Music

Jeff Tweedy Talks New Wilco EP, Solid Sound Festival 2024


If you go to see Wilco in North Adams, Mass., on June 28, don’t expect to hear “Impossible Germany.” In fact, it’s probably best not to get your hopes up for any of Wilco’s big concert standbys on the first night of their biannual Solid Sound Festival, when they will debut an all-deep-cuts set. “I’m willing to make that commitment right now,” says Jeff Tweedy, who adds that he’s firmly ruling out “Jesus, Etc.” and “Via Chicago,” too.

Night One of the band’s three-day music festival in western Massachusetts always comes with a twist. Past editions have seen an all-covers set (2013), an all-acoustic set (2015), a karaoke set featuring guest vocalists (2019), and the live debut of a new double album (2022), among other surprises and stratagems. Hence the deep-cuts idea. “It’s a little daunting at the moment,” Tweedy admits. “We’re still in the weeds.” Lately they’ve been hard at work rehearsing some of their less-played songs, while also engaging in some philosophical debates. 

“The question is, what qualifies as a deep cut to hardcore fans?” he continues. “I don’t know — is ‘Casino Queen’ a deep cut at this point? Because we don’t play it very often, even though it was probably one of the more popular songs off of that record.” (That rollicking, riverboat-themed rocker from Wilco’s 1995 debut is not a deep cut, in this writer’s view; it is, however, a highlight in any Wilco set where it appears.)

So, OK. Deep cuts, the precise definition of which remains to be determined, on Night One; a more straightforward yet still-awesome Wilco set on Night Two; and one more set by Jeff Tweedy and Friends to close out the festival’s third day. Anything else that fans should look forward to that weekend? Oh yeah.

For starters, the festival’s opening day, June 28, will see the release of a brand-new Wilco EP. Hot Sun Cool Shroud features six summer-ready songs that show off the band’s range, from the punky thrash of “Livid” to the bright guitar pop of “Annihilation” to the Beatles-hued “Say You Love Me.” The songs all have their origins in the studio sessions for last fall’s Cousin, after which Tweedy went back and completed them. Festival attendees will have the chance to design their own cover art for the EP using rubber stamps and stickers.

Wilco onstage in August 2023.

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Fans can also plan to catch the rest of the Solid Sound lineup, a group of more than 30 Wilco side projects, friends of Wilco, and other acts chosen by the band, all performing on stages in and around the stunning modern-art collection of Mass MoCA. The eclectic nature of the bill — which includes Brooklyn avant-pop duo Water From Your Eyes, Ethiopian keyboard legend Hailu Mergia, Baltimore art-rock band Horse Lords, West African desert-blues act Etran de l’Aïr, and lots more — is very much on purpose, Tweedy says: “That’s something we look for.”

He’s looking forward to seeing Chicago’s own Horsegirl, who opened for Wilco on tour last year. “They’re drawing on things that I liked a lot when I was a kid,” he says of the trio, whose members are all around age 21. “It’s really exciting to see that type of post-punk guitar music being reimagined as something that speaks to a different generation.”

He’s also stoked that Philly hardcore band Soul Glo were up for playing Solid Sound. “I was a hardcore punk rock fan growing up, and [they have] an energy that you don’t see a whole lot of these days — a positive anger, a liberating anger as opposed to a destructive anger,” he says. “They seem like a band that’s building a community around themselves and expressing themselves with an intensity that I like being around.”

Elsewhere on the Mass MoCA campus, you’ll find more established acts that Wilco admires, like Nick Lowe and Iris DeMent. “Nick Lowe’s a hero,” Tweedy says. “He’s a really nice example of somebody that’s aged gracefully, and as a band that’s getting older, that’s always hopeful to us, to see somebody forging a career unlike anybody else’s.” 

Since launching in 2010, Solid Sound has grown into a reliable highlight of the festival circuit, with a wide array of cool sounds and a low-key, welcoming feel. “It’s a human-scale festival,” Tweedy says. “I think it’s unique enough that the festival itself has developed fans that come back regardless of who’s playing. Maybe even regardless of us playing.”

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Aside from the new Wilco EP, the always-prolific songwriter has lots of other projects in the works. He mentions that he’s been working with his sons, Spencer and Sammy, on a follow-up to his 2020 solo album Love Is the King, with additional vocals from Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart of Finom. “It’s built around the idea of ensemble singing,” he says, adding that he’s aiming for a 2025 release. “So that’s exciting.”

Speaking of Spencer Tweedy, the 28-year-old drummer was recently featured on Waxahatchee’s indie-album-of-the-year contender Tigers Blood, and he just wrapped a run of U.S. shows with that band. After Solid Sound, Spencer will hit the road for more Waxahatchee dates in Europe and North America this summer. “He’s having a great time,” his dad says. “I’m super proud.”



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