Categories: Interviews

Fountains of Wayne still radiate that vibe

Chris Collingwood, lead singer of Fountains of Wayne, never needed a break more than after the New York power-pop quartet spent much of 1997 touring with the Smashing Pumpkins and the Lemonheads.

“I can honestly say I’ve never worked that hard in my life,” Collingwood said recently. “I was so broken and demoralized by the end of it, I had actually broken a knee. I did it onstage in Berlin, I was kicking over (Brian Young’s) drum set and broke my knee in the process. And, believe me, you don’t want to go to a hospital in East Berlin. It’s a horrifying experience. It’s like, ‘Dr. Mengele will see you now.’ “

Collingwood recuperated for three months, then he and his wife moved to suburban Boston, while songwriting partner and guitarist Adam Schlesinger immersed himself in work. Among other things, he earned an Academy Award nomination for writing the title track for the Tom Hanks-directed film “That Thing You Do!”

Collingwood and Schlesinger quickly picked up where they left off with their heralded 1996 self-titled debut Atlantic album and the international hit “Radiation Vibe.” Tipping its pop hat to the Beatles, Hollies and Zombies with no apologies, Fountains of Wayne drives a hard melodic bargain on its second album, “Utopia Parkway,” released April 6.

From the potent first single, “Denise,” to the biting commentary of “The Valley of Malls,” Fountains of Wayne stays true to its harmonic, humorous, nostalgic and juvenile self. This time, the group examines the pros and cons of urban and suburban life.

” ‘Fine Day For a Parade’ is definitely that suburban alienation thing, like ‘Eleanor Rigby,’ ” Collingwood said. “Other ones are a bit more reverent, like ‘Prom Theme.’ It’s not saying it’s positive or negative, it’s taking a step back and looking at suburban American cultural traditions. ‘The Valley of Malls’ says, ‘Haven’t you noticed there’s malls all over the place?’ which I noticed when I moved up to Massachusetts. When I lived in New York, I never even thought about a mall. Then I moved up there and noticed there’s this whole culture surrounding, this culture of consumerism that doesn’t exist in cities.”

With Fountains of Wayne, opposites attract: Schlesinger’s songs have a rock edge, while Collingwood’s material leans on the melancholy side.

“We don’t really work together,” Collingwood said. “That’s the irony of it. We don’t write together at all. I think it works basically because of him; he’s capable of writing all sorts of different styles, like he writes songs for his first group, Ivy, that don’t sound anything like Fountains of Wayne songs. He writes something that he thinks I’ll be comfortable singing. The first couple of songs I wrote for the first album sort of gave the personality to the band and he just writes in that style pretty easily.”

Now that Collingwood is fully rested, he’s preparing himself for another long tour haul.

“Even now, I’m kind of dreading going out again,” he said. “It’s not hard for me to see why people start taking drugs on the road; my reaction is to drink a little whiskey and fall asleep, but it’s easy to why you’re supposed to be up and have some energy at night and then you can’t come down from that and go to sleep in an hour. It doesn’t work, because you’re so full of adrenalin. Then you’re supposed to get up at 7 in the morning to go to a radio station. It’s torture, but we love this album and we’re ready to play it for anyone who’s willing to listen.”

THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “It was either ‘Bat Out of Hell’ or the first Cars album,” Collingwood said. “They came out the same year when I was in sixth grade. Everyone had those two records, so I had them too.”

THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “I wasn’t allowed to go to shows when I was a kid. My parents were real assholes. I was a guarded child, so the first thing I went to was probably in the 12th grade when I saw U2 at the Spectrum in Philadelphia, ‘The Unforgettable Fire’ tour.”

ON THE WEB: www.fountainsofwayne.com.

Gerry Galipault

Gerry Galipault debuted Pause & Play online in October 1997. Since then, it has become the definitive place for CD-release dates — with a worldwide audience.

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