The Englert — Saturday, Nov. 26 at 8 p.m.
Iowa City-based husband and wife folkpop duo the Weepies have been writing and recording together for nearly 15 years, through three kids, five albums and a bout with cancer. Now, Deb Talan and Steve Tannen are gearing up to go back to their roots with the Completely Acoustic and Alone tour this fall/winter, that takes them to the East coast, to Canada and to the Englert, on Saturday, Nov. 26 — and they’re thrilled about it.
“[W]e did a huge tour with a 15 person band and crew, and it was a big party,” Tannen told Little Village in an email, referring to the 2015 tour for their latest record, Sirens. “But we got numbed out to the shows eventually; it was too big. We started doing much smaller shows — just the two of us, hauling our own equipment, tuning our own guitars, doing the guitar solos, changing the set every night or on a whim mid-show — and it’s been profound. It’s a return to what we love about this in the first place.”
The pair met as young solo performers, and that aspect of their past is being celebrated this tour, too. Along with new Weepies material, they’ll also be debuting work from Talan’s upcoming solo album, Lucky Girl, which was Kickstarted to life this summer, reaching nearly double its goal.
“There’s no bigger Deb Talan fan in the world than I am,” Tannen said of his wife’s newest effort. “When the Weepies happened we just followed it because it was so fun, and really it was a runaway train of success; we often felt like we were just riding along. But after being pregnant for 10 years and going through cancer, I think Deb needs to find out and reclaim who she is.”
As for any solo outings of his own? Tannen calls himself an “obsessive compulsive writer,” but has no plans in the immediate future. “Winter is coming,” he said, “which is a great time to hunker down and figure things out in our cave.”
Of course, even when doing a tour without the entourage, Tannen and Talan are never quite “alone” — their children, ages four, six and nine, are always along for the ride. How do they keep each other sane with a wild bunch like that on the road? “We feel very lucky,” Tannen said, “but sanity? Kids are crazy! When we manage to secure a small parenting victory by tricking them into eating vegetables we feel like, ‘Wow, congratulations, you outwitted a three-year-old!’ … Honestly though, we love it, and we love to be able to be so close to the kids so much of the time.”
It was, in part, the kids that brought the pair to Iowa City. “When we were true vagabonds living out of our old Corolla playing shows, we always joked that when we had kids and settled down we’d do it in Iowa City,” Tannen said. “Deb got pregnant a third time in 2012 and we were still wandering; we looked at each other and said, ‘We better go visit Iowa City again.’ After that it was surprisingly easy. We had friends here already, and the wider community has been overwhelmingly welcoming.”
That welcome is still warm; there is a lot of buzz around this show, and Iowa City seems excited for a chance to show some love to the new locals. When told this, Tannen said, “We have a lot of love right back … If you need a respite from Thanksgiving, or just need to come together over a too-long weekend, well, that’s why we chose to do the show the Saturday after Thanksgiving. It’s the perfect time to get out of the house.”
If you’d like to get out of the house and see the Weepies, tickets are $30 in advance or $33 day of show.