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Welcome to Collingwood and co... The Fountains of Wayne

Feature: Jack Foley

NEW York-based quartet, Fountains of Wayne, have earned themselves a reputation as masters of the three and a half minute pop song.

Led by songwriters, Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, the band has now released its third album, Welcome Interstate Managers, following the success of their eponymous debut, and Utopia Parkway.

Their latest, however, finds them tackling such time-honoured pop subjects as love, work, frustrated commuters, drunken salesmen, retired airline pilots, pressured quarterbacks, bad waitresses, vegan entrepreneurs, New England snowstorms and exploding cell phones... all the things we love about modern life and, well, America.

But rather than doing it in a brash, pop-punk, Eighties-styled kind of way, much like most of the other sounds coming out of the Big Apple at the moment, the Fountains of Wayne - which also includes Jody Porter, on guitars, and Brian Young, on drums - are content to draw in wider influences, while almost sounding as though they belong on California's West Coast.

Collingwood and Schlesinger say they began playing music together in college, 'sometime in the previous century'.

They performed together in a series of bands, with names such as Are You My Mother? and Threen Men Who When Standing Side By Side Have A Wingspan of Over Twelve Feet.

At one point in the early Nineties, they even began work on an album for a start-up indie label, which soon folded, and the album was never finished or released.

They claim to be quite grateful for this, in hindsight!

After a brief respite, the duo reconvened to New York, and formed Fountains of Wayne around an inspired batch of new songs.

They named their new group after a lawn ornament store in Wayne, NJ, near Schlesinger's hometown of Montclair (the store has since gained notoriety thanks to multiple appearances on HBO's The Sopranos).

Although the debut album from Fountains of Wayne was recorded largely as a duo, Peter (formerly of The Belltower) and Young (formerly of The Posies) joined shortly before the record's release in 1996.

The subsequent radio and TV success of songs like Radiation Vibe and Sink To The Bottom kept the foursome on the road for over a year.

Utopia Parkway followed in 1999 and was a collection of songs set in and around the Tri-State Area which expanded the band's fanbase both at home and abroad, and showed up on dozens of year end 'best of' lists.

After a lengthy hiatus, however, the band is now back with Welcome Interstate Managers, which was produced with longtime collaborator, Mike Denneen, and which features guest appearances by former Smashing Pumpkin, James Iha, and Boston-based singer-songwriter, Jen Trynin, among others.

In addition to the trademark Fountains of Wayne power-pop sound, there is also a newfound acoustic intimacy and hints of 60s psychedelia, and even a country influence.

The album is well worth a listen.

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