When Steve Tannen says the Weepies just wanted "to survive" while making its latest album, "Sirens," means literally.
After the group's previous release, 2010's "Be My Thrill," his wife and musical partner, Deb Talan, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer and underwent chemotherapy and radiation treatments. The good news is that she's now cancer free, and Tannen says making the album played no small part in that recovery.
"We didn't know anything other than we wanted to keep working," Tannen, 47, says by phone from a tour stop in Philadelphia. "I recommend doing something that you can obsess over and work on, creatively or not, during a time like that. Between having three young children and this (album) project, cancer took a back seat day to day 'cause there was other stuff to worry about. It kept the sort of terrors at a minimum.
"If you're concerned about the way a song is shaping up and concerned about whether your kid has a fever, it's more healthy than being sick, y'know?"
Tannen doesn't feel "Sirens" is an album about Talan's cancer, although some of the songs were certainly impacted by it; for instance, he calls the track "Never Let You down" "a little love song I was jokingly writing to my sick wife, trying to in an easy way play with the language." The Weepies didn't even feel they were making an album, he adds, but when the duo sent the songs to their Canadian-based label, Nettwerk Records, they got the green light and added a few more to the mix, including a cover of Tom Petty's "Learning To Fly."
The mood is, of course, a bit lighter on the road now, and Tannen and Talan are out again with all three children in two along with a band that includes drummer Pete Thomas from Elvis Costello's Impressions and Imposters bands.
"The kids wish they were on tour forever because we have a crew of 14 and it's everyone on the same bus and the kids have never had this many attentive adults who want to give them stuff in their lives -- no kid has," Tannen says. "Can you imagine? No one wants to work; everyone just wants to hang out with the kids.
"And the kids don't mind napping now, 'causer they know they can be awake for the bus hang after the show and have all that fun, too. Everyone is kind of basking in it."
The Weepies and Lucy Wainwright
Tuesday, June 30. Doors open at 8 p.m.
The Magic Bag, 22920 Woodward Ave., Ferndale.
Tickets are $25.
Call 248-544-3030 or visit www.themagicbag.com.
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