Wilco – American Radiohead

After being briefly interrupted by his family arriving home, John Stirratt from Wilco walked away from the noise and chatted to Music Feeds about all things occurring in the New Year.

The band’s Facebook page states that exciting things are to come in 2013, including a new record and an appearance at their own Solid Sound Festival. According to John, “The main thing we are excited about is the Solid Sound Festival. It is a festival we curate in Massachusetts.”

Wilco has been on the road constantly. John explains that besides touring, he has not had much time for anything else, but he is certainly happy about it: “At this point, we’ve toured so long. We do soundcheck a lot. There is really no formal rehearsal for new tunes, it is pretty casual. The touring schedule is so heavy, but we’ve probably toured as much as any band in the last five or six years, so it is a little tough to get a lot done.”

Being a founding member of Wilco, John has gone through a few changes over the years. He told us how different Wilco is now from nearly twenty years ago: “The touring has gotten more comfortable. We were pretty audacious in the beginning. The main thing over the years has been the different people involved in the band. To have the same line-up for the last eight years has been great. The earlier years had more changes in the line-up. You can really develop and get really deep, compared to a person that has been in the band for two or three years.”

The Whole Love was released in late 2011. It has been quite a journey for the band, who are still touring for the album in 2013. John explained how the concept started: “It began like any of our records do. We go in after touring on the previous record and try to keep the forward momentum going creatively. We go in and work on a few tunes…different types of songs go together. We had this really spacey-country thing happening that reflected in One Sunday Morning. On the other hand, we had a sort of post-rock thing in Art of Almost.”

“It is just a record over the course that starts to show itself. We have certain previous records that have the ability to sound more consistent, but this one has a lot of different genres approached. It is a success that we were able to make it a really listenable single record that goes all over the place. Art of Almost is the most rewarding for me because of the amount of work it takes to put a track like that together, to get everyone’s expression intact.”

Wilco released The Whole Love through their own label, dBpm Records. John explained, “We were coming to the end of the contract and it was common knowledge the way the record business is going, being a very DIY situation for a long time, even when we were getting off Warner Bros. This time around we were ready to release our own record. We have staff and management, and we have the structure to do it. I don’t know if any majors were really that interested in throwing money at us. It just seemed like we’d been in an autonomous situation for a long time and why not have your label being the same reflection.”

Critics have stated that Wilco are the ‘American Radiohead’. John really didn’t mind it at all. He said, “There are definitely worse things to be called. I’m a Radiohead fan. On the one hand, you don’t like to be tied to one other band in any way whatsoever. I think it is a little bit of laziness on a journalistic level. I think it is also something that you never can avoid. You are happy about people writing about you at all. On the other hand, if people think we have some uncompromising, completely art-based inhibitors for making music, which we do…although it is not like we’re Radiohead in many ways, then I think it’s not a bad title.”

Wilco are returning to Australia in March to play in Byron Bay and a few sideshows along the way. John explained, “I’m a huge fan of both of those (Robert Plant and Paul Simon). Robert Plant is the guy who I’ve come close to meeting many times, but to be quite honest, Byron Bay is really what I’ve had my mind on more than anything. The place is beautiful and I’m just psyched to be there. Obviously with the great music, it’ll be all the better.

I have a very vivid memory of the first time I saw Mavis Staples, our own from Chicago. The first time was in Australia, as bizarre as that sounds. This was before Jeff had done a record with her. It just rocked and really moved me. That is my big memory of Byron Bay. Every time I think about Australia with Wilco, we had been around for so long before we even got there. We didn’t get there in the 90s, but luckily we are able to make up for lost time. It is a good time to see the band because we are running on all cylinders and we are just glad to be there.”

He further went on to explain his love for Australia: “It is a country that has characteristics similar to America. It really does have its own personality. The frontier aspect of it and isolation – do your own thing. At the end of the day, you like to rock, so it is great. Some of the great rock riffs of all time have emerged from Australia. It is just a physically beautiful place and I love going there. I’m excited to be back!”

The Whole Love is out now.

Wilco Australian Tour

Sunday, 24 March – West Coast Blues ‘N’ Roots Festival, Fremantle

Wednesday, 27 March – Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Thursday, 28 March – Hamer Hall, Melbourne

Tuesday, 2 April – Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Wednesday, 3 April – Sydney Opera House, Sydney

Wilco will also be appearing at Byron Bay Bluesfest with dates TBC.

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