let this old bio from their Myspace explain it for me:

"Girl walks into a bar…
Her name is Deb Talan. She’s an up and coming singer/songwriter who has garnered tremendous word-of-mouth support and critical praise for her debut CD, Something Burning. Boston’s legendary music venue Club Passim has become her performing-home, but tonight she’s there to check out a new songwriter she’s been obsessing over, a musician from New York City named Steve Tannen. She’s been listening to his debut CD, Big Señorita, non-stop for about a month.

Guy walks into a bar…
His name is Steve Tannen. He’s at Club Passim in Boston to play a show supporting his debut release, Big Señorita. He’s been playing rock and roll in NYC dive bars for a couple of years, but since the release of his solo CD he’s garnered tremendous word-of-mouth support and critical praise. He’s nervous because Boston is a new town for him, but he’s even more nervous once he looks out at the crowded room and instantly recognizes the pretty young woman down front as singer/songwriter Deb Talan. In a word, he’s intimidated; he’s been obsessing over her debut CD, Something Burning, non-stop for about a month.

Deb Talan and Steve Tannen began writing together the first night they met and soon formed THE WEEPIES. “We were fans of each other. When we met, there was an electric connection that made us both nervous. After the show, when everyone went home, we stayed up all night playing songs for each other, drinking a bottle of wine and trading an acoustic guitar back and forth in a tiny apartment,” says Talan. “That night has lasted four years so far,” adds Tannen.”

Not long after, the duo independently released their first album, Happiness, and before long had attracted attention from the folks at Nettwerk Records. The rest, they say, is history.

Here's a song from Happiness, the festive "All That I Want":

While they may now have a major-label contract, The Weepies still have a uniquely independent way of going about business, especially when it comes to music videos. Almost all of their videos have been fan-produced; the clip for "Nobody Knows Me At All" is particularly impressive.

After the release of Say I Am You and its accompanying two-year tour, The Weepies went into a self-imposed hibernation of sorts to rest and write songs. The record that resulted, Hideaway, continued the duo's knack for producing quiet folk-pop; however, many of the songs on their sophomore release were tinted with varying degrees of melancholy, as the opener "Can't Go Back Now" and "Antarctica" attest.

Recently, The Weepies have begun to collaborate with other artists, primarily in the area of songwriting. They successfully helped Mandy Moore reinvent herself as a contemporary folk singer on her album Wild Hope; one of the songs they cowrote with Moore, "All Good Things", also made an appearance on Hideaway.

True to their name, The Weepies have established a place in the hearts -- and ears -- of listeners everywhere with their emotionally honest music. They're not particularly radical when it comes to the folk/pop genre, but they're very good at what they do, and at times, that's all that's needed.

A new album of theirs is currently in the works, if their Twitter feed is any indication; keep an eye out for it, and if it's anything like the joyous pop of "All This Beauty", their fans will have something to celebrate.

Until next time,


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