Fountains of Wayne's Chris Collingwood Returns With New Project 'Look Park'

Jul 24, 2016
Originally published on July 24, 2016 11:47 am
Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

ELISE HU, HOST:

Once upon a time, there was a group named after a lawn ornament store. Fountains of Wayne made quite a splash with a suggestive little number called "Stacy's Mom."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STACY'S MOM")

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: (Singing) You know I'm not the little boy that I used to be. I'm all grown up now. Baby, can't you see? Stacy's mom has got it going on. She's all that I want, and I've waited for so long.

HU: Chris Collingwood was the lead singer and the band had a good long run and a devoted following. But he and co-songwriter Adam Schlesinger parted ways after the 2011 album "Sky Full Of Holes." Over the next few years, Collingwood wrote dozens and dozens of demos. He was energized and determined to develop a sound apart from Fountains of Wayne. The result is a project called "Look Park."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SHOUT PART 1")

CHRIS COLLINGWOOD: (Singing) Have you been labeled from the get-go on the road in fine little pieces? Did you hear bells and the echoes of far-away horns in bone-dry places?

HU: Chris Collingwood joins us from the studios of New England Public Radio in Springfield, Mass., now. Chris, welcome.

COLLINGWOOD: Thank you for having me.

HU: Well, first, how is a "Look Park" song different from a Fountains of Wayne song?

COLLINGWOOD: Fountains of Wayne, it's a history that I embraced for a while and then didn't so much, writing humorous songs. And some of the early records, I was still writing kind of goofy songs. And I just - I don't know, I grew up. And I'm in my mid-40s now, and it's not something that interests me anymore to make people chuckle with music. So (laughter) that's probably the biggest difference.

There's other differences, you know. We changed up the orchestration quite a bit in working with Mitchell Froom, the producer of the record, trying to get away from the signature elements of power pop that really had defined Fountains of Wayne, the tambourines and the four-on-the-floor drum patterns and the quarter notes on the guitar and the sha-la-las (ph) in the backing vocals. Those were all things I was just trying to get away from.

HU: There is a certain '60s feel to some of these tracks. So let's listen to another song. This is "Stars Of New York."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STARS OF NEW YORK")

COLLINGWOOD: (Singing) They walk among you, the stars of New York. Take a train like some people do. Ride a taxi on the avenue. And when the pushes come to shove, they probably fall in love like you do. Get down.

The main element of the orchestration that came out of Mitchell's and my conversations was the Mellotron, which is the, you know, the instrument - if you're referring to the '60s, you know, it was very commonly used by The Beatles and The Moody Blues.

HU: And that's what was making the stringy sound?

COLLINGWOOD: Yeah, and it's throughout the album. We (laughter) really went overboard with it. But, yeah, it's an instrument where you press the key on the keyboard, and it's actually running a length of magnetic tape over a tape head. So you're actually playing what is a sample.

HU: So, like, a whole bunch of tape loops.

COLLINGWOOD: A whole bunch of, you know, however many are in the piano keyboard, so 88, I guess. That crazy, crazy invention.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "STARS OF NEW YORK")

COLLINGWOOD: (Singing) Save yourself. Save yourself. Because you can't save the ones you love.

HU: Let me ask you about Fountains of Wayne 'cause I know there are many Fountains of Wayne fans out there who might be wondering what happened. You've been fairly open about your struggles with alcohol in the past. So I was wondering, how did that play into, maybe, the final days recording with Fountains of Wayne?

COLLINGWOOD: Well, the - you know, the struggles with alcohol were over in 2006 or so. And Fountains of Wayne was recording long after that. So it hasn't been an issue for several years. It was related to, I think, what eventually caused the demise of Fountains of Wayne in that when we were recording the record before the last Fountains of Wayne record, which was called "Traffic And Weather," I didn't really have a whole lot to contribute to that album. I was out to lunch a little bit, mentally, and just drinking too much.

And I think that the fact that I sort of removed myself from the process at that point made it really easier for Adam to take over. And when I was ready to actually make another album, you know, several years later after I'd sort of cleaned up my act, it was very difficult. It was very, very hard to get back into the position where we were equals.

HU: So I want to turn to a credit in the liner notes. There's a thank you credit to Barbara H. Who's Barbara H., and how did she help you through all these changes?

COLLINGWOOD: Well, there's a - there's an old Fountains of Wayne song called "Barbara H." Barbara H. is my wife, and I have a studio in my house. She's the first audience for anything I'm working on. I also - I live in the woods. There's nobody around to really hear what I'm working on except for her.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BARBARA H.")

FOUNTAINS OF WAYNE: (Singing) Can't shake that tune, but it's OK. Maybe the world isn't so small. Barbara knows it doesn't matter at all.

HU: So if we were to ask Barbara H., since we've already gone over several songs from the album, is there a song that Barbara H. would like to help play us out, one that stands out, that she's a fan of and you are particularly proud of?

COLLINGWOOD: I think that "Minor Is The Lonely Key" is one of her favorite songs on the record. And, you know, she, just in general, is more a fan of moody music. She's not particularly a fan of power pop. And that one is one that I could see in her record collection (laughter).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MINOR IS THE LONELY KEY")

COLLINGWOOD: (Singing) Find the sadness that hides in your chest, minor sharps and sing the melody alone 'cause they can't hear the tune, and they don't know the words to the song.

HU: Chris Collingwood - his new project as a bandleader is called "Look Park." He joined us from New England Public Radio. Chris Collingwood, thanks so much.

COLLINGWOOD: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "MINOR IS THE LONELY KEY")

COLLINGWOOD: (Singing) Hit the trail, young man. Sing while you can. Play me the sound of the bells. Hang your complaints in wide open space. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.