Singer-songwriter duo Deb Talan and Steve Tannen met over a decade ago at Club Passim in Cambridge. Since then, they have formed the band The Weepies, gotten married and produced five albums. Now, they return to Boston, but they bring no band and no effects, and, true to the title of their tour, the two musicians sit on stage with only their guitars and a piano. This lack of frill, though, perhaps highlights the unique vocals and powerful lyrics of this quiet, folksy pair. And between each song, Deb and Steve fill the concert with their thoughts on everything from porn stars to Christmas Carols, and even their children, all three of whom made appearances during the show. With what can simply be called warmth, The Weepies made a concert hall feel like a coffeeshop and turned a gathering of strangers into a meeting of friends.
The event title is The Weepies: Completely Acoustic and Alone. Can you tell me a bit more about this. Where did it come from? Why did you decide to go with it?
Honesty is best! This tour is different and we wanted to let everyone know up front. Last tour we took a band and crew of 15…this time it’s just the two of us. We’re literally acoustic and alone! It also sounded funny while being true.
You decided to focus this tour on smaller, more intimate venues. What motivated that decision?
Big bus tours are awesome, but we began to feel a little numb on the road. We wanted to open ourselves back up to the audience in a way we lost. The few shows we’ve already done this way have been extremely powerful and connective. Like we used to, we’re now again doing literally everything from hauling equipment to the guitar solos, but we felt like we could play and tour forever. So we’re doing 18 more in a row like this.
Not to get political, but I’ve been reading your posts on social media, and I was wondering if you could speak a bit about connecting in light of the recent election results.
Absolutely. Fear can be very isolating. We’re eager to connect with as many people as
we can. We all need to hang out together more. Live music is one way to do
that, and we’re grateful this tour is coming right now. Community will
come from all of this. Come on out.
How’s Deb’s solo project going? Can you tell me a bit about it? What’s it like to work alone again?
Almost finished. It’s been really enjoyable to go in a studio and do whatever I want and focus completely on making music. It’s strange to not share stuff with Steve, but there’s something connecting with my teenage songwriter self in sort of keeping the songs in my cave for a long time, and that feels good and important.
Deb, before you were in The Weepies, you were in playing in Boston. How is it to be back? How did the Boston music scene influenced you as a musician?
Kind of a musical coming home! I moved there in 2000 and I had just gone from being a member of a band for six years (Hummingfish) to playing on my own, and there was an inspiring supportive folk scene I met that was instrumental in what I did next. Kris Delmhorst, Meg Toohey, Adrienne Gonzalez, Catie Curtis, Jess Klein, the list goes on – Club Passim was the central place. I think that place and time were very formative.
How do your kids feel about The Weepies?
Deb: Anything a parent does that takes away from total attention is difficult for kids. But in general, they think it’s a cool job. Wait, I’ll ask them and quote them verbatim:
“They make things come to life. What I mean by that is I can sit back and enjoy the music and also see things.” Other child: We love to go on tour. And travel the world.”
Steve: I think they are buttering us up and angling for cookies!
In other interviews, you discuss how Sirens was impacted by Deb’s cancer. How do you think this has impacted the overall direction of your music?
Cancer made music seem like a good life choice – there wasn’t an urge to do anything else on a bucket list, and when the word “important” got thrown around, it held its own. The instinct was just make as much music as possible and hang on to the people around us. We’re probably not the best people to say how that has affected the music, we have no perspective. I mean, we still love sappy stuff with a heart, and in some ways we’re even more inclusive in our love of fun pop music. Sirens has some very serious vibes, but I think uplifting and comforting is what we’re still going for.
In 2016, where do you think you guys are headed—musically? In life? Both?
We aren’t big planners. We try to take things day by day – lean on the positive, and follow what move us. We always hope to get better at this too.