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30th May 2012

Interview: Wheatus

Tom Ingham chats to Brendan Brown, Wheatus frontman, about what life is like having such a hit song.

Say Wheatus to most people and one track instantly springs to mind, but there’s much more to a band that holds a special place in most people’s hearts. Speaking to frontman and founding member, Brendan Brown, he tells of some of the changes the band has gone through and what life is like having such a hit song.

First of all, can you explain a little about the new DSD format in which your latest releases have come in?

It’s undecimated audio which means it isn’t rounded off like PTM formats which you get on CDs and MP3s. DSD maintains the integrity of the sound through the harmonic range and is really a lot better quality. The last two records we made were something of a steep learning curve for us. Making a record on DSD is really quite different but I think we’re definitely getting there.

You’re now releasing material independently. How does the experience differ from that of being on a major label?

We were on a major label when the cracks were really beginning to show. I’ll never forget one meeting we had where the US sales for the first week came in at 19,000, just failing to break that psychological 20,000 barrier that they were so concerned with, and I said, “Does anybody have information on the downloads we’ve had on Napster?”. They just looked at me as if to say “What’s Napster?” and that’s when I knew we were in trouble. We were in a technology company that had failed to move onto the next level and therefore wouldn’t remain a technology company for much longer. It was upsetting but unsurprising that they didn’t release the second album. We could have been making Sgt.Peppers and they would have scoffed at it. We got off the label at just the right time – just before the shit really hit the fan.

You’re also offering fans a ‘pay what you want’ service as far as downloads go. Why do you think the sales of physical music has declined and do you feel that this is the way forward?

It certainly is the way forward and with vinyl formats too. That’s also why we’re offering DSD as it matches the quality of vinyl but you can play it on your computer. I don’t think when they switched over to CDs that they realised they weren’t delivering an actual mechanical representation of the analogue sound wave. I think the sound of CDs and Mp3s is inferior and this is an overall upgrade for the music industry, if they see the opportunity.

Looking back on the success of  ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ and the recent time it enjoyed in the UK Top 40, why is it do you think that people still connect with and have a special place for that song?

Well, the real answer is that I don’t know but my father put forth something that seemed to make sense. He said no matter what year it is, no matter what generation, every kid goes through the cycle of feeling like an outsider looking in, unless you’re one of the very select lucky few, and that’s why people still relate to it.

Has the success of the song changed your approach to writing and even created any problems for you as a songwriter?

I still have the perspective of us being a struggling band. We did have a hit and there’s no downside to that unless you make one out of it. The initial principle of trying to have a song everybody knows – mission accomplished. I don’t see that as a downside especially today where so much music comes and goes and good stuff is forgotten as quickly as it’s released. I’m proud to have something people revisit and engage with.

What does the future hold for Wheatus?

I’ve been working with our drummer (Kevin Garcia) and bass player (Matthew Milligan) for seven years now, and that really is the core of the band now. I think the goal is to get better what we do live, so people are satisfied and feel like they’ve got something out of the show. Our new album is shaped like first one, but with different topics and colours, I think it’s a definite return to form in that respect. The next set of songs will be called the Valentine EP and they’re set for Valentines Day 2013, but that’s a soft goal and things can happen which may prevent that.

Wheatus have over 44 new songs that are available to download on their website and will be adding to it soon with even more new material. ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ has also featured in a US documentary called ‘Bully’ which will be shown in the UK later this year.

The recording of this interview can be found here.

Wheatus – Teenage Dirtbag


Tom Ingham

Tom Ingham

Music Editor

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