Fountains of Wayne
is Brian Young
and Jody Porter.
Fountains of Wayne Interview
Published: Mar 27th, 2007
Author: Daniel Robert Epstein
Fountains of Wayne have been around for a long time, but they scored some cool points four years ago with their album Welcome Interstate Managers, which spawned the radio hit "Stacy's Mom." Now they're back plying their pop music trade with Traffic and Weather, catchy as ever and still obsessing over the little details of middle-class life. I got a chance to talk with songwriter/producer/bassist Adam Schlesinger.
UGO: How is it going with your new baby?
Adam Schlesinger: She's right here. She's basically being an infant. She's small.
UGO: So you must be a pretty busy man?
Adam: Yes, it's a little hectic right now, with rehearsals and the baby and all that stuff. But it's all manageable.
UGO: What was the inspiration for Traffic and Weather?
ADAM: I think it's just writing and see what comes out. We never really plan much of it in advance, except just to take some time to write and see what we come up with. Usually, when you write a bunch of songs at once, they end up thematically connected anyway, because you have certain ideas running through your head at that point.
UGO: Even though you and Chris [Collingwood] write the songs, do the other guys get to have their input into them?
ADAM: The songs are pretty much written when they come in, but everybody definitely contributes to how it ends up being recorded and what they're playing.
UGO: A lot of the songs have stories. Do you come up with the stories separately?
ADAM: I usually start with some lyrical ideas and then try to go back and forth between the music and the lyrics until it starts to feel right.
UGO: Was the song "Someone to Love" based on anyone you know?
ADAM: That one was where I actually started with the music and - I don't usually write like this - but I had a melody and just started free associating some lines. I didn't really have any idea what I was writing about but I free associated until I got it to take some shape.
UGO: How do you and Chris write together?
ADAM: We don't really collaborate anymore. I write songs and he writes songs and we just bring them in finished. We used to collaborate when we were younger but, these days, we barely do, except for maybe a line or two.
UGO: Why is that?
ADAM: I don't know exactly why. That's just how it's worked out. I think a lot of it just has to do with geography. We don't live in the same state so it has not been easy for us to try to schedule sessions to do that stuff.
UGO: Why has there been such a long break since your previous album?
ADAM: After you put a record out, you need a break for a little while and then you end up needing some time to write some new stuff and get re-energized. Also, I'm busy doing a lot of other stuff and while Chris is less busy, he's also needs time to get away from it. This record has actually been done for quite a while, but then you have to wait at the bottom of the release schedule so, in the end, it took four years.
UGO: The previous album did so well. Do you feel a lot of pressure with this one?
ADAM: Not particularly. I don't think that it did well enough for the people at the corporate level to be counting on us for anything. It did well by our standards, but it still doesn't mean much in the world of the major labels.
UGO: How much pressure do you guys put on yourselves?
ADAM: It's pretty relaxed. I think the hardest part is really the writing because, then, we're pretty quick in the studio and by the time we start recording something, we usually have a pretty good sense that we like it already or at least that it has potential. The recording time is not that stressful for us. We've also started this thing where we don't go in and do a record all at once. We will go in for a couple of weeks to do a few songs then we'll take a break for a while and then we'll come back to do a few songs. It prevents us from getting too claustrophobic.
UGO: How was it working with Mike Viola again?
ADAM: It was fun. He's an old friend of ours and he happened to be available. We've played with him in so many different contexts over the years so it's very easy. "Fire In The Canyon" is a song that's been around for a while and he already knew it, so that took us about 20 minutes.
UGO: I know that James Iha co-owns your studio with you, so was he just around, or did you specifically want him on the song "Seatbacks and Traytables?"
ADAM: Our studio is like a clubhouse, so there's always a lot of our friends hanging around or coming in and out. James and I play on each other's stuff all the time, so he just said, "If you guys want me to do anything, let me know, I'd be happy to."
UGO: I read that you guys jammed a bit for the first time in the studio.
ADAM: It was funny because, just to get back into the rhythm of recording in December 2005, we went up to Woodstock in upstate New York and rented a studio up there and just spent a week jamming and playing. We didn't have any songs yet, and we put tons and tons of stuff down but, in the end, we really didn't use any of it. I think the only thing that came out of it was "Strapped for Cash" but, for the rest of the record, we went back to just working the normal way. We have a process now. There are a ton of bands that are successful working that way, like U2 and Pearl Jam, where they go out and play for a couple of years and figure it out and somebody writes melodies and lyrics. But for us, it's just actually much easier to go write a song and bring it in and record it. You can be done in a day or two.
UGO: Once again, transportation makes its way into a Fountains of Wayne album with the song "'92 Subaru." What keeps bringing you back to that?
ADAM: I have no idea. We really ought to stop. When you're writing, it's not necessarily a conscious decision to write about what you're writing about. Some line or two pops into your head and then you just run with it.
UGO: Did you produce this album?
ADAM: Yeah, it was credited to me, Chris and Mike. I don't mind spending ten or 12 hours a day in the studio. Chris is usually good for between two and three hours before he just wants to leave.
UGO: What do you like about producing?
ADAM: It's part of having something in your head and wanting to realize it, so the songwriting and the recording and the mixing and all that are just working towards the same goal. It's really satisfying even though it can also be really painstaking and boring.
UGO: How was it writing those '80s-type songs for Music and Lyrics?
ADAM: I actually only wrote one of the '80s ones. It looks like I wrote everything in that movie, but I actually didn't. I wrote three songs in that movie, and one of them was an '80s one called "Meeting with Kids," which is like a Wham rip-off. That was a lot of fun to do.
UGO: I saw that you've also worked in movies quite a bit.
ADAM: I think you might be confusing me with a different Adam Schlesinger for that stuff. There's another Adam Schlesinger who works in the movie business. I've never met him but he was working as a producer and assistants and stuff like that on Woody Allen movies. So we get mixed up from time to time.
UGO: I think your IMDB pages are mixed up together.
ADAM: I know, it's ridiculous.
UGO: I was wondering why a guy that got an Oscar nomination was being an assistant to people.
ADAM: It's really funny, because we have mutual friends, too. He lives in New York and I know that because occasionally we'll get each other's mail and he's only a year older than me. At least he's doing cool stuff, because it could be worse. He could be a murderer or something.
UGO: What can we expect from the upcoming tour?
ADAM: I think by financial necessity, it's going to be fairly stripped down until the point where we can start bringing in dancing girls and explosives. So until then it's just a rock band playing songs.
UGO: You guys are going to be at the Bonnaroo Music Festival. Are you psyched about maybe getting to hang out with The Police?
ADAM: Oh, totally. I'm sure we won't be able to get anywhere near them, but we'll try. I'm a huge fan, so that's definitely exciting.
UGO: What videogame systems do you have on the bus?
ADAM: I guess it depends on which bus we get. We rent buses, so whatever is on there is what we get. I don't think there are any super videogames freaks in our band. We're just junkies.