News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Fountains Of Wayne: More Than A One-Hit Act
BY ANDREW LEAHEY
FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR
On Jan. 30, 1997, Fountains of Wayne walked onto the massive stage at the Richmond Coliseum and launched into “Joe Rey,” the third track from their début album.
Out in the audience, 13,000 rock fans tapped their feet and listened politely. It was Fountains of Wayne’s first time in Virginia, and few in the audience had ever heard their music.
Adam Schlesinger, the group’s bassist, couldn’t blame the crowd for hardly recognizing his band. Fountains of Wayne had been together for less than a year, and they’d hardly done any touring. Playing one of the largest venues in Virginia was an honor they owed entirely to the Smashing Pumpkins, who had asked the band to serve as their opening act on a big winter tour.
For a young pop group whose songs had just begun to scrape the bottom of the charts, touring with the biggest rock band in America was an eye-opening experience.
“That was pretty much our first tour ever,” Schlesinger recalled last week, several days before Fountains of Wayne kicked off a new tour of their own. The group will headline the 9:30 Club in Washington on Thursday evening.
“We’d done a couple shows with the Lemonheads right before that,” he said, “but going on the road with the Pumpkins was a different animal. We had to get our act together really quickly if we wanted to play for these big audiences. It made us a better band in a very short amount of time.”
Those who didn’t attend the Richmond show were probably introduced to Fountains of Wayne in late 2003, when “Stacy’s Mom” became a surprise Top 40 hit. Written as a tongue-in-cheek tribute to the Cars, the song pushed the band into the mainstream for the first time ever, giving the guys a glimpse—however brief—of what life must be like for the industry’s elite.
“We got to enjoy that moment more than other bands might have,” Schlesinger said, “because it happened on our third record and we’d already been around for eight years. We realized it wasn’t going to last, so we didn’t have unrealistic expectations. We just got to have fun with the moment, knowing we were getting a little taste of this world that we didn’t really belong in.”
These days, Fountains of Wayne has settled into a world of its own. The band members are the reigning kings of vintage pop music, the kind that rarely gets played on the radio but always seems to trigger a loyal following. Everyone from the Jonas Brothers to classic rock icons America have looked to Schlesinger for songwriting help, proof that the need for a good pop hook can transcend all generations and genres.
“All we ever wanted when we started playing music was the ability to keep going for awhile,” said Schlesinger. “The fact that we can play places like the 9:30 Club—and that people still come out—is great. We’ve gotten really lucky in the past, and we’re still feeling pretty lucky now.”
What: Fountains of Wayne with James Iha
Where: 9:30 Club, 815 V St. NW, Washington, D.C.
When: Thursday, April 19, 7 p.m.
Andrew Leahey is a musician and freelance writer in Nashville.