For his second album as Tweaker, former Nine Inch Nails drummer Chris Vrenna received vocal help from the Cure's Robert Smith, David Sylvian and Will Oldham, and some guitar work from Johnny Marr. Vrenna also invited Clint Walsh (Psychotica, Jack Off Jill) to be Tweaker's second member, and the duo kept it simple.
"When we started writing, I didn't want to get bogged down in sound design like the first record [2001's loop-heavy The Attractions to All Things Uncertain]," says Vrenna. "So we had piano, one bass guitar sound, one set of drum samples from a live drum kit and a couple keyboard sounds just to map it out before I played for real. It was like, if the song doesn't work with what I just listed, then the song itself is shit and no amount of whoopy-whoop and distortion loops is going to make it cooler."
The album, due April 20th, is titled 2 a.m. Wake-Up Call, and it was conceived at ungodly hours. "For months, my wife would wake up at 2 a.m. on the dot," Vrenna says. "And after a while, I started doing it too. The middle of the night is so lonely and so quiet when you're up. That's the whole theme of the record: insomnia and dreams and nightmares."
Each of the album's seven vocalists received a rundown of the theme, a copy of the album artwork and free reign to write lyrics, an approach that yielded a wide array of results.
"Some people were party-influenced lyrically, like somebody who's out late and knows he's in for an all-nighter," Vrenna says. "Others were more dream-oriented, with haunting images."
Although logistics for a spring tour are still being hammered out, Vrenna is excited to road-test his more organic sounds. "The stuff that's been most appealing to me over the last couple years has been the more emotionally oriented bands," says Vrenna. "Coldplay is one example. It's so simple, just piano. That kind of naivete is what's missing right now. It doesn't have to be over-thought and overdone. It just has to really hit somebody."