the unofficial uncle tupelo archives 

Midwest-Based Rock 'Family' Carries Home Around Country

Ron Wynn

The Commercial Appeal, February 1, 1991

Many rock bands contend that they're really a family unit rather than merely a band of traveling musicians.

In the case of Uncle Tupelo, a trio from Belleville, Mo., the claim is true; the three live together and have been playing regularly since they were teens.

''We've been together since we were kids,'' said bassist Jeff Tweedy from Belleville. ''We practice together, get a chance to travel all over the country and still can maintain our family ties.''

The group, which will be together Saturday night at the Antenna Club, has recently gotten some exposure outside the traditional college/alternative circuit usually reserved for bands recording on independent or small labels.

An article about their most recent album ''No Depression'' appeared last year in Rolling Stone and their current single I Got Drunk/Sin City differs in many ways from standard contemporary releases. It is one of few records issued recently on vinyl. It also is about a subject that has become increasingly taboo in these days of emphasis on eliminating alcohol abuse.

''Well, this isn't a pro-drinking song, but when we made it we didn't stop to worry whether people would be offended. It's really a reflective piece on how important alcohol has become in this society. It's not a parody or a satire, but a statement of impact and a number about what happens when people do drink too much.''

Tweedy, vocalist-guitarist Jay Farrar and drummer Mike Heidorn began playing covers of Sixties rock hits more than 10 years ago at clubs in Belleville.

They graduated to original numbers in the late '80s, then began making their mark in the Midwest.

They were voted best unsigned band in the 1989 College Media Journal Reader's Poll and eventually landed at Rockville Records, where they were signed after a stirring performance at the Continental Divide club in New York City.

The trio doesn't make sedate, sophisticated music; they've absorbed influences ranging from the unconventional sounds of Sonic Youth to classic folk from Woody Guthrie and many things between.

They're now gathering material for their next album, which they will begin recording in April. Meanwhile, the three juggle a yearly schedule of 100-150 club dates with regular day jobs.

Tweedy works in a record store, Farrar a bookstore and Heidorn writes for a surburban paper.

Though Belleville wouldn't seem like the ideal base for launching a rock career, Tweedy says the band has no plans to move.

''I've never believed in geographic solutions to career problems. We love being in the middle of the country and being able to head in either direction for dates.''

Heidorn and Jay Farrar - will perform at the Antenna Club Saturday

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