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'Stacy's Mom' domineering to Fountains of Wayne

Courtesy photo
Touring in support of its fifth album, power pop/indie rock band Fountains of Wayne appears Sunday on "Mountain Stage." Bassist Adam Schlesinger (right) says there's more to the band than its 2003 hit, "Stacy's Mom," but if the group has to be known for a single tune, at least it's one people like. With him in the band are (from left) Jody Porter, Brian Young and Chris Collingwood.

WANT TO GO?

"Mountain Stage"

With Fountains of Wayne, Marc Broussard, Ben Lee, Amanda Shires and Grace Weber

WHERE: Culture Center Theater

WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday

TICKETS: Advance tickets $15, at the door $25

INFO: 800-549-TIXX or www.mountainstage.org

 CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Having a hit song can be a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, the song is often a much-needed break; it opens doors and people remember it. On the other, that success can be hard to shake.

Power-pop band Fountains of Wayne, which appears Sunday on "Mountain Stage," has never really shaken its 2003 hit, "Stacy's Mom," a light-hearted song about a 12-year-old boy lusting after a friend's mother. The song went to No. 3 on the Billboard pop charts and was nominated for a Grammy. The video was played extensively on MTV and VH1.

Later songs from the band have struggled to chart.

Adam Schlesinger, the group's bassist and one of its songwriters, said, if "Stacy's Mom" is all people know the band for, that's too bad. "I don't think that's necessarily the most representative of our whole catalog."

"Stacy's Mom" also is a good way of showing how a song can be constructed by borrowing a style from a specific artist and turning it on its ear. With it, the band took the story of a boy's crush and put it with a riff that sounded a bit like the 1980s rock band The Cars.

"We like to put our own little spin on it," Schlesinger said. "We like to take a familiar style but put a story or lyrical idea on it that doesn't fit. That makes it a little original and, mostly, fun.

"I think there are certain songs we have that are very obvious references to something specific and other songs not so much," he added. "But yeah, there are songs in our catalog that are blatant imitations of songs we love."

That's not the only trick Fountains of Wayne has, though.

Schlesinger said he and the band's other main songwriter, Chris Collingwood, get material from all over the place, except not usually from any deep personal sadness.

"I don't write like it's a diary entry," he explained. "I don't write directly from my emotions that day."

Still, Schlesinger acknowledged, real life has a funny way of turning up in songs, but he writes so many songs it probably would be weird if that didn't happen eventually.

Outside of his work with Fountains of Wayne, Schlesinger writes songs for other artists and frequently works in television. He's written music and theme songs for shows like "The Howard Stern Show," "Sesame Street" and Nickelodeon's "T.U.F.F. Puppy."

The primary difference between writing for Fountains of Wayne and a cartoon like "T.U.F.F. Puppy," he said, is where the initial idea for the song originates.

"Usually when somebody hires me, they have an idea of what they're looking for," he said.

In Fountains of Wayne, the choices naturally begin with Schlesinger, although he acknowledged that he and Collingwood, the band's singer and guitarist, sometimes will talk about album strategy and things they'd like to write about.

"But we don't want to hone into it too much," he said.

Afterward, they go off separately to write before coming back to "discuss."

"We argue about them a lot." Schlesinger laughed, then added, "Actually, we tend to agree on things about 90 percent, but that extra 10 percent of the time we can have some pretty vicious disagreements."

It's collaborative, but not always equal. Schlesinger said Collingwood's creative output had slowed over the past few years.

"I don't think he was in the greatest mental state for a while," Schlesinger said.

Now things are better. With Fountains of Wayne's latest album, "Sky Full of Holes," released last fall, Collingwood had more he wanted to do.

"Chris had a lot of ideas for what he wanted to do with this record, and what he didn't want to repeat from earlier records," Schlesinger said. He laughed. "There were a lot of intense discussions, shall we say.

 "But I think we both have songs on this record we're really proud of and that really fit well."

There might be no escaping "Stacy's Mom," but Schlesinger said the band wasn't really trying to. Some people were going to stop listening with just the one song, but that didn't mean Fountains of Wayne had to stop playing.

Reach Bill Lynch at lynch@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5195.


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