Q&A: Fountains of Wayne

The power-pop group’s frontman Chris Collingwood chatted with A&E over the peaks and perils of being a one-hit wonder.

Lucy Nieboer

What: Fountains of Wayne

When: 8 p.m., Friday

Where: Dakota Jazz Club, 1010 Nicollet Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $35

 

It’s hard to believe that the pop groups of the late ’90s are already approaching late adolescence. Fountains of Wayne, a group best known for its hit “Stacy’s Mom,” has been together since 1996, making them a sweet 17.

Between their silly numbers about alcohol-induced adventures, sweet love ballads and Britney Spears covers, Fountains of Wayne has covered tons of power-pop territory with catchy melodies and steering-wheel tapping rhythms.

A&E talked with one of the band’s member songwriters, Chris Collingwood, about the challenges of keeping things together after such a long time, how the band can appease both the fans of their hit single and the rest of the audience.

 

When you start a song, what’s the first thing you do?

 I don’t have a process. I don’t have a way of sitting down. I can’t treat it like homework. I’m undisciplined, and I’m unguided so when I’m working it’s just a big mess.

I’m actually a lot less prolific than Adam [Schlesinger], the other writer in the band. He loves having work for hire — just being a writer for a certain project … It’s kind of the way Fountains of Wayne got started. I had this band and the first demo we made was for my song. Then Adam became involved because he was my friend and started producing. Then he was like, ‘Oh this is a project, I’ll write for the project.’ That was back in’  96 but it’s just kind of stayed that way, really.

 

How do you think the band has evolved over those years?

There are some signposts in there. There’s obviously a big novelty hit right smack-dab in the middle of the career, which sort of changes everything for about half the audience. When we’re touring it’s usually about half and half. There are people that like “Stacy’s Mom,” and people who like the rest of catalog. There’s probably a little resentment between those two groups of people.

If I’ve changed at all, I’ve gotten a lot more serious since the beginning. I used to write really goofy songs. Now I listen back to some of the early songs we did, and I’m not proud of it.

I guess it had its time and place. It’s sort of representative of the state of mind we were all in at the time, which was young and drunk and stupid. It took me a really long time to realize that when you go in and record a song that you have to listen to it for the rest of your life and play it for the rest of your life for audiences. I’m a little bit more careful now. That’s just me.

Adam and I butt heads quite a bit over a lot of things. It’s gotten harder and harder to work together. It’s just the nature of things. Bands grow up and their tastes are more pronounced and diverging.

 

Do you still play “Stacy’s Mom?”

We do. These days we try to shake it up. If we’re playing, like, a big outdoor show in a park and there’s a bunch of people around, obviously they’re just there to hear that, so why the hell not? But sometimes at an acoustic, like, dinner theater show we’ll play a different version of that song, a more cut-tailed arrangement with piano, just to keep it interesting.

 

Were you surprised at the song’s massive success?

By the time everything was finished, I wasn’t surprised because there was so much money being thrown at it in every direction. We had a new record label, and they spent a ton of money on the video. Back then, that was something you could still do — just make a massive video for a song, and it would guarantee a lot of play on MTV and lead to whatever success that used to lead to. In some sense, that song was just a soundtrack to the video. If people know that song, then they know the video and that’s alright I guess.

 

What is ahead for you and the band?

I’m not really sure about the band. We’re kind of on a four-year time table, or we have been. I guess our record has been out for a year and a half, so we have three-and-a-half years to worry about it — or two-and-a-half years. I did the math wrong. It’s a thing we do when it feels right, and we just get together and make a record. I’m not sure when that’s going to happen again. I definitely have this feeling that I waited way too long to make my own album. We fought so much making the previous Fountains of Wayne record that it just feels like the time is right. I got to do my own thing for a little while. We’ll figure out what’s going on with the band after that.