The popular Chicago alt-rock pioneers Wilco aren’t doing any touring or recording this year. It seems they work too hard.
The group’s artful leader Jeff Tweedy, who uses time away from Wilco as an excuse to produce records by Mavis Staples and launch new side projects with family members, isn’t the only bandmember who ends up working more during the group’s “time off.”
Since the late 1990s, Wilco bassist John Stirratt has taken Wilco’s breaks in touring and recording cycles as opportunities to reconnect with multi-instrumental producer Pat Sansone – in 2004, Sansone was invited to join Wilco full-time – on their band The Autumn Defense.
“I think that’s one of the keys to Wilco’s longevity,” Sansone says. “[Personal creative space] is worked into the big picture.”
The Autumn Defense’s acclaimed 2004 LP Circles is an infectious throwback to some of the tastiest singer-songwriter, AM-radio gems of the ’70s, including Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson and Lennon’s John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. Like the aforementioned classics, Stirratt’s and Sansone’s strong 10-song collection utilizes the combination of vocals, keys and acoustic guitar melodies to concoct a fat-trimmed mini-masterpiece that’s relevance stands just as strong 15 years later.
“Part of the reason we started The Autumn Defense comes from our own experience listening to records – the style and the vibe of our music came from having love for a lot of the same records,” Sansone explains.
Last November, for the “Black Friday” iteration of Record Store Day, Circles was re-released, marking the last of the duo’s catalog to be issued on vinyl, which is very important to the pair.
“It just makes sense that [all] of our music would exist on vinyl,” Sansone says. “I’m proud to say that all of our records have now been printed on wax. The Autumn Defense hasn’t put out records in a prolific manner, partly because Wilco is pretty busy, but we enjoy it so much that we make the time to do it.”
This summer, meanwhile, The Autumn Defense has a tour lined up with its full band. But first, their brief California tour, making its way to Big Sur next Wednesday, will feature the core duo and special guest, opener William Tyler, a finger-picker prodigy.
THE AUTUMN DEFENSE and WILLIAM TYLER 7pm (6pm doors) Wednesday, May 2. Henry Miller Library, 48603 California 1, Big Sur. $30. folkyeah.com