If it’s not Scottish ...

Music IndustryWilco (music group)Popular Music (genre)Hancock BuildingWicker ParkJeff Tweedy

In its 16 years as a band, Teenage Fanclub hasn't spent much time in Chicago. The pop band also hasn't performed here in four years. So then how did the group from Glasgow, Scotland, just release an album littered with Chicago references?

By recording and writing "Man-Made" at Chicago's Soma Studios, owned by John McEntire, drummer for Sea and Cake, and Tortoise.

We asked singer/guitarist Norman Blake about the experience.

How'd you wind up recording with McEntire?

[Teenage Fanclub singer/guitarist Gerard Love] had worked with John on a record for the Pastels [another Glasgow band Love plays in]. John came to Glasgow, and they recorded the soundtrack for "The Last Great Wilderness," which is a Scottish independent movie. So when it came time to do the record, Gerard suggested John. We all liked what he did with Stereolab and High Llamas, so we thought we'd see if John was interested.

Did you get to see the city at all?We certainly know the section of Division Street in Wicker Park because we walked a mile to John's studio from our bed and breakfast every morning. We know where Dusty Groove is and Jinx coffee shop. John took us to the restaurant on the 96th floor of the Hancock Building, too.

I have to imagine you had a few pints at Rainbo, the bar next door to the studio.

Of course. I've been toying with the idea of bringing a "W" to stick on the end of the sign because the spelling was starting to annoy me. [Laughs] I think that was the first Chicago bar we ever went to back in 1990. John told us that he remembers seeing us in there that night.

Seems like the city had quite an impact on the record.

We always have this idea that before we get to the studio we're going to finish all the songs, write all the lyrics and have everything arranged. And, of course, we never do that, so the city really influenced the lyrics, which have a lot of references to winter weather and ice building up on the streets.

You also thank Wilco in the album's liner notes.

We came to the city with a guitar each; we didn't bring any equipment. We'd just see what John had in the studio. So we found ourselves with one acoustic guitar and we thought it'd be nice to have another one. We've known [frontman Jeff Tweedy] for a long time; we toured with Wilco in the early '90s. We gave him a call, and he was kind enough to lend us one.

How'd a Glaswegian artist wind up painting the "L" tracks for your album cover?

The artist, Annabel Wright, used to play in the Pastels. She's an illustrator and a good friend of ours. She was studying architecture in Chicago when she did the artwork.

Matt McGuire is the metromix music producer.Originally published July 27, 2005.

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