Fountains Of Wayne
Fountains of Wayne (Chris Collingwood on lead vocals/guitar, Adam Schlesinger on bass/background vocals, Jody Porter on lead guitar and Brian Young on drums) hit the mainstream with their hit single Stacy’s Mom, bringing to life every boys childhood fantasy. But Fountains of Wayne have been around a lot longer than Stacy’s mom. Band co-founders Schlesinger and Collingwood would first meet in college, jam a bit, and go their separate ways. It was in the mid 90s that they met up again and formed Fountains of Wayne. Their self-titled debut album was released in 1996 and was followed up by Utopia Parkway in 1999. Shortly thereafter, the band took a brief hiatus going there separate ways. In 2001 they would find each other again and release Welcome Interstate Managers which spawned Stacy’s Mom.
Fast forward to 2007, and their latest release Traffic And Weather, picking up right where they left off with power pop indulgence. One of the main things that sets Fountains of Wayne apart from the rest is their ability to write lyrics that tell a song and tell it in a way that you become attached to the characters and the story. Never knowing if the character is real or fictional is part of the fun.
Traffic and Weather oozes of 60’s and 70s and even the 80s infusion while still keeping it fresh and offering up a little something different for pop fans. Check it out!
Recently TWRY Staffer Lexi sat down with Adam Schlesinger to pick his brain on all things Fountain of Wayne!
Interviewed by: Lexi Shapiro | June 2007
So, to ask the cliché question on everyone’s mind and just get it out of the way… is there really a Stacy, and does her mom really have it goin’ on?
Adam: No, that was just a made-up song. It wasn’t actually based on a real person. Our drummer’s wife is named Stacy, but it’s not about her mom, who I’ve actually never met.
Well, I know a lot of your songs have stories along with them…
Adam: Yeah, I mean, some of the songs are actually based on real people and some of them are kind of a hybrid of fiction and somebody we know or something.
So, who’s real and who’s fake? Denise?
Adam: Denise is made-up. We have a song called Joe Rey, and that’s a real guy. That’s on our first record. That’s a song that Chris wrote and it was about this guy that he worked with when he was a temp at American Express. Barbara H. is a real person.
Adam: Julie’s made-up.
Julie’s made-up?! You just crushed me right there.
Adam: Well, there’s a lot of real Julies, but she’s a made-up one.
When Stacy’s Mom became such a hit, were you ecstatic? Was there any fear you’d be doomed to be a one-hit wonder?
Adam: Well, you know, up to that point we had pretty much been a no-hit wonder, so we were happy to have that problem when it came along. I think there was a little bit of concern. I think Chris, in particular, was a little concerned, because it’s kind of a novelty song, so there was a little bit of a double-edged sword to it. But on the other hand, that song kind of saved the band and let us keep going.
Right, and you’ve obviously overcome that.
Adam: Yeah, I think it’s okay in the long run.
You’ve worked with America and you’re heading out on tour with Squeeze, both absolute rock and roll legends. What has that been like for you? Is it overwhelming at all?
Adam: Just working with anybody like that that’s a hero of yours in any context is really cool. And, definitely with Squeeze…that’s a band that Chris and I worshipped when we were starting out, and still do, and we’re really, really psyched to tour with them.
What’s more challenging: surviving in the music industry or fatherhood?
Adam: That’s a trick question, isn’t it? The funny thing is that there’s a lot of books about parenthood. There’s not a lot of books about how to be in a band, probably. You sort of have to figure it out by making ten years of mistakes. They’re definitely two different things, both with unique challenges, shall we say. I don’t know which one’s particularly harder than the other. They both don’t let you get a lot of sleep.
How much time have you been able to spend in Wayne, New Jersey?
Adam: Well, I grew up in Montclair, New Jersey, so that’s really close to Wayne. Montclair was like, five miles from Wayne, so I’ve been to Wayne a lot in my life. And now my parents just moved out of Montclair and they live in West Caldwell which is still out in that area.
Have you ever actually been inside of Fountains of Wayne?
Adam: I’ve never actually been in the store. I’ve driven by it a lot, because the DMV is right behind it, or at least used to be, and that’s where I got my driver’s license and stuff. But, when we started the band, we went in and we talked to them and just made sure they weren’t going to sue our asses or anything. It’s good for both of us.
Though most of your music is upbeat and light, on a serious note, what are you hoping your legacy will be?
Adam: You know, we kind of try not to think like that, to be honest. I think we’re a great band and I think that hopefully we’ll be thought of as a great band. But, when you’re making a record, you’re really just trying to do something you like, and if you sit around worrying too much about making history, you just don’t end up doing anything. You just freak yourself out. So, we just try to make good records and write good songs and be happy with what we’ve done.
Take it a day at a time…
Adam: You know, it’s still just pop music, and the idea of talking about it in terms of ‘legacy’ and greatness is always a little overblown in my mind. We take it very seriously, but we don’t take it seriously thinking that we’re geniuses, either… EVEN THOUGH WE ARE! HA!
The song Bright Future in Sales speaks of ‘getting one’s shit together’ and Hey, Julie speaks of the monotony of working in the business world, too… is this from a personal venture of anyone into business at one time or are these just more songs that tell a story?
Adam: I think all of us at different points have kind of had more mundane jobs that were boring. That’s kind of a universal thing. I don’t think those songs were necessarily about office work as they are just about a general feeling of being stuck, maybe in something you don’t want to be doing, and wishing you were doing something else with your time.
So, did you, personally, ever think you had a bright future in sales?
Adam: I would like to have a bright future in sales on this record. We’ll see how it goes. *laughs*
If you weren’t doing the rock and roll thing, what profession would you opt for, instead?
Adam: I would probably have to say costume design. *laughs* I don’t know. I try not to think about that question. I always just try to focus on making money making music somehow, so I really don’t know. I’m sure I could find something to do…flipping eggs.
Jody: Frying fries.
Adam: Frying fries.
Jody: Go through the College of Automation.
Adam: *laughs* Yeah, there’s always that option.
Fountains of Wayne – Traffic And Weather
This year you’ve played at Coachella and are set to play at Bonnaroo and the Virgin Music Festival. Do you prefer playing at large music festivals or smaller venues?
Adam: I’d say, in general, we probably prefer headlining our own shows, just because then the whole audience is just psyched to see you and you’re kind of the star of the whole thing. But, it’s a nice change of pace to play at these big festivals, just to be in front of a huge crowd and to meet other bands, and to hang out and all that stuff. It’s a nice break.
So what bands have you met in the course of playing at those festivals that you had wanted to meet, that you were excited to?
Adam: Tons. Somewhere there’s a videotape of Jody hanging out with Joe Strummer at the Fuji Rock Festival. Actually, I don’t know if we’ll get within half a mile of The Police, but I would actually like to meet Stewart Copeland, even though I’ve heard he’s kind of a jerk. I’d like to meet him.
Welcome Interstate Managers is reminiscent of the 60s, while Traffic and Weather is more reminiscent of the 80s. With your music constantly evolving, what artists would you say are your main influences?
Adam: I don’t know if that’s necessarily true, at least in my mind. I think the new record has got a lot of 60s and 70s kind of stuff on it, too. There’s more synth, but there’s also stuff on it that’s very 60s, psychedelic, like the song Revolving Dora, and on This Better Be Good we were trying to do kind of a Beach Boys harmony thing. I think the thing with this band is that we’ve all listened to so much music from all different eras. And, obviously, we’re all big Beatle freaks and we love all the classic 60s music, but we all know a lot of 70s classic rock, and 80s new wave, and 90s alternative whatever, and it all kind of gets mushed together. It’s hard for me to pinpoint one era that’s more important than the others.
So, what one artist, living or dead, would it be a dream for you to work with?
Adam: I’d probably have to pick one Beatle or another. It’s hard to say which. You’ll probably get a different answer from each of us.
Are you a John person…Paul person…?
Adam: I like them both. I think they both show a lot of potential. I think one day they’re going to be great writers.
What’s your secret for being so damned happy all the time?
Adam: We like to kind of play with the contrast of happy-sounding music with some lyrics that are maybe a little darker on top of them, or sad, or silly or something. We just like pop music. We like big choruses, and we like harmony vocals, and that tends to have a little bit of a happy sheen to it sometimes.
And, my final question: Tell me about a crazy experience that you have had while on tour.
Adam: Well, I’ll tell you a really crazy one…a literally ‘crazy’ one. We went to Japan in October and Chris had a total mental breakdown because he couldn’t sleep for like four days and he was taking some prescription medications for some shit that he was doing, and he basically started hallucinating for two days. And, he thought he saw dogs that were actually suitcases, and thought that his father was running for president and was about to give a speech, and just totally lost his mind. And, we were all freaking out. We had to cancel this big show.
You didn’t let him play like that?
Adam: We wanted him to play, but he refused to because he didn’t know where he was. He didn’t even know he was in Tokyo. And so, we had to kind of explain to him that we had a show in front of 25,000 people, but he didn’t really believe us. So, instead, we had to take him to the emergency room. That was a crazy one. That was a really, really crazy one. And, I wouldn’t even be telling you, except that he’s been telling everybody, himself, so I feel like I’m allowed to.
Any crazy experience with a fan at all?
Adam: Nothing really psycho. I mean, we definitely have some fans that travel obscene distances to see us and that’s always a little bit of an uncomfortable thing. You kind of feel like you should apologize for it. But, there’s a few fans that sort of show up on one side of the country and then show up on the other side of the country a week later, and stuff like that.
Well, at least you have a loyal following.
Adam: Yeah…small, but loyal. I’m happy with that.