Jeff Tweedy talks Wilco’s new album, past Dallas shows and why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is bogus – The Dallas Morning News

Posted: October 20, 2019 at 9:03 am

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Jeff Tweedy has operated as a one-man band in recent years, releasing three solo albums, touring as a solo act and publishing a witty warts-and-all memoir, Lets Go (So We Can Get Back).

Yet there was never any doubt hed return to Wilco, the shape-shifting rock group hes led since 1994. Earlier this month, the Chicago band released Ode to Joy its 11th album and its best work in ages and hit the road for a tour that comes to Toyota Music Factory on Wednesday.

We talked to Tweedy about the new album, his previous trips to Dallas and why he thinks the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is a whole lot of hooey.

The interview has been edited for clarity.

Most fans dont think of Wilco as a political band, per se. But in new songs like Before Us and Citizens, its obvious youre upset about everyday violence in our society and lies being told by various people in high places.

Weve always tried to be engaged without being didactic or strident in our rhetoric. But in this era, there are a lot of oppressive things everyone is swimming around in. On the one hand, I dont really want to give that much acknowledgement [to oppressors]. On the other hand, it would be inaccurate if what Im working on did not reflect a certain state of mind and the exhaustion that comes with this constant, daily assault on reality. Were all seeing what were seeing, and it needs to be apparent in the music were making.

One of your new lyrics that jumped out at me is the line Im worried about the way were all living.

I mean, like, were transforming our bodies our necks are going to be different in 100 years if we keep looking at our phones the way we do today. I think its pretty pervasive, and the technology is pretty far ahead of our emotional evolution and maybe even our physical evolution.

Speaking of phones, Wilco was one of the first bands to put signs outside concert halls asking fans to put away their phones and not take photos and videos during the show. Do you still do that?

No. Im not going to die on that hill anymore. Ive lost that battle.

Its one of my least favorite things in the world, to have someone in the front row sticking a camera in my face, you know? Ive tried to find some tolerance, and Ive tried to examine what bothers me about it, and one of the things is I dont like the way I look. I used to fear there was, you know, a YouTube channel devoted entirely to me forgetting lyrics, or looking like an ass or something. And Ive come to the conclusion that nobody ever looks at these things again.

I think its rude to the people around you. I think its rude to the performers. But at the end of the day, its a pretty minor infraction in the grand scheme of things.

Wilcos music tends to evolve from one album to the next. How did you challenge yourself on Ode to Joy?

I definitely feel like we concentrated on taking apart the traditional rock rhythm section. I mean, a lot of hip-hop records in the last three or four years have been way more exciting to me than a lot of rock records, and part of it is because theyre not mired in legacy.

The whole point is to always be pushing forward to find the new thing, and I think rock music has lost sight of that future. I dont think rock music will ever gain that relevance back, certainly not by being self-conscious and more concerned with preserving its status than with liberation and freeing yourself.

I just think that in rock music, a drum kit is a drum kit, and thats it. But on a hip-hop record, the drum could be, you know, a piece of paper being ripped, or a trumpet thats been sequenced like a drum pattern. The whole point of art is to get you to see things that are there that youve ignored, and to see things that you didnt know were there.

You played a solo acoustic show in March at the Majestic Theatre where two drunk fans kept yelling and singing loudly off-key. You ridiculed them and had fun with it, and they were eventually asked to leave the theater. As someone whos quit drinking, whats it like having to deal with that kind of thing?

There are times onstage where I feel like Im [struggling] to figure out what the right move is to control the environment and not have the show devolve into something unpleasant. But Ive never had a difficult time dispatching drunks. Theyre like low-hanging fruit to me because you just present them to the audience. The reality that theyre missing [in their drunken state] is that youre not playing for them. Youre playing with them. Its not a movie. Its not pre-programmed. Its interactive. Theyre a part of it.

Its been almost 25 years since Wilco released its debut album, which means youre eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Is that something you ever think about?

I have a tough time picturing that happening. There are tens of thousands of artists that [should] be ahead of us that arent even in the discussion. In general, I think its jive, and I think its a money-making boondoggle for some people, and sort of a tax scam for the people of Cleveland. Thats how I feel about it.

Wilco played Trees in 1996 when there was a ton of buzz surrounding your second album, Being There. That night, you played a wonderfully tongue-in-cheek version of the Shirelles Will You Love Me Tomorrow. All these years later, do you still worry fans will lose interest in the band?

I do remember covering that song, but I wasnt thinking Will you still love us if were no longer a buzz band? It was more like, Will you still love me after you see how goofy I am and how Im not-too-completely-together as a person. [Laughs]

Im fine with the idea that fans jump off and find other things, and I think there is a distinct likelihood that as a band gets older, you have some gentle decline [in audience size]. But I dont have any intentions of surrendering to that. Every time I make a record, Im invigorated by the notion that we can reach out and connect with someone new. We always have something to prove. We always feel energized by people betting against us.

Wilco and opening act Molly Sarl perform Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Music Factory, 300 W. Las Colinas Blvd, Irving.

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Jeff Tweedy talks Wilco's new album, past Dallas shows and why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is bogus - The Dallas Morning News

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October 20th, 2019 at 9:03 am