Back in October, a rather unexpected collaboration surfaced online between two musicians coming off reunions with their respective bands. Paul Westerberg, fresh off a few touring stints with re-energized ’80s guitar-rock titans The Replacements, joined up with Juliana Hatfield, who was experiencing her own return to tours with ’90s alt-rock staples the Juliana Hatfield Three.
Declaring an indifferent attitude about the project right off the bat, they named their new band The I Don’t Cares, and the first track was a country-fied demo cut called “1/2 2P” (sound it out). Today, their debut album Wild Stab is out via Dry Wood Records, and it features 16 raw tracks that find the two songwriters pushing and pulling in both directions.
Yesterday, Boston rock icon Peter Wolf went to a hotel in Cambridge to have an extended conversation with Westerberg about the vision and ideas behind the I Don’t Cares collaboration.
“It took an outside vision,” Westerberg says of Hatfield’s contribution to the album, which was born from a pile of old demos he had in his infamous basement studio space. “She brought a lot of this to life that would have otherwise sat down in the basement and rotted. You don’t know your good stuff after a while, especially when you got a bunch of it. It was refreshing, exciting, fun to have someone who I liked an admired come in and hear the stuff and say ‘this is great, let’s do this.’”
In detailing each track over the course of the hour-long conversation, Wolf describes the album as a very romantic, spontaneous collaboration, with multiple layers of feeling. “It’s like a nice jewel,” he says, “you just keep rubbing it, and it starts shining.”
Throughout the chat, in which Westerberg touches on his career as a songwriter, his influences, and the recent Replacements reunion, the 56-year-old Minnesota native stresses that the raw, grittiness of the album is one of its finer qualities.
“I go with goosebumps and the ear,” he tells Wolf. “When I feel it, then it’s done, it’s ready…. You do it with computers and shit — you can fix everything. And people do. Why compete with that? Everybody can make a perfect record in their basement, bedroom, on their phone. That’s not gonna serve anything. I don’t want to make a perfect record.”
Watch the full interview below, or jump ahead to specific chapters.
3:25: How did the collaboration come about?
8:37: Bringing Sammy Davis Jr. to life
12:54: Dissecting I Don’t Cares songs, and writing for Juliana Hatfield
16:35: Letting the music do the talking
19:22: “There’s a certain mystery that sits with this [LP]”
23:27: Songs from Paul Westerberg’s basement
28:00: How old Replacements demos became I Don’t Cares songs
31:38: Westerberg’s first record purchased, first concert attended
35:45: Westerberg’s first guitars, and when music started paying the rent
40:03: Coming off the Replacements’ reunion tour
47:10: Singers in the band are the craziest
50:26: Let’s get a refill
51:00: “We teased ourselves… we’re not making a record” —
53:35: Life after the Replacements reunion
56:30: Where is Juliana?
59:56: Taking the I Don’t Cares on the road