Wilco is one of those rare bands that have become something of a household name without the benefit of media saturation or even a single platinum-selling release.
They’re the sort of players who seem to attract more GRAMMY nods and diehard fans than bell-weather listeners. And, although their roots are as deep in classic Americana, they’ve developed a reputation as inveterate adventurers and experimenters.
In these ways, they have less in common with fellow Midwestern roots-rockers, and a lot more more to do with genre-escaping artists like Tom Waits, Sonic Youth, and The Flaming Lips – prestige acts who seem to get signed and supported by the major labels in large part for the credibility (and increased bargaining power) that goes along with having them on board.
The truth is, that aside from a momentary and well-documented break from the majors (when they were dropped by Warner Bros. only to be picked up by none other than… Warner Bros), Wilco have only seemed like independent artists. That is, until now. This September, with the release of The Whole Love on their own dBpm imprint, they finally are.
For this album, the band enlisted New York-based producer/engineer Tom Schick, who had just served behind the console as Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy produced the GRAMMY-winning Mavis Staples album You Are Not Alone.
For the Behind The Release series, I talked to Schick about recording and mixing Wilco’s first indie album at the band’s private studio in their hometown of Chicago, Illinois.
JC: Tom, thanks for taking the time to talk. This is new territory for the band: Recording exclusively in their own studio for a release on their own label. How early did you get involved in that process?
TS: I was lucky enough to be involved with it from the very beginning, when everyone was coming in, plugging in and just starting to play with each other.