FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE ARE BACK WITH A NEW ALBUM -- AND STILL TRYING TO ESCAPE STACY'S MOM, WRITES CHRIS WASSER
Every four years or so, Chris Collingwood and his band of merry, power pop merchants unleash a new collection of tunes on the world. Which means, in the decade-and-a-half that they've been together, America's Fountains of Wayne have released only five full-length albums.
That can't be right. "It's not like we really plan it that way," laughs Collingwood, the band's softly spoken lead singer.
Indeed, the group best-known for their 2003 Grammy Award-nominated hit single Stacy's Mom (more of which later), like to take things slow. Seeing as how a good chunk of their material involves well-devised storylines, themes, and characters, you can understand why. And let's not forget about those glorious melodies, either.
But it ain't easy making albums, and for Collingwood and his writing partner, the great Adam Schlesinger, recording this year's Sky Full of Holes was a particularly fraught experience. "Yeah, we fought quite a bit," says Collingwood (44).
"I pretty much had very little involvement on the previous record, for various reasons and, you know, just not being in a really great mental shape, and when it came time to make this record, I had a lot of ideas that I wanted to get across, and we hadn't been used to working in that relationship where each person was contributing equally to the project."
If the end result -- a magnificent addition to an already-stellar catalogue -- is anything to go by, it seems the New York-based four-piece eventually re-discovered their groove. Having suffered a nervous breakdown of sorts a few years back, Collingwood is lucky to be still making music, too.
"I don't know how much the industry had to do with it," he says, when I ask what caused him to skid off the tracks. "I think that the fact that I'm able to do this for a living is rewarding enough. It's not really frustration that my career hasn't gone further.
"It was just, you know, depression, and alcoholism, and lack of sleep, and kind of running myself into the ground, and that actually manifested itself -- really viscerally, and there was one particular event in Japan where I went crazy and I started hallucinating. I was in the hospital for a while trying to recover from that. And, you know, that was five or six years ago now, so I'm feeling much better".
As Collingwood explains, the characters that feature throughout the band's material are based on real people. At the beginning, he and Schlesinger would write song titles on napkins at the local bar and challenge themselves to write a track around each one. Fifteen years later, and the guys continue to please critics and fans alike. But the majority of the listening public remain oblivious to the band's charms.
Certainly, most people will only ever associate the group with the aforementioned Stacy's Mom, and its comical video starring a scantily clad Rachel Hunter. Fountains of Wayne's time in the spotlight began (and ended) with that one track. Which is a right bloody shame if you ask me.
"I think that if people had ever made the connection between Stacy's Mom and the rest of our catalogue, then that would have been really rewarding for us," says Collingwood.
"It's certainly not something we invited, because that song isn't really indicative of the rest of our catalogue, and I don't think it's the kind of song where people hear it on the radio and they think to themselves, 'I really wanna know who this band is -- I wanna hear the rest of their material'.
It just doesn't appeal to the type of person who's a serious music fan. It's helped us and hurt us."
Sky Full of Holes is out now. Fountains of Wayne play The Academy on Sunday, November 13