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Members include Chris Collingwood, guitar player, vocalist; Jody Porter, guitar player; Adam Schlesinger, (born in NJ; son of publicist mother and a horticulturist father, both amateur musicians); bass player; Brian Young, drummer. Addresses: Record company--Virgin Records, 150 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010. Publicist--Big Hassle Media, 157 Chambers St., 12th Fl., New York, NY 10007. Website--Fountains of Wayne Official Website: http://www.fountainsofwayne.com.
Named for a garden shop in Wayne, New Jersey, Fountains of Wayne was formed as a duo by Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood. The pair met in 1985 while they both attended Williams College, supposedly over learning chord progressions to an R.E.M. song. The duo is noted for its songwriting talents, and has been compared to numerous solid pop songwriting teams: John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Squeeze's Chris Difford and Glen Tillbrook, Alex Chilton and Chris Bell of Big Star, and Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding of XTC.
During college the pair played in several improbably named bands including Wooly Mammoth, Are You My Mother?, and Three Men When Stood Side By Side Have A Wingspan Of Over 12 Feet. Shortly after graduation, they signed a record deal as the Wallflowers, a band name under which they never recorded and eventually sold to Jakob Dylan and crew. After college, Schlesinger moved to New York to concentrate on working with the band Ivy, a group that he continued to perform with even after starting Fountains of Wayne. Collingwood and Schlesinger continued to play together infrequently as Pinwheel.
Prior to forming Fountains of Wayne, Schlesinger wrote music for television shows including, House of Buggin' and the short-lived The Dana Carvey Show, while Collingwood worked in a bank and played country music with Mercy Buckets in Boston. It was when Collingwood moved to New York that the pair began discussing a few songs that he had written. "We decided to get together and crank out a bunch more, and record them before we had time to think about it too much," Schlesinger told Rolling Stone.
Immediate Signs of Success
The pair was together for a week when they recorded their debut album Fountains Of Wayne in 1996. Schlesinger played drums, bass guitar and keyboards, and also produced the recording. Collingwood served as the group's guitarist and vocalist. The single, "Radiation Vibe" hit number 14 on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks in 1997. Billboard called the group's sound a "light-hearted, hook-heavy take on classic pop-rock verities." Fountains Of Wayne tied for second place in the magazine's 1996 Critics' Poll. When the time came to take Fountains of Wayne on the road, the pair hired Belltower guitarist Jody Porter, and former Posies drummer Brian Young to round out the band. The group opened for acts including the Smashing Pumpkins and the Lemonheads.
Fountains of Wayne was released at the same time as the soundtrack for the Tom Hanks film That Thing You Do! on which Schlesinger, who had been hired to write a song in the Beatles "Merseybeat" tradition for the film, appeared. The song "That Thing You Do" earned Schlesinger a Grammy nomination for Best Original Song. He was in the company of no less than Andrew Lloyd-Webber and Tim Rice as well as that of Grammy favorite Diane Warren.
Schlesinger told Raygun that both he and Collingwood are songwriting traditionalists. "Chris and I both write on acoustic guitars and piano, and that forces you to think about melody and lyrics. You can't rely on the drum track or the sound of the sample you pick to keep it interesting." In a Rolling Stone Network interview Schlesinger also said, "We come from a point of view where you write melodies and lyrics, not just make a lot of noise or guitar riffs. We definitely come from more of a traditional songwriting place, you know, Beatles, '60s stuff, Zombies, Hollies, Beach Boys."
Collingwood lists Prefab Sprout and Aztec Camera as his influences, along with other early 1980s British bands like The Smiths and Everything But the Girl. "I don't really listen to anything but pop songs," Collingwood told Billboard's Bradley Bab in 1997. "I've never liked anything that wasn't easily hummable right off. That sort of immediacy makes for an effective form of communication. In the right three minutes, you can get a real portrait of an emotion."
The group followed up with Utopia Parkway in 1999. "On Utopia Parkway, Fountains of Wayne create a pop masterpiece that makes them to '90s suburbia what the Kinks were to working class mores during the swinging '60s," wrote Detour critic Matt Diehl. An anonymous Mademoiselle critic gushed that "Their super simple, blatantly suburban, just-post-teenage tunes about crushing, cruising, lazing and loving have a head-boppy, deliberate rinky-dink quality: cheap and cheesy guitars, light and breezy harmonies, twinkly, New Wave-ish keyboards ... The feeling and imagery are so much fun, even the sad songs will make you smile."
Lumped in with Pop Greats
Critics have noted similarities in the group's sound to a wide number of other successful pop acts from Beatles and Beach Boys to Cheap Trick and Marshall Crenshaw. "I'm much more comfortable being lumped in with Cheap Trick," Collingwood quipped. He told Musician that Utopia Parkway is filled with songs containing "absolutely none of ourselves and a lot of everybody else." Critics have made their own speculation about the group's pop inspirations, citing a diverse lot of artists including Billy Joel and The Romantics.
Collingwood told Billboard that Utopia Parkway was the band's chance to explore the depth of its abilities. "Typically, the first album is sort of a statement of purpose, to put it in ridiculous business terms," he said. "It's like, 'Here's what we are; here's what we do.' If you try to make it too complicated and too weird, it tends to muddle the vision. But once you've established that, I think it's a natural progression to do something a little more diverse."
The plaudits and songwriting team comparisons continued as the song "Denise" began airing on modern rock and college radio stations in the summer of 1999. However, Schlesinger disagreed, "College radio stations don't particularly care about our record," he told TimeOut New York. "We went straight to commercial radio with our first single."
The duo wanted to be known as songwriters rather than performers. Collingwood told CMJ New Music Monthly that Fountains of Wayne is "really more about having a forum for two songwriters that it is about four guys working on songs together." He told TimeOut New York, "I've never wanted to be known as a singer or a guitar player. I want to be known as a songwriter."
Record buyers weren't as keen on Fountains of Wayne's songwriting style as Atlantic Records had hoped, and in 2000 they parted ways with the band. In the following few years, Fountains of Wayne took a much-needed break. While Collingwood worked on his garden, Schlesinger immersed himself in other music projects, including producing albums for artists such as David Mead and The Verve Pipe, as well as writing scores and songs for movies (Josie and the Pussycats) and television (collaborating with Collingwood for the Comedy Central show Crank Yankers). Returning to the game in 2003, Fountains of Wayne humbly released Welcome Interstate Managers on their new label S-Curve/Virgin. The record received positive reviews, including an A- rating by Entertainment Weekly, who called Welcome Interstate Managers, "joyously clever power pop."
U.S. Fell in Love with "Stacy's Mom"
Shortly after the album was released it quickly began to build steam, and shot to the top of VH-1's video playlist thanks to the release of the album's first single, "Stacy's Mom." The song, and the subsequent attention---the video, starring a bikini-clad Rachel Hunter, made heavy rotation on MTV and VH-1---earned the album two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Pop Performance By a Duo or a Group. It was a somewhat ironic gesture that the band, together for almost nine years, would only now be nominated for a Best New Artist Award. And they had "Stacy's Mom" to thank for it. In the band's usual wry style of songwriting, the tune told a "Mrs. Robinson" kind of story, and the video made heavy rotation on MTV and VH-1. The band never expected any kind of enthusiasm from the media. "...We didn't necessarily judge our own success or failure by how well our records sold. But it was certainly nice to have some renewed interest in the band and feel like there was a reason to keep going," Schlesinger told RollingStone.com.
Being perceived as somewhat of a novelty song, "Stacy's Mom," put Fountains of Wayne headfirst into the spotlight they had been so close to after the moderate success of "Radiation Vibe." The kitsch value of the song allowed the average music listener to discover a band that had been under their radar for nearly a decade. A 2003 tour with Matchbox Twenty was both an accomplishment and a great opportunity, but also an eye opener for the songwriters. "The hardcore fans were there, but there's a large contingent that just wants the single or holds up the sign that says, 'I'M STACY'S MOM,'" Collingwood expressed to Time. "I hope it doesn't haunt us."
by Linda Dailey Paulson and Shannon McCarthy
Fountains of Wayne's Career
Group formed as a duo by Collingwood and Schlesinger, 1996; pair met while attending Williams College; played together in other bands prior to forming Fountains of Wayne; released Fountains of Wayne, Scratchie/TAG/Atlantic, 1996.; added Porter and Young in order to tour in support of album; recorded Utopia Parkway, Atlantic, 1999; released Welcome Interstate Managers, S-Curve/Virgin, 2003; received two Grammy nominations for the album.
- Selected discography
- Fountains of Wayne Scratchie/TAG/Atlantic, 1996.
- Utopia Parkway Atlantic, 1999.
- Welcome Interstate Managers S-Curve/Virgin, 2003.
- Alternative Press, June 1999.
- Billboard, January 18, 1997; March 20, 1999.
- CMJ New Music Monthly, May 1999.
- Detour, April 1999.
- Entertainment Weekly, June 13, 2003.
- Mademoiselle, April 1999.
- Musician, January 1999.
- New York Times, May 31, 1999.
- People, March 3, 1997; March 17, 1997.
- Pulse!, May 1999.
- Raygun, May 1999.
- Rolling Stone, November 28, 1996.
- Time, December 22, 2003.
- TimeOut New York, April 8, 1999.
- "Fountains Take Broadway," RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (December 21, 2004).
- Additional information provided by Atlantic Records publicity materials.
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