Wayne's World

From the Fountains of Wayne springs pop eternal

"Grunge music has taken the emphasis completely away from melody and songwriting, things sorely needed in music right now. Fortunately, some bands are going back to melody and harmony, and they're getting attention now because people are just sick of grunge."

Other musicians may have had enough of the Seattle sound, too; even musicians from Seattle. Soundgarden, for example, recently called it quits--an event Collingwood jokingly wonders about.

"Can you imagine if they had some sort of press conference and they're like, 'Well, we decided that Chris from Fountains of Wayne was right and we really should just be quiet,'" he says, laughing.

As for bands on Collingwood's good side, he lists the Beatles, the Hollies and especially the Zombies as major early influences. He's also a big Marshall Crenshaw fan, and has no problem championing the likes of Aztec Camera and Prefab Sprout, two effete bands from the early '80s that knocked Collingwood out with their featherweight punch.

"The wimpy thing never bothered me, especially back then," he says of easygoing '80s twee. "I've since grown to love the newer distorted-guitar stuff, but those bands are always citing Sonic Youth and those sorts of groups as influences. I never listened to any of that stuff. I don't consider that songwriting in any sense. I was much more influenced by the Naked Eyes, the Aztec Cameras. I think Paddy McAloon [of Prefab Sprout] is a genius. His pop-writing smarts seem to come from Cole Porter and Irving Berlin and Stephen Sondheim. It's so much smarter than anything else considered pop music."

Collingwood has a soft spot for country music as well. He's in an alterna-twang outfit called the Mercy Bucket, which he hopes to get in the studio once FOW wraps up touring. He's also involved with the Lounge Losers, a casual series of shows in New York put on by Jules Shear, ex-Bongo Richard Barone, Marshall Crenshaw and others. The basic idea is that local pop scenesters get together and do a tribute to a traditional songwriter--Burt Bacharach, Neil Diamond, Harry Nilsson, etc. Collingwood says it's a good chance to play with new people and do some networking on the side.

All of which makes the FOW singer almost as busy as bassist bandmate Schlesinger, who has another band, Ivy, and who co-founded Scratchie Records with James Iha and D'Arcy of Smashing Pumpkins. Schlesinger's also a known name in Hollywood, having earned an Oscar nomination for his work in the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do!. Schlesinger wrote the song that the film's fictional band, the Wonders, took to the top of the charts back in 1964. Schlesinger didn't sing the song in the film--that honor went to Mike Viola of the Candy Butchers, whose voice was lip-synched by actor Johnathon Schaech--and Fountains of Wayne doesn't play the peppy tune in concert. Schlesinger reportedly considers the song a fluke, saying it has nothing to do with FOW.

Something that does concern Messrs. Collingwood and Schlesinger is their CD's attention-grabbing cover art. The photo is a killer shot of a young boy, dressed like a makeshift superhero, clutching a startled-looking rabbit he's apparently just rescued. The boy's earnest expression gives the photo the same kind of humorous but bittersweet feeling that charges Fountains of Wayne's songs.

Too bad another band--from England--has the same photo adorning its CD. Even worse, that band's name, the Flamingoes, puts the two CDs almost exactly side by side in record bins.

"This English photographer licensed the photograph to both bands," Collingwood says with disgust. "Worse than that, he was directly asked by us if he had licensed it to anybody else and he said no. So, basically, the guy's a complete asshole. We're changing the cover in Europe, but we're keeping it the same in the States. It's just too good a picture."

Fountains of Wayne is scheduled to perform on Sunday, May 4, at Electric Ballroom in Tempe, with Chainsaw Kittens, and ednaswap. Showtime is 8 p.m. (all ages).

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