The Autumn Defense – Fifth

Wilco off-shoot duo The Autumn Defence produce ‘Áutumn’





FifthI managed to see Patrick Sansone and John Stirratt three times in 2013.  Twice as part of super alternative band Wilco’s performances at Byron Bay’s Bluesfest and again as presenters at the Americana Awards ceremony in Nashville.

Fifth is the new album from the talented duo under the moniker The Autumn Defense.  The album will be released January 28 2014 on Yep Roc Records through Planet.  The Autumn Defense has released four studio albums, including their most recent, 2010’s Once Around, which the Nashville Scene described as the “…strongest collection to date” and the Chicago Reader praises, “…extends the friends’ penchant for elegant tempos and laid-back moods.”

The twelve-track album was recorded at Chicago’s Black Sheep and Minbal studios, as well as The Mixon Administration—the studio of Fifth producers Sansone and Josh Shapera.  In addition to Stirratt and Sansone, the album features James “Hags” Haggerty on bass, Greg Wieczoreck on drums and John Pirrucello on electric guitar and pedal steel.  Says Sansone of this latest effort “It was great to finally spend some time in the studio tracking with the complete live band we’ve had for the last seven or so years.  We’ve been working with our drummer Greg for over a decade and having the rest of the guys with us really helped create the vibe of this album.  Of all of our records, this one feels the most like the work of a band.”


AUTUMNDEFENSESo where did the name Fifth come from? Were you stuck for a name and went “ah it’s the fifth one” or is there a symbolism there?

Pat Sansone: We searched through the song titles and the lyrics to try to find something that sums up the entire record for us, but nothing really felt like it was a fully encapsulating umbrella or blanket statement for the record.  We felt like every song had its own identity, its own place.  There wasn’t an overarching theme that we were aware of.  There might be one from the outside.

So every song is doing its own thing?

PS: Yeah, that’s the way we see it from the inside.  But a listener from the outside is going to make their own connections between the songs.  It will be interesting to see what that thread is to other people.

What do you think you guys touched upon thematically with this record?

John Stirratt: Personally, a few of my songs touch on difficulties of living in big, cold cities and the challenges related to that.  The song “What’s It Take,” the final song, is related to the challenges of urban life and seasonal depression.

PS: And that is contrasted with something like “August Song” which has more of an optimistic tone.  “What’s It Take” is more of the winter song and “August Song” is more of the summer song.  There are songs like “I Want You Back” that have a melancholy, longing quality.  It’s about the ending of a relationship while “This Thing That I’ve Found” is about the very beginnings of a relationship, finding a love and being a little bit nervous about it.  There are several songs about remembrance and nostalgia and reflection, but at different points in the cycle of a relationship.  I guess they’re really all relationship songs.  Different examinations of a relationship.

Obviously you guys are very busy with lots of different projects, including Wilco. When did you find time to work on this?

PS: Well, whenever we could.  It was a very busy year, last year.  Wilco spent more time on the road in 2012 than in any other year of its existence.  We ended up filling whatever empty holes there were in the calendar with working on this record.  Whatever time there was, we made use of.

Is it stressful to balance two long-running projects, or do you view this as a way to relax after a long Wilco tour?

PS: It’s both.  I wouldn’t necessarily call it winding down.  It’s good for the musical mind to have some variation in the things that you do.  It definitely can be stressful when you’re trying to juggle multiple projects in a limited time frame and you’re trying to do something that you care about.  We tend to be, I wouldn’t say perfectionists, but we really care about the way these Autumn Defense records sound and the way they are arranged.  It’s very consuming.

You’re both multi-instrumentalists and you both have production experience, so you can make these orchestral albums that sound very full.  Between the two of you, is it tough to get everything right?

PS: For me that’s part of the fun of the record making.  I love arranging and producing, and I love records that have complex or heavily considered arrangements.  The trick is when you’re doing that, to not let the arrangements completely overshadow the essence of the song.  That’s the tight wire act that you’re doing, to make the arrangements and production interesting but hopefully still connected to the songs themselves.


It’s a pretty impressive outing – great harmonies demonstrating the duo’s fines voices and moody grooves, along with shining guitar and masterly bass playing (as you would expect).  (John Stirratt has been with Wilco since day dot, but to my recollection has only once had lead vocal duties in the studio).  The arrangements shine through and reflect a highly tuned pop sensibility with well-drawn melodies.  While lyrically the material may not be up to the standard of the other ingredients (eg I found rhyming ‘Chicago’ with ‘cargo’ a little jarring), this is a highly honed album.  “Calling Your Name”, “Under The Wheel” “What’s It Take” and “The Light In Your Eyes” are highlights for me.  Well worth a listen.

Track Listing

1. None Of This Will Matter

2. This Thing That I’ve Found

3. I Can See Your Face

4. I Want You Back

5. Calling Your Name

6. Can’t Love Anyone Else

7. August Song

8. Under The Wheel

9. Why Don’t We

10. The Light In Your Eye

11. Things On My Mind

12. What’s It Take


Wilco off-shoot duo The Autumn Defence produce ‘Áutumn’

Wilco off-shoot duo The Autumn Defence produce ‘Áutumn’

Wilco off-shoot duo The Autumn Defence produce ‘Áutumn’

Wilco off-shoot duo The Autumn Defence produce ‘Áutumn’



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Author: Rob Dickens

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