the autumn defense - band photo

Gentle tunes dipped in honey-sweet harmonies. Delicate strumming.. Is that a Hammond? Neil Young and Cat Stevens. A stack of LP’s on top of which lie well-worn copies of Notorious Byrd Brothers, Forever Changes and Harvest. Fitting company for the unlikeliest of sunshine supermen – The Autumn Defense.

Buoyed by multi-instrumentalists John Stirratt and Pat Sansone, The Autumn Defense is a blatant contradiction in climes. Based in Chicago and New York respectively, their landlocked cold-weather homes would seem to obscure the breezy, blue skies that color their sound. In fact, from the initial tracks laid down in a friend’s home studio in Nashville to final mixing in Chicago, a harsh chill almost seemed to stalk their Circles sessions.

“It seemed that there was snow on the ground for the entire span of the recording,” says Stirratt of the band’s second album. “Even in Nashville, we rode out some of the colder weather that they’ve seen in some time. It was like one long winter”. And then, of course, there’s the band’s mythical lineage. You might expect Stirratt, bassist for alt-heroes Wilco and country-punk forefathers Uncle Tupelo, to mine further the well-tilled twang-rock soil. But Circles is closer in spirit to the pastoral vibe of Laurel Canyon, a groove Wilco flirted with on Summerteeth then left behind on the genre-defying Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.

“It’s been nice to stress the organic nature of the collaboration,” Stirratt says. “These tunes aren’t really meant for deconstruction. It has a purposely casual tone due to where we live and our schedules. It’s not something that we could spend day in and day out on together. But being busy was always the way our favorite bands worked.” The yeoman route has panned out for The Autumn Defense as well. Between Sansone’s spate of musician and production work with the likes of Josh Rouse, Joseph Arthur and Jenifer Jackson, and Stirratt’s nonstop touring and recording with Wilco, Circles morphed from just another album and into a cozy shelter from the storm for both artists.

“The record has a nice insulated, at-home feel when I hear it,” Stirratt says. “You know, lots of gumbo, etoufee, margaritas and “Mr. Show.” Winter projects can feel like that. Total immersion in the music and the feeling that you’re creating your own little universe.” It’s a lush universe -- one shared by Gene Clark’s gypsy angel and Van Morrison’s Belfast cowboy. A place where two guys shivering in the heartland can channel the sea, sand and sun and create one endless, shimmering summer.

reviews for this artist

"Soft, dreamy and bittersweet"
-- Washington Post

"Warming, gorgeous and delightful"
-- Rolling Stone

"Comfort music for the soul...4/5"
-- Uncut