Brendan B Brown interview
added: 9 Mar 2012
interviewed by: Victoria Dillingham
It’s been a whopping 15 years since New York rockers, Wheatus stormed our charts with the jukebox favourite, Teenage Dirtbag. The tune that has now become an anthem, is synonymous with the coming of age film, Loser and continues to claim a place in many a rock compilation album today.
Over the last decade the band have seen countless changes to the line-up, ditched their record label and propelled themselves into the digital age by releasing all five albums via their website: wheatus.com.
We caught up with the Northport crew ahead of their performance at this year’s Bearded Theory Festival in Derbyshire.
Music News’ Victoria Dillingham talks: bearded guises, the UK music scene and the release of the band's 6th album with front man and founding band member, Brendan B Brown.Music News
: What’s the weather like today in New York Brendan?Brendan
: It’s pretty gross actually. Its damp, grey and raining and very much like yours this time of year.Music News
:You’re heading over to the UK for the Bearded Theory Festival
in Derbyshire in May. Is it your first time performing at the festival and is it true you’ll be wearing beards for the occasion?Brendan
: Yeah it is and we’re really looking forward to it. We once played at a random gig in Swansea where we had to dress up in skeleton costumes as part of a ‘lets see how many people dressed as skeletons you can fit in a room’ which was fun. So, we’re not above wearing beards. As long as I’m still able to sing with it on, I’ll be wearing one.Music News
:Are we right in thinking festival goers can look forward to you playing the whole of your debut album -Wheatus - for them at Kedleston Hall, Derby?Brendan
: Yeah that’s right, most of it anyway. We’ve been working really hard at playing all of our songs really well. As a band, with five albums and having been around for 15 years, it’s really hard to be good at playing every song you’ve ever written and made. There are some bands and performers who will turn up to a live gig or festival and just play. But it takes real practice to make sure it’s really great.
On our first album, Wheatus there are around six songs that are really difficult to play and a couple on our second album that I totally fear. I think, as a band you can get too used to playing the tracks you play. You can never practice too much.
If we do screw up, we’ll stop and start again, we’re never satisfied.Music-News
: Are there any bands you’re really looking forward to playing alongside at the festival?Brendan
: We’ve got so many dates lined up for our tour, it’s kind of hard to remember everyone on the bill. But it’s an honour to be on the same bill as a band like The Levellers.The hype of playing alongside bands like that never goes away. We’re still a bunch of dorks from Northport who opened for James Brown and played in between Meatloaf and Beyonce. We’re constantly thinking ‘how did we sneak into this?’.
We’re not trying to be a part of the cannon of classic music acts, we’ve just been really lucky and while it might fade in 20-30 years, that hype for us is still very much there.Music News
: Do you ever get bored of playing your greatest hit, Teenage Dirtbag?Brendan
: I never get bored of that question or of playing it, no. The audience takes the song away from us every time we play it, and every time it’s different. Sometimes the crowd sings so loud, we can’t even hear ourselves. But each time it’s received differently and as musicians we try to perform it in the right way. We can always tell what the crowd’s going to be like and how they’ve received us by their reaction to Teenage Dirtbag, and we love it.Music News
: Tell us more about the new album?Brendan
: It’s going to be made up of 10 songs all of which are apocalyptic love songs. It’ll be the closest in sound and feel to the first album and is the first and only album we’re likely to make of its kind.
The last two EPs - The Lightening and Jupiter - were a collection of much longer, progressive rock tracks, with some lasting as long as 11minutes. The songs on this album will be of regular length. It’ll be called The Valentine and will be released in February next year (2013).Music News
: How has the new line-up changed the sound of Wheatus as a band?Brendan
: In my head we’ve always had a keyboards and backing vocals. The truth is the first Wheatus album doesn’t sound entirely like I’d want it to. You’ve got to shoot for what you want, but sometimes you never really get it, especially as a self produced band. I’ve now got more into the arrangement. I’ve played guitar since I was nine and despise electric guitars. I consider them as firewood and kind of wanky, which is why we’ve always played with acoustics.
It’s funny coz we seem to get a lot of rock ‘n’ roll fans off their seats and I’ve never seen us as punk rock, which we’ve often been described as. Teenage Dirt bag is more hip-hop and metal influenced than anything else. I never listened to punk as a child, I’ve always thought of punk as crass.
If you think back to the late 90s and early 2000 with bands like Sum 41 and Blink 182, I liked a lot of it, but I was never trying to make that kind of music. We’re from New York, not Southern California. I think when genres start to cross over, critics find it easier to just group you in the same categories, especially if you are out at the same time. Now when I see that we’ve been included in a mix or compilation with say Kasabian, I get really excited as it means we’re being included as rock ‘n’ roll.Music News
: What bands and acts do you admire this side of the pond at the moment?Brendan
: I watch a music channel over here called Palladium, which shows the footage from a lot of the festivals in the UK. I remember seeing Kasabian on it for the first time and thinking ‘oh my god, this band kicks ass’. Another band I like are Phoenix, who I think really push the limit on modern rock. I think bands like LCD Soundsystem are interesting, in that they’re not just borrowing or utilising dance sounds, but incorporating rock and other genres. It’s great.
I don’t tend to listen to a hell of a lot of commercial radio, but when it comes to the UK, I love the Streets. I think Mike Skinner is a genius, and Two Door Cinema Club blew me away.
There’s a really great group here called Bomb the Music Industry, and Math the Band, who we are bringing on tour with us. Money’s always tight when we come to the UK, but there are so many great acts I’d bring with us if I could. Music-News
: If you could collaborate with any act or group who would it be and why?Brendan
: Willie Nelson. I think he is the best songwriter that has ever lived and a brilliant guitar player. Music News
: How do you think the music scene differs in the US to here in the UK?Brendan
: You guys have rock bands come up like our indie bands. The UK seems to have more popular and mainstream music whereas a lot of ours is niche and underground. If you’re a pop kid over here, you hide from an Emo kid, whereas that doesn’t seem to happen in the UK. I think the US and UK both have a kind a pop sensibility. I just think your pop sensibility is one of finer taste.Music News
: What’s next for Wheatus?Brendan
: We’ve got a 30 date tour ahead including Australia in September. In between we’ll be working hard on the album to release it as quick as we can.
I’m also going to be spending loads of time in the studio changing over a lot of the our technical equipment as we’ve not been able to upgrade it with touring and performing so much. When you’re self-produced and self-managed there’s no one to tell you when it’s got to be done and organise it for you, so I’ll be doing all that geeky stuff myself. It’ll also mean the tracks that can now be downloaded from our site: wheatus.com
will be much higher quality as we switch everything over to DSD. It means the files are larger, but the quality is more superior to DVD and blu ray.Wheatus will take to the stage for the final day of the Bearded Theory Festival at Kedlesdon Hall, Derbyshire on Sunday 20th May. For tickets visit: www.beardedtheory.co.uk
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