Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Published: Jun 6th, 2007
Author: Michael David Toth
Source: Free Times
Fountains Of Wayne Deliver Their Boldest Disc Yet
If you actually need proof the Grammy Awards are pathetically out of touch with the music medium they're supposed to represent, consider 2003's "Best New Artist" nomination for Fountains of Wayne. Welcome Interstate Managers, that year's FoW album with the smash hit "Stacy's Mom," was in fact the band's third album on a major label since 1996.
Still, as useless as the Grammys may be, at least Fountains of Wayne's wickedly clever and ferociously catchy music was finally getting some overdue industry acknowledgment. Despite crafting tunes with reasonable mass appeal, Fountains of Wayne's creative geniuses Chris Collingwood and Adam Schlesinger were recognized only by a modest in-crowd of fans and critics for far too long.
Although the music industry was oblivious, the film industry immediately took note of Schlesinger's aptitude for composing irresistible pop ditties, starting with his assignment for the title song for Tom Hanks' That Thing You Do! in 1996. Schlesinger has since continued on as a premiere Hollywood composer for fictional hit records, most recently providing the original music for this year's Hugh Grant flick, Music & Lyrics. But thanks to the success of "Stacy's Mom," Schlesinger's Hollywood hijinx are now overshadowed as a curious sideline to his Fountains of Wayne work. In a recent phone interview, Schlesinger notes, "["Stacy's Mom'] was just kind of a lucky moment for us where the song and the video and the record company and everything kind of lined up for once. We were so used to it not happening in the past or something going wrong."
Schlesinger acknowledges the monumental difference made by 2003's success and recognition.
"I think the main thing is it's allowed us to just keep going," he says. "I mean, before that happened, we were really at the point where we weren't sure if we were going to bother any more. A lot of bands don't last more than four or five years anyway. You get to that point where it's sort of diminishing returns and you're sort of feeling like, "Well, is there really anyone out there waiting for us to make another record or dying to go see us?'
"[Welcome Interstate Managers] kind of renewed everything and allowed us to do it for at least a while longer," he continues. "I mean, that's all our aspiration ever really was, to just be able to make records and to try to do something that we were proud of and we liked, and hopefully there would be enough of an audience for it to support us. We've been lucky that we've had fans who have stuck with us from the beginning, but it's never been in mass numbers."
The success of Welcome Interstate Managers allowed Fountains of Wayne to make the new Traffic and Weather, the boldest, richest-sounding and most stylistically varied disc of the group's career.
"I think we've gotten more confident in the studio," Schlesinger says. "I think it still sounds like the same band, but within that context we tried to do different things - add some horns here or there or some new keyboard parts. We had a lot of fun stacking lots of harmony vocals on things. I've always liked on my favorite records when you can hear a band kind of screwing around a bit too, and trying things and not necessarily always even being successful at them. I like varied records that don't sound like one song over and over again."
Traffic and Weather's initial single, "Someone To Love," is a case study in pop perfection at every level. Its precise, snappy lyrics deliver a satisfying narrative payoff atop unforgettable melody hooks and a huge, thick bed of rockin' riffs. One tasty ingredient in the song is Hole/Smashing Pumpkins bassist Melissa Auf der Maur crooning the hottest bubblegum female backing vocals this side of "Sugar Sugar."
"That was fun for us because we haven't really had a female backing singer [except for] once on our first record," Schlesinger says. "Dominique from Ivy sang on one song, but you could barely hear it."
Ah, Ivy. That would be Schlesinger's other acclaimed 1990s cult indie-pop band, which is very much still alive and kicking.
"We're not really doing anything right now just because I'm busy with Fountains of Wayne stuff, but we're talking about making another Ivy record, probably for next year."