Twelve years after they saw him slapping out the beat to “Heavy Metal Drummer” on his lap in the 2002 documentary “I Am Trying to Break Your Heart,” Wilco fans have been anticipating the sight and sound of Spencer Tweedy playing a real drum kit alongside father Jeff Tweedy on stage.
The younger Tweedy, now 19, started making music with his dad, Wilco’s frontman, not long after starting his senior year of high school. Their collaboration would blossom into the scrappily charming double album “Sukierae,” issued in September under the Van Halen-like moniker Tweedy, and now the basis for a tour that brings them to Minneapolis on March 8 with a four-piece band.
“It started as a crazy, wild, undetermined thing, really nothing we planned to tour with,” Spencer explained. “In fact, [touring] really didn’t even seem like a possibility.”
What seemed like a musical pairing written in the stars had actually been pretty well written off by the steadiest force in Spencer’s orbit: his mom.
Having been a singer’s wife for two decades and a longtime co-owner of Chicago mainstay rock club the Lounge Ax, Susan Miller Tweedy wasn’t opposed to her son’s playing music.
She was just intent on his going to college.
“The conversation was basically, ‘OK, you can do this for a year, but you are going to school next year,’ ” Spencer recounted. As if repeating a scouts-honor pledge, he added, “So, yes, I am going to school next year.”
See him while you can, in other words.
Talking by phone from Tweedy HQ in Chicago two weeks ago — he had just gotten home from running his younger brother, Sammy, to school — Spencer spoke fondly about his mom and dad in ways that most parents wouldn’t dream of hearing from a teenager’s mouth.
Susan has been given a positive outlook from doctors after a fight with lymphoma last year, which was concurrent with the making of “Sukierae.” This kid certainly grew up fast in 2014.
Q How did your mom’s cancer fight affect the record and the day-to-day routine of working with your dad?
A I felt like I was being pulled in the direction of one of the best times in my life and one of the worst times in my life. I was getting excited about the burgeoning reality of doing the record and getting to go on tour, but also I was very scared about the long months ahead of us.
The influence on my dad in the lyrics is fairly apparent, especially in a song like “Where My Love.” I agree with my dad, though, when he says it’s not a sad album. I don’t think it’s ever explicitly about that. They’re pretty normal songs for him, but there might be one little line or a little added weight here and there because of what was going on.
Q How is being in a band with your dad easy and/or difficult?
A I honestly find it really, really easy for us to play together. We have a lot of similar sensibilities. A lot of my musical tastes come from him because he’s introduced me to so much music in my life. And we’re just very comfortable playing together because we are family.
I’ve gotten to play with a lot of musicians that are better than me, but I definitely feel like there’s something more effortless and fun about doing it with my dad.
Q He has turned you onto a lot of other music, but what about you to him?
A My brother and I brought Mac DeMarco to his attention because he was the hottest new dude of 2014, and I think he wound up liking him. Sammy is really into hip-hop, but every time he brings home a hip-hop album he discovers my dad has usually already heard it and probably already has the CD on his shelf. It’s hard to introduce him to new stuff because he buys a lot of records every month.
Q Is Sammy showing any musical inclination, too?
A He has an amazing voice and has always been able to pick up a song and sing it since he was a little kid. He’s tried his hand at a couple instruments but hasn’t really stuck with anything. For now anyway, he seems to think playing music isn’t really for him.
Lately, though, we’ve been looking at synthesizers, so who knows? We might start a Suicide cover band or something.
Q Did you naturally gravitate toward the drums?
A Yeah, pretty much. I think it had something to do with when I was really little, I would be at my mom’s club, the Lounge Ax, pretty much every single day until I was about 4, and there was a Rogers drum set in the basement by Mom’s office, but no guitars around. I played guitar later, too, but at some point I felt like I could play the drums better and just stuck with them more.
Q Does Glenn Kotche [Wilco’s drummer] need to be worried about you taking his job now?
A That’s been a joke since I was a kid, actually. Since I was 6 or so he’s been saying, “When’s Spencer going to take my job?” But the realistic answer is Glenn is irreplaceable in Wilco. He’s a monster drummer and an American great.
Q How do you think you’re going to feel this time next year when, instead of being a musician on the road, you’ll be locked into school? (He’ll attend a Wisconsin college he asked not to be named.)
A I’m sure I’m going to miss this. My mom doesn’t like to hear it, but I really hope this isn’t the last time I get to go on tour with a band.
I’m fortunate either way, though. I do feel like I need to experience college, but I feel very fortunate I’ve gotten to do this with my dad. It took my mom a while to adjust to the idea, but I think she’s happy I made this decision, too.