Tonight, when the band Fountains of Wayne stops in Northampton, it will be a homecoming for its lead singer, Chris Collingwood. Collingwood has lived in the Valley since 1998, moving to Northampton soon after he formed the "power pop" band with Adam Schlesinger; the two met as fellow students at Williams College. Collingwood, who is in his early 40s, says he loves his new roots in Northampton, especially access to two favorite Thai restaurants.
That's when he finds the time. "Wow. I don't get out too much," he said in a recent interview. The band is finishing up its first album in four years and is hoping to release it next spring. Fountains of Wayne, named for a now-defunct store in New Jersey, is perhaps best known for its 2003 pop hit "Stacy's Mom," from its record "Welcome Interstate Managers."
The band performs at 8:30 p.m. in the ballroom at Pearl Street Night Club in Northampton, the eighth stop on an 11-date tour, with Jill Sobule and School for the Dead also on the bill.
Collingwood shared views on making music, Northampton's music scene, famous awards, side projects and his interest in photography.
Q: What was your reaction when you found out you were nominated for a Grammy Award?
A: I have a pretty low-key personality. It takes a lot to get me excited. I'm pretty sure when I first heard we were on the road somewhere in Florida. It was just too early in the morning so I was like, "Oh that's good, I guess." Then everybody asks you immediately, "Aren't you thrilled?" And you know if you look at the other people that are sort of nominated every year -- I've had a lot bigger thrills than to be included in that company.
Most of the time people who win Grammys are not that good, they're people who have commercial success. On one hand, it's good to be acknowledged; on the other hand it's stupid to consider that a measure of artistic success.
Q: What has been one of your biggest thrills in this business?
A: It continues to be sort of meeting people who I grew up listening to and having them dig what we do. We actually sort of ended up doing a bunch of tour dates with Squeeze. (The band's song "Tempted") was a huge influence on us. We learned through some third party that Glenn Tilbrook, who was a singer in that band, had been covering one of my songs. I got to meet him and tour with that band; I love that kind of connection.
The show that we're doing in Boston (it was last night), Marshall Crenshaw is going to be opening - another one of our heroes, a huge kind of pop singer in the '80's, and that's a thrill for me.
Q: What was your side project, The Gay Potatoes, all about?
A: That was a drunken sort of venture with some local bands here (in Northampton). It was a short-lived thing and some of my friends from Northampton are in some amazing bands and it was really just a big way to get together with those guys and sing harmonies.
Q: What's the music scene like in Northampton?
A: I don't really get out as much as I used to. The last time I went out in Northampton was on my way back from a casino. There were four bands playing I'd never seen or heard of before and I had a good time, but I don't really know what's going on.
All the same guys that were in the Gay Potatoes are still playing and I see them, but as far as what the young kids do I don't really know. (He laughs.)
Q: How did you meet your wife?
A: When I was living in New York City, she was living in New York City and we were working together. I worked for a while as a computer programmer at American Express and she was working there to. We met over the water cooler, as they say. Despite the metaphorical content of that expression, it actually was over a water cooler because I had an office, it had a water cooler in it and I saw everybody: people came in my office all day long.
Q: Where did the name "Fountains of Wayne" come from?
A: It came from a now-defunct store in Wayne, N.J., that sold fountains. It was landmark for people who had to go to the city [New York] from New Jersey. It was a really visible piece from the highway where they had this giant fountain display, and they sold fountains for people to put in there yards. Sadly, they went out of business I think just this past year.
Q: Did the band ever contact the owners?
A: Yeah we did right at the very start. We went in there and we talked to the owner for a while and he said something like, "Okay well let's keep in touch throughout this thing." It was very weird; like we'd ever have anything to talk about. We didn't see him after that.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: Williams College. (By) junior year I had taken enough classes in psychology that I could major in that. I'm not really sure why.
Q: Any hobbies?
A: I love taking pictures, I do that a lot. I was out at this thing called Transperformance. It's a show where every band from town gets up on stage at Look Park, they have a big outdoor theater there, and they pretend to be some other band. This year the theme was bands that were named after body parts. One of my friends bands came out as "Bad Finger" and you know Joan Armatrading. The mayor was actually scheduled to play as Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, she's done it in the past. I can't remember if she was the Ramones or some other band, but she came out and it was pretty cool.
Q: Any thoughts on the new album?
A: It's almost done so we've been mixing with a guy who we've worked a lot with in the past called John Holbrook. The first 10 tracks are already mastered and then John had to go on vacation, so there's a couple more left to do. We're just trying to figure out how we're going to put it out.
Q: Release date?
A: I wish I knew. If we end up shopping it around and don't get a major label to put it out then it'll come out sooner, because we won't have to stay on their release schedule and put it out in the spring.