Sons of Fathers: Spencer Tweedy

Wilco scion Blisters

The Blisters. See if you can pick out which one’s Spencer Tweedy.
The Blisters. See if you can pick out which one’s Spencer Tweedy.
photo by Zoran Orlic

Spencer Tweedy and I share the fact that we’ve grown up in musical households, following in the footsteps of our celebrated fathers. That’s Wilco frontman Jeff Tweedy and Jon Dee Graham, respectively. Carving out one’s name in such a situation presents its own challenges, but comes with built-in benefits.

The younger Tweedy, for his part, remains well on his way. For starters, he’s the drummer on R&B and gospel legend Mavis Staples’ latest, One True Vine, which his dad produced.

“It was incredible!,” delights Tweedy. “It’s such an honor to be on her record. She’s one of my favorite people in the world. I’m so lucky to know her!”

Then there’s Tweedy’s longtime band, the Blisters. In my opinion, they’re one of the best youngblood bands in North America. The Blisters also have the best band description: “In addition to being truly musically gifted, every member of the Blisters has really awesome hair.”

While our dads are both playing the Austin City Limits Music Festival this year, the Blisters aren’t headed here just yet. They did, however, just release their new disc, Finally Bored, available on iTunes and on the band’s website.

Tweedy met his band mates, Henry Mosher (vox, guitar, principle songwriting), Hayden Holbert (guitar), and Tory P-Lopez (bass), in grade school when they were all around 7. Now half of the band is headed back east to start college.

“Going to the same elementary school and being best friends made it easy to stick together,” explains Tweedy. “After we moved up to high school, it became more work to get the band together, practice, and put on shows. Because we’d been doing it so long already, it wasn’t too bad.

“Every couple of years, we would step back, remember what we used to sound like, and feel really proud of how much we’d changed. We’re looking forward to playing together again when Henry and Hayden come home for breaks.”

Tweedy’s like a lot of second generation musicians that I meet: serious raw talent without huge brash egos to bash you over the head. And he’s a sincerely brilliant drummer, one of the those rare percussionits that could make cardboard boxes sound like an high-end kit.

As support for the new album, the Blisters played Lollapalooza in Chicago and did a tour of the East Coast. Even then, the Blisters’ highlight was playing the Solid Sound Festival, curated by Wilco.

“And we love playing at the clubs in Chicago when all our friends come out,” he adds. “There are a lot of young bands in Chicago right now. We learn stuff from watching our friends play.”

Of the hometown violence that’s been in the news lately, Tweedy’s blunt: “It’s really devastating.”

The Blisters recorded Finally Bored at the Loft, Jeff Tweedy’s studio. Who you know doesn’t always translate into a food budget, though.

“We cooked paninis, drank Coke, and just laughed all day. We had so much fun in the studio. Recording really helps you grow as a musician and it definitely helped us grow as a band. We did a lot of live takes.”

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