If you say "bittersweet pop," does that open up doors or does that limit you?
A: I think people keep them shut. I think it's like one fell swoop that includes the key and everything. You know, lock it up.
A: In this country, both bittersweet and pop are, even individually, pretty good at closing the doors. And when you combine them, that kinda seals your fate as far as any kind of commercial success.
D: First of all, I'm just not very good at promoting our music. But the other thing, too, is that in this country, if you don't do pop metal, or heavy metal, or anything like rap...
A: ...or bittersweet rock... [laughs]
D: ...rap metal...
A: ...bittersweet rap...
D: [laughs] ...or whatever, anything like that right now, it's like you have almost no chance to be heard anywhere, unless on a very underground level, that kind of market.
Do you find that frustrating? Do you ever wish that you could write that rap metal opus and break in?
D: I think it was very frustrating at the beginning. Not when we started, because we actually started a long time ago. When we started, it was a very exciting time, '93, '94. That was when the indie thing was huge. That was an incredible time. But quickly after that, bad music came along again in America, and that was really frustrating. And now I'm kind of jaded, I guess, in that respect. [laughs] Now we're wise and we're much more mature about it, and we have a different attitude. If we can make records and be happy with that, that's great. We're already lucky enough to be able to do that. And because we've been around for a while and have this following, we're able to continue that, and that's great. Obviously, yes, if we could have the chance to be heard on a different level, by a much grander audience, that would be great.
A: But not by changing the music.
D: No, of course not.
A: No. I mean, bands like us don't set out to make a million dollars and sell a million records, so it's already a given that you're gonna stick to your guns and hopefully make a living doing it. But you're certainly not following trends. I guess the reason why we're not more bitter about it is because we have, over the years, managed to find a niche that has eked out a living for ourselves in ways other than just selling records. If we hadn't, then we would be a lot more bitter about not having had commercial success.
A: The thing is, for a lot of people, they see us as having had commercial success. I mean, we've had songs in movies, we've scored a film. For the average musician trying to make it in the music world, we are successful, but we're not, to us. And I think to our peers, we're not. And we're still very far removed from the mainstream.
D: What I've found frustrating personally is that the music in America sucks. That's frustrating. It's not inspiring. If you want to find really great music, you really have to find it. You have to go to the record store, you have to read the music paper that I don't feel like reading anymore. But in terms of easy reach to good music, it's impossible.
A: You have to go to Mexico. [laughs]
D: Even in Europe. Europe is pretty much easier, but it's not really much more. So that I find very frustrating. It's not inspiring.
What drew the three of you together? How did you start making music together? How did you meet each other and Adam?
D: Ivy I would say was a total accident. Because it was not something that any of the three of us wanted to do together. I wasn't planning on being a singer or being with a band at all. I first I met Andy and Andy was a musician. He was a singer and had a band. And Adam was also in a band, and, they met through an ad in the Village Voice for a project that they had. I was there when they met, and I said to Andy, "This guy Adam is really interesting. You should really keep in touch with him. Even though it's not going to work out for your project, you should keep in touch with him." And then one day Andy wrote a song and he said, "Well, why don't you sing it? Because it's more in your key." I was like, "Are you crazy? I can't sing." I felt shy. So I went to the studio for the first time in my life...
A: You have to understand, at that point, she was just my girlfriend.
A: She wasn't a singer. I didn't even know if she ever sang even in the shower. I mean, she was just some chick. [laughs] I was the singer, I was the one in a band, and I just thought it'd be funny. Like, "Come on, we'll get you drunk, we'll go to my little recording studio and see what your voice sounds like." The svengali, you could call me. [laughs]
D: So I went there, and I sang the song, and it was nothing. I was really ashamed of it, and then he was like, "Well, whatever."
A: That was "I Can't Even Fake It"?
D: Yeah. And then Andy called up Adam and he said, "Yeah, well, I have this song, whatever, if you want to come and play bass on it." So Adam came along and he heard it, and Adam really was the one to get really excited. He's like, "Oh, this is really cute. I love it, we should do more." And so that's when the three of us started to write two or three more songs, and then we had this demo. We didn't really want to do anything about it, but it got into hands of people and a lot of people were excited. So that was I would say pretty much an accident.
A: At the time, Adam was in a band. It was a precursor to Fountains of Wayne, but it was him and Chris [Collinwood], the singer in Fountains of Wayne. And I was in a band, and when Ivy started showing signs that it could be more than just this little fun studio thing, he and I just kind of gave up for a while, 'cause we were both not getting anywhere with our own projects. So we kind of committed to Ivy. And then it just kind of grew, and at some point we looked back and realized that we were in this band, like a real thing.
Traditionally, the band is the three of you. What's the story with Josh Lattanzi and Marty Beller, who you took out on tour with you last year?
A: Well, the problem with us is, we tour so infrequently that we can never really keep the same musicians, because we never can put them on a salary or something just to keep them permanently for our touring needs. So from record to record, it ends up being different people because there's so much time between records and so little touring in those spaces that by the time we come out with another record and we're talking about touring, the guys we used two, three years before have moved on. Between Apartment Life and Long Distance, it was another two, two and a half years, and at that point Brian [Young, from Fountains of Wayne and the Posies], who had been drumming with us for Apartment Life, had kind of gotten a real job and didn't want to give it up just for a few months of touring. He drummed on a few songs on Long Distance, but for the most part, Adam and I do the drumming, which is why you don't see a lot of outside credits for that stuff. So we found Marty, who's a local drummer. And our old guitar player John Skivic had moved from the East Coast to the West Coast, so we found Josh. And yet here we are again with the possibility of touring Europe later this summer and we might be using John Skivic again, who's moved back to the East Coast in the last three years, because Josh has now taken another tour. Never really kind of the consistent lineup that we had imagined it should be, but...
So you can't hire the same people every year.
A: We try to but it's just never worked out that way.
There's never been a question of bringing somebody in full time as an official member of the band?
A: No, we couldn't afford to. And what would they do? I mean, half the fun in Ivy has been me and Adam playing all the instruments. That was always the real impetus at the beginning. Before we even knew that we'd get a record deal with Ivy, it was just fun to record a bunch of songs. He and I just did round robin on all the different instruments and Dominique sang. It's still in some sense as basic as that, even when we're making our third record. That doesn't leave much room for a drummer to record stuff with, so hopefully we'd make it up by offering them months and months and months of steady touring, but we're not that kind of band, and we never have been. So there's really no reason on either the recording side or the touring side to employ someone full time.
Is there any hazing when you take your other instrumentalists on the road? Like, they're clearly not going to be hanging around the next time, so you throw stuff at them in hotel rooms, or...
A: No. [laughs] I think our tours have been just fantastic because of that reason. Other than in the early years when we just did some horrendous, horrendous tours, just relentless, the touring on Apartment Life and Long Distance has been almost like a vacation because of that. The downside is it hasn't provided much of a steady livelihood for the guys who are part-time touring members of Ivy, but the upside is that when we do tour together, it's really a lot of fun 'cause it's not something that we do so often. And when all of a sudden we're thrown into a five-week tour, it's like being sent back to summer camp. It's really a blast.
All of you seem to be fairly active in other projects, with Paco, Fountains of Wayne, Brookville, and your movie projects. How do you decide what to do in each? Like, was there ever any point at which it was unclear as to whether "That Thing You Do!" was going to be an Ivy song, or something along those lines?
D: No. I think what was really key at the beginning is that because Ivy was sort of an accident, we would do it seriously, but we would also all be free to do other things. So it was very clear from the beginning that Adam wanted to be involved in other projects and Andy wanted to be in other projects and Adam wanted to do other things. So that was really great. I think it's also very important for the band, because I think if the band's still existing after seven years or whatever, it's because of that, because we've all done other things. And so when we are focused on Ivy, it's exciting, because it's not just like this old thing, this tired thing, it's like this new thing again. That was a decision we all made very early, and that was very clear.
A: It's like living in a relationship where every once in a while, you're allowed to fool around.
A: [laughs] You know, you couldn't ask for more.
D: No, but it's not to be too dependent and not to be too bored because you're only doing that and there's frustration growing. Some people could not understand that. I've talked to bands, and they can't imagine doing that. I think personally so many bands can't stay together more than two or three years because of that, because it's too much. Being in a band is much more difficult than being in a marriage. [laughs] It's really hard, so you have to be able to do other things.
A: It's interesting because I think we're also very respectful of Ivy as an entity, and we all are very aware that, almost without exception, there's nothing that we're involved with, not Paco or Brookville or the film scoring or Fountains of Wayne or That Thing You Do!, that wouldn't have happened the way it had if it wasn't for Ivy. In a way, Ivy is a little bit like the golden goose for us. It was Ivy's publisher that presented the opportunity for Adam to write "That Thing You Do!" It was Ivy's signing to Atlantic that gave Adam the visibility and the credentials to easily go to Atlantic with Fountains of Wayne. And on and on and on. So I think we're all very aware that it always goes back to Ivy. So we treat Ivy with respect, I think.
Is there any ambiguity when you write the songs? Do you know specifically that something's going to one project or another, or has there been anything that you worked on with Ivy but then realized that it was more of a Fountains of Wayne song, or something along those lines?
A: So far, I don't know why, the lines have almost in all cases been very clearly divided between what's right for one project and what's right for another. For me personally, I've only ever written for Ivy. I learned how to play the guitar, and the first songs I wrote were for Ivy, and all the songs that I've written pretty much since then have been for Ivy. It was only recently that I personally wanted to do a solo record, and that really came about because there were songs that I had written that I thought were going to be Ivy songs that ended up not being those guys feeling like it was a direction we wanted to go in. So I put them on the side and realized that those two songs, three songs encapsulated a sound and a direction that I wanted to go in personally. But there the decision was made for me. For Paco, for the most part, the music is written by a friend of ours, Michael Hampton, and I've been adding the melodies and lyrics to it afterwards. But that kind of hasn't been an issue for Ivy. With Adam, for the most, he's very mathematical about things, so he can write from project to project and knows in the middle of writing a song whether he's gonna use that for Ivy or Fountains of Wayne or for whatever submission he's possibly thinking of. There've been maybe one or two cases where Dominique especially heard a song that Adam was thinking about for Fountains of Wayne and she said, "I wanna sing that one, what are you doing? Give that song to me."
D: Yeah, there was one song that came out, "Sick Day" [from Fountains of Wayne]. I was furious because I thought that that would have been an amazing Ivy song. That would have been a great song for Ivy.
A: That's one of my favorites.
D: So I got really pissed at Adam. I said, "Motherfucker!" [laughs] "That's the one that's supposed to be for me." And there was another time where Adam came up with a song for Ivy, and I was like, "You've gotta be kidding. It's not an Ivy song. It's a Fountains of Wayne song." So there's just a couple of times like that.
Do you ever make fun of him for any of his other projects, like tell him that Josie and the Pussycats was terrible or something like that?
A: Oh, yeah.
D: Oh, we give him so much shit.
A: We're on his ass. If it wasn't for us, he'd be way worse. [laughs]
D: Adam is so talented. I mean, he really, truly is. He's one of the most talented musicians that I know, but he has no, what's the word when you have no, um...
A: Filter system?
D: No, not even that. He, um...
A: Ethics? Morals? Scruples? [laughs]
D: Yes. [laughs] Exactly. He really doesn't. Like, he's a mercenary. But he knows it. It's very cute because he totally admits it. He's not trying to be this guy full of integrity. He knows it. Like, "Well, yeah, I know, whatever. People asked me to write a totally cheesy pop song for this horrible, cheesy artist. I will do it."
A: The thing is that you have to give credit where it's due. I mean, a lot of people are amazed about "That Thing You Do!," but for me, I mean, I respect it from a craftsmanship and a songwriting point of view. But the movie itself, and even the song, is kind of a piece of crap.
I have to argue with you there.
A: I know you do. A lot of people do, but I thought the movie was ridiculous. And, even more, Josie and the Pussycats. But Adam doesn't pretend that it's anything but that, and that's where the mastery of his talent comes out, because if he wanted to have integrity, he could. He recognizes it. He can see it. But he also admits, "Hey, I wanna do other things that might actually sell, and I admit they're pretty cheesy, but..." And that's why we can live with him, because it's not like he's in denial.
In his defense somewhat, I went into Josie and the Pussycats knowing that he wrote one song by himself, with no cowriters, but I didn't know which one. And as soon as "Pretend To Be Nice" started playing, it was clear to me that that was him, because it was so obviously the best song in the movie. None of the other ones even came close.
A: Yeah. I mean, when I refer to the stuff as a piece of crap, I'm talking about the genre. You know, it's the production, the kind of sentiment in the lyrics. He's trying to do something mainstream and it's trying to sell, but from a point of evaluating on a level of songcraftsmanship, he's brilliant, and they're always great from that perspective.
Is there ever any competition between you and Fountains of Wayne? Is there any fear that one or the other will eventually have to make a permanent claim on him?
D: No. First of all, when Fountains of Wayne started, they were way more successful than us. Right away, they were much more commercial than us. We were signed to Atlantic, but Atlantic put so much money into them. And they had big radio songs, which we never had. So right away, it became very clear to us that it was on a different level. But that was fine. You know, we would have been very happy if Adam had had success with other things. We just wanted to make sure that when we need to do Ivy, he'll be there, and he's always been. He's always been so amazing with that. He's always been present and really involved in Ivy. So that's totally fine.
A: They've always really kind of leapfrogged each other very, very well. It's never even been intentional, but it's just kind of worked out that way. I mean, here we are, winding down in the later days of Long Distance, and Adam is in the studio now, starting a new Fountains of Wayne record, and probably it'll come out next year and they'll be touring for it and I'll be writing Ivy songs for the next record, and when Adam's not on tour, just like it was for before Long Distance, he'll be at home writing songs for the next Ivy record. So it keeps working out, and every record we put out, we keep getting asked that question, "Has Fountains of Wayne ever conflicted with it?," and we say no. We said it for their first record and their second and now they're working on their third. I don't know, we've been lucky. But like Dominique said, we set out from the beginning knowing that we wanted to do other things, and we've been balancing it pretty good.
D: And even if Fountains of Wayne gets huge, Adam would never do only that, because that's not his personality.
A: It's not his nature.
D: It's not his nature. He could never do one thing. He couldn't do it.
Dominique is the singer and tends to be the presumptive visual focus of the group. You're on the covers of the albums and you do most of the stage banter. And Adam's got a million other projects that draw attention to him. Andy, do you ever feel like you're sort of left out of the spotlight?
A: It's like I'm just the dumb husband strumming a guitar that's not really plugged in or turned up on stage? [laughs]
A: I think that I've been pretty good, considering a lot of the injustices that have happened. I mean, because of the notoriety that Adam got early on with "That Thing You Do!," he became known as the master songwriter and I wasn't recognized. And I think it's partly our fault, because we never credited any of the songs. It wasn't like Lennon and McCartney. There's no "This song is by Adam, this song is by Andy," when in fact even in interviews we've admitted that Adam writes half the songs and I write half, but nobody ever knows which ones. So I guess most people over the years presume that they're all either written by Adam or that the good ones are his. And there have been a few cases where I have felt like I am getting passed over. Like, a song that I write is the first single for the Ivy record and the record label puts out a CD single that says on it, "This song is gonna shoot straight to the top, written by the master craftsman Adam Schlesinger from That Thing You Do!." And I'm like, "Whoa," and even Adam looks at me and he's like, "Sorry, dude. That does suck. I know you wrote that song." I'm like, "I can't fucking believe..." You know, shit like that happens.
D: But it happened also for Fountains of Wayne and Chris. It's very bad. He was furious. It happens with him all the time, too. And he's a very talented guy, Chris.
A: I mean, I'm not the singer in Ivy. I just write half the songs. So for as much as it might bother me sometimes, Chris gets that all the time. He's the singer in the band, and he's also writing the songs, and yet when people interview Fountains of Wayne, they're addressing Adam as if he's the lead singer. And articles that get written about Fountains of Wayne, they mention Adam. But it's probably more of an issue for Chris than it is for me. But I think he and I do probably get tormented a bit from it. I think it probably bothered me a lot more in the early days than it does now. Now I'm just an old fart, and I'm like, "Whatever." Having Brookville, too, maybe was a good psychological venting of whatever issue that might have been between me and Adam, because now it's just allowed me to kind of present myself, my own identity, so that I don't feel maybe as pent-up with the frustrations that are inherent in the trio that is Ivy.
What's different between Brookville and Ivy?
A: Well, we were divided in Ivy about some of these songs, a few of which became Brookville songs. As much as me, Adam and Dominique share an affinity for a lot of the same music, there are a few exceptions, and there were a couple of these songs that I thought would be great Ivy songs for Long Distance that Adam, in moments of real displeasure, referred to as elevator music. And Dominique and I might have felt together that some of these songs we really liked, but Ivy's always been a democracy, so unless we all agree, we throw the song aside. There have been bands like Alpha that Dominique and I are crazy about that Adam just doesn't get, and there were a few cases where there were songs that I thought were more in the direction of those bands, Alpha or even Zero Seven to some degree, that Adam just thought were, from a songwriting perspective, too nebulous. They were more about mood and atmosphere than they were about song structure, and Adam kind of drew the line for Ivy. And that's fine. We're happy with the way Long Distance turned out.
D: Adam is very new wave, and he's really into very traditional pop song structure. And we are, too. But Massive Attack is one of my favorite bands. And that's something that Adam doesn't get. He just doesn't get it. And Andy totally gets it, so I think he wanted to do something much more in that kind of direction.
A: Maybe even less conventional than Long Distance from a songwriting perspective. But I think that's kind of the yin and yang that helps give Ivy its balance. Adam might be on one extreme and I'm on the other, and what we end up with is something in the middle. And then with Dominique's sensibility, she puts the final touch on it, and that's what makes Ivy what it is. So it might be good that he and I don't always see eye to eye. 'Cause there is so much common ground between us that it's probably healthy that there's a few things that we just don't agree on. And it's been great, 'cause it kind of started me off in another direction that I felt I could just go alone and do as a side project.
What is writing process for the group? Is there collaboration, or does somebody just bring a finished song to the group and take it from there?
D: No, we're always going to be involved, the three of us. What happens is, Andy comes up with a song pretty much finished, a cassette where he recorded the guitar and the melody. That's pretty much what we call a finished song. And then he plays it for me, like, "Yeah, I really like that, it's great." Or sometimes, I'll be like, "Yeah, I don't like the verse, the chorus needs some change," and so then if Andy agrees, the three of us work together trying to make the song better. We do the same thing with Adam's songs. So it's mostly Adam and Andy coming up with the songs, but then the three of us change it or just try to make it better.
A: If you go down the line on the different songs on Long Distance, it's very varied. You could split it in the middle and really say, 'cause it's true, I ended up writing about six songs and Adam ended up writing about six songs. Two of them, he and I pretty much wrote 50/50 on each song. So we collaborated.
Which songs are those?
A: Yeah, and it's interesting, I started "Disappointed" off myself as a demo. A lot of the basic elements on "Disappointed" were a demo that I had done, but I didn't have a chorus or a melody. I had done a lot of the music that ended up being on the record in the verse, and Adam took it home and came up with the melody and wrote the lyrics and the chorus. So I actually got it halfway finished musically by doing a demo of it, and then Adam kind of finished it. There's other songs, like "Edge of the Ocean," he did the same thing. He pretty much demoed that by himself. And then there's songs like "Blame It On Yourself," where I wrote it as a ballad, and Adam and Dominique totally changed it and did a new interpretation of it.
So life repeats That Thing You Do! then. Where it was originally a ballad.
[there follows an uncomfortable silence]
D: Oh, right.
A: No, right. Yeah.
D: Yeah. [laughs]
A: So you can see, it's very diverse, the kind of contributions that each person has and the effect that we have on each other's contributions. I think in the end, by the time we have a finished record, everyone including Dominique feels like they had a very important hand in shaping either the direction of the song or directly contributed to it.
Do you usually get the words or the music first?
A: The music.
Simple answer, I guess.
A: Ahead of time, we pay for the poetry from this guy in Nashville who writes it all for us. Then he sends it up to us and then we put music to it.
D: Yes. For us, for Ivy, it's mostly the music. Sometimes maybe you have the title of the song, and then from that, you get inspired and write music. But most of the time, you're really coming in with just chords on the piano or chords on the guitar and then the rest comes in.
The two of you are married, correct?
A: Huh! Where'd you hear that? What a crazy idea. She and I?
D: Yes, we are.
A lot of the words that Dominique is singing tend to be about the dissolution or futility of romance.
A: If you were married to her, you'd understand. [laughs]
What is that like, for Andy to hear your wife singing these words, and for Dominique to have your husband give you these words to sing?
A: That's a really fucked up psychological analysis if you think about it. I'm writing the lyrics from a girl's perspective for my wife to sing about disillusionment from relationships with a guy.
A: Freud would have a field day with that.
D: First of all, when we started writing songs, we knew what kind of lyrics we wanted to be writing and that I wanted to sing. And obviously, we could not have been like Fountains of Wayne and write these stories, like about your neighbor or about whatever. That was not what Ivy was. It seems like a much more personal point of view, and also much more relationship-oriented. And also, we agree that happy love songs can be great, but it didn't work for us. It doesn't work for my voice, it doesn't really work with the mood of the music, so we knew that it was gonna be pretty negative. It's not like I'm negative, but I think I'm very realistic in life, and I think Andy is also. It's like the movies. I love dark movies. That's what I'm attracted to.
A: I can't even write happy songs. Even if I try, I can't. For a long time, I always thought that the direction of these songs was always kind of a conscious thing, that I knew Dominique and I know the kind of songs that are right for her. And that, on some psychological level, kind of guides me at the genesis of each song when I'm sitting there with a guitar. And yet I think that that illusion was dispelled recently when we were working on the Shallow Hal score. There were certain scenes where Peter Farrelly gave us specific instructions that, despite having hired us, not known for our happy, uptempo songs, he did want a piece that was not too moody and more upbeat and chirpy. And so I'd sit down there with that as my assignment and I couldn't fucking do it. Everything I came up with sounded like it should've been in a soap opera. You know, in a tense scene when the guy admits to having had affairs, and the girl's shocked. Nothing was fun or chirpy, and that's really where Adam came in and was able to save us. And for us, too, it was really exciting to know that we can handle that, between me and Adam, because it just makes us, for film scoring, more balanced. 'Cause Adam's also able to write on both sides of the spectrum. It made us very versatile for film scoring. I realized it was something that we could be good at because we can do dramatic or, between me and Adam, we can handle anything that's thrown at us. But it was also interesting for me, an eye-opener to realize that all these years, I've been writing the only kind of songs I can write. And thankfully, they've been the ones that Dominique wants to sing.
D: But also, personally, I think it's more interesting to write about the disappointment in relationships or your own frustrations than the happiness. I mean, there's great unbelievably positive love songs. But I think in general it's definitely much easier to write about the darkness of life than it is about the happiness of life, because the happiness of life can be extremely corny and stupid. It's very hard to make it successful. And it's maybe also very therapeutic. Therapeutic? To write to pass the darkness? But even Ivy lyrics, I mean, I wouldn't even say it's so dark. There's still hopes in it. I think they're just very realistic. They just talk about life, about what most people go through. Or you don't think so?
A: You asking me?
D: No, I'm asking him.
Now suddenly I have to interpret Ivy lyrics?
A: Yeah, what do you think?
Well, one of your songs is called "Disappointed," and the chorus says, "I could never be what you wanted to be, I would only leave you disappointed." And "While We're In Love" sort of connected with that in my mind. While I'm not complaining about the lack of the light at the end of the tunnel, I'm not sure I see one. [laughs] I mean, I love those songs. I'm always fascinated by songs that celebrate the inevitable collapse of romance. I'm a big fan of that.
D: [laughs] Yeah.
Ergo, a big fan of Long Distance.
A: I think it's a lot easier to express pessimism than it is optimism and not have it come across being cheesy. I think it's a lot easier to have it palatable when it's kind of a downbeat sentiment. It's really hard to make a song uptempo and happy without it being also kind of cheap, kind of frivolous. I don't think that we're good at that. I think there's some bands maybe that can do that, but for the most part, I never liked happy songs. Maybe the Beatles, because I was so young when I first heard "I Want To Hold Your Hand," whatever. But today, if the Beatles came along, I'd probably hate them, 'cause there wasn't that darkness until maybe later on in their career. And maybe that's why I'm not a big Beach Boys fan. I think you have to have those contrasts. If it's all 100% in one direction, I just find it boring. I don't find the music as compelling. It doesn't kind of hit me on a deep level unless it's probing, and I can't find music probing when it's just all happy and optimistic. It doesn't really conjure up the same emotions when I'm listening to them. I've always preferred the Doors over the Beach Boys. That kind of typifies the direction.
You mentioned that you and Adam tend to shift around on drums on the recording. Who plays what on the albums?
A: We made a rule from the beginning that we would never credit who played what on what song or who wrote what song. And I think it was good for keeping an image up of Ivy being this trio, but it was not that great at establishing our three identities. Or maybe me and Adam. Her identity is already established 'cause she's singing. So I don't know. You'd have to go song by song. It's easy to say that unless we've credited somebody outside of Ivy as having played something, then the drums, the bass, the guitar, the keyboards are only ever gonna be me or Adam. And for the most part, it ends up being fairly equal, so that if there's ten live drums on ten songs, then four or five of them are gonna be me and four or five are Adam.
What determines you playing guitar and him playing bass live?
A: Well, he plays bass on the records. He's always playing the bass. I mean, there might've been one or two songs where I did bass, but nothing that I can remember offhand. His bestest instrument is probably the bass, and mine is the guitar, between the guitar, keyboard and drums, so he kind of fell into it. He's always been the bass player in the band. And Fountains of Wayne.
How did the opportunity to do the score to Shallow Hal come about?
A: You know, it's the Farrelly brothers, and Peter Farrelly is the one who's really the one with the alternative pop sensibility between the two brothers. And so he's pretty much, in every film, put in lots of bands that we know and love. He's just got a great left-of-center kind of sensibility, and as far back as There's Something About Mary, I mean, if you look at that soundtrack, Lloyd Cole, Ivy...
Well, just the fact that they had Jonathan Richman appearing sporadically...
D: He was in the movie.
A: Jonathan Richman, Cake. I mean, it says something right there, you can kind of get an idea of his musical tastes. He put one or two of our songs in his films, and so he was very well aware of us by the time he was looking for songs and for some of the score for Shallow Hal. And I guess at the point, I think we had played a show in L.A., and he came to the show. We had a song called "Shallow" from our first album that we played, and at the time, he just thought, "That's perfect, let's use that as the theme song." And then I guess he started to realize, "Well, I still need somebody to score the film, so what the hell? Why not Ivy?" So he just called us up and said, "You know, we were talking about Shallow Hal and having 'Shallow' be the theme song. Forget that idea. How would you like to just score the whole film instead?"
What did you think of the movie? Or are you not allowed to talk about it?
D: Ah. [laughs] That's funny.
A: We were all kind of divided on it. When we first saw it, we had to see it with Peter Farrelly there. We had been on tour for two weeks in Spain, and we cut our tour short and we flew immediately to Martha's Vineyard where Peter Farrelly had the house, and we saw the film with him sitting there. So we were jet-lagged and we were extremely shocked to all of a sudden be introduced to Peter Farrelly for the first time and be watching the film and we knew we were also scoring it, so we're taking furious notes, and we were trying to fight falling asleep from the jet lag. Afterwards, when me, Adam and Dominique were alone, we were like, [whispering conspiratorially] "Well, what'd you guys think of it?" We didn't even really know. We were so out of our minds at that point, it was so difficult to judge. And then we ended up seeing the film about two hundred times in the course of the next month working on it. And we all started to really love the film. And by the end, we thought it was amazing. And I guess at some point we made the judgement, like, "You know what? We really love this film. It's great. It's funny, but it's also kind of touching, and blah blah blah." Then the film came out, and I think I always maintained that I still really liked it, and I guess I do. And Dominique and Adam were kind of...
D: Well, I never felt the way Andy felt, but I think Something About Mary was great, great movie, and...
A: I don't like Shallow Hal as much as Me, Myself and Irene or Something About Mary. But I liked Shallow Hal, and the more of the criticism I read about it, I felt I couldn't relate to it. I mean, I wasn't saying it was their best film, but I didn't think it was horrendous.
D: It's also very hard to be objective about the art of people when you know them. It's like bands, too. When you're friends with a musician and then you listen to their record, if you like them, if you like the artist, it's very hard to be objective with their art. So I think it's true that because Peter Farrelly's such an amazing person, just such a great person, then after that, it's very hard to be objective.
A: It's true. I mean, even if we hadn't seen the film two hundred times, which, if you do, it really grows on you, [laughs] any film would. I mean, having met him and worked with him, it really changes your perception of whatever the product is. It's like Dominique said, it was gonna be hard for us to really truly know what we thought of the film by the time we were done working with him and working on the film. You don't see it the same way. And maybe that's a good thing. I don't know. I mean, we saw other films that were much more highly touted than that as comedies during the same period. Like, what was that film, Zoolander...
D: That was awful.
A: I thought Zoolander was really terrible. And I thought it was terrible, far worse just in sheer number of laughs than Shallow Hal. And yet Shallow Hal got much more destroyed than Zoolander. I dunno, we had a good time making it and I think that Peter Farrelly was happy with the score, so, for us, that's the important thing. It's just like making a record. You do your best and then throw it out there, and if they don't like it...
Did you profit handsomely from the movie? Did it open up any doors?
A: I mean, we all bought Ferraris.
Wow, in New York City.
A: Yeah, we each bought three. For each of our houses that we bought. Yeah, we made, like, ten million dollars.
D: Did it open some doors? I don't know. It's always very hard to know. It takes a lot of time to really see the effect. But we signed with a scoring agent in L.A.
A: Yeah, that's one way that you maybe could say we profited.
A: And it opened doors, it's exposed us to the film industry, which is a place that we really wanna be in. We think that our kind of music lends itself really well to film, and it was fun to do that. We'd love to do more dramatic stuff. I mean, you see what it is for Aimee Mann. If we can't excel on the radio here, then we can at least try in the movie industry.
Do you spend a lot of non-group time with Adam or with any of the other sort of members of the extended Ivy family?
A: Yeah, Dominique and I go out with Marty and his girlfriend quite a bit. Not quite a bit, but considering how unsocial we are, yeah, quite a bit. Adam and his wife Katie live across the street. When we get up in the morning for breakfast, if we want to be really dorky, we can lean out the window and wave to each other.
D: We moved first.
A: They followed us.
D: Manhattan is huge. [laughs] You know what I mean? And they had to choose the same exact street and right across the street from us.
A: Yeah. They could have been a hundred yards down the street so that we at least couldn't see each others' buildings or, with all the tall buildings, they could've been so high up that we still couldn't see each other, but they're right smack across the street. We wave, we can see their cat walking around, it's really silly. So because of that, we go over to each other's apartments all the time and borrow flour or salt when we're cooking and ask them over for dinner. If I see Katie, Adam's wife, I'm like, "Where's Adam?" "He's not here." I'm like, "Come on over."
What do you do on your downtime? Although it sounds like for Adam, there probably isn't much.
D: Well, Adam hates vacations anyway. He's really sick. I mean, he has a mental problem, I think.
D: A psychological problem.
And he's not here to defend himself.
A: He's gonna read this and...
D: Fine. He knows it. He loves it.
A: Yeah, if this gets written, you better add in parentheses whenever one of us is chuckling. 'Cause sometimes the endearing love that comes in some of these harsh statements doesn't come across. So he's gonna be reading this and if Ivy breaks up, you can say it's because of your review.
D: For Adam, I could not give a response to that question because he works all the time. I don't know, maybe he sleeps when he doesn't work. [laughs] You know, probably. But for us, when we have free time, we usually go to France to visit my family. And actually this is where Andy's doing most of the writing. It's very peaceful there. So we go to France, and we have a child, she's a girl.
A: Once in a while we hang out with our kid. [laughs] I open the door to the closet and let her out, I undo the leash...
D: And we try to do the life in New York, which is not enough. I mean, we should do some more, go to theatre or go to events and cultural things.
When did you leave France?
D: Well, I was a student in Paris, and then I always knew that I wanted to take one year off and come to New York, America. I'd never been there before, and I wanted to learn English, 'cause I'd never actually learned English before. So I thought the best way to learn the language is actually to go there and live there for one year. I could have chosen England, but I felt England was too close to Paris, and New York was always sort of my dream, fantasy place. So I decided to come to New York and study English, and then I really completely fell in love with the city. I really did.
A: Oh, cool. Thanks a lot.
D: And then I met Andy and fell in love with him, too, so then I stayed. I was really in the city, my God, it's been a long time. Yeah, a very long time...
And you've gone back to visit your family a number of times.
D: Oh, yeah, well, I have to. Yeah, every year. I'm still very connected to France. I mean, my parents, my brother, all my friends are still there, so I go there as much as I can. I love it there, I really do. I love it. I just love New York, too, and my life is obviously here right now. But maybe one day, I will consider moving back to France.
A: No fucking way. [laughs]
D: [laughs] Why not?
A: When the French all leave France, I'll move there.
Who do you consider your peers in the music biz?
D: Well, we...
A: Uh, U2, Elton John.
D: [laughs] Luna are friends of ours, and they're from New York as well. Lloyd Cole's a very good friend, and he's in New York.
D: James Iha is a good friend of ours.
Yeah, how does one become friends with the guitarist in a band that was as big as Smashing Pumpkins was at the time?
A: Well, he originally was part owner of Scratchy Records, which Adam is a part owner of, so they became acquaintances. And around that time, we were making Apartment Life, and James was also in New York a lot and he was just hanging by the studio and we got to know him. Since then, we became friends and now me and James and Adam are also partners in a recording studio which we opened here last year called Stratosphere. But once you get to know James, it's really funny, because his musical tastes lean much more closely to our sensibilities. His solo record's really nice, and that doesn't even reflect how much he really loves a lot of the bands that me and Dominique like. I mean, he loves the Sundays, he likes Blonde Redhead a lot. He's a fan of and can really appreciate music like Morcheeba and Air and the Sundays, and on a musical level and he has a whole nother side to him that was never expressed in the Smashing Pumpkins. That's the side that we all are on the same wavelength about.
So you feed into his desire not to have five hundred electric guitars stacked on top of one another?
A: Maybe. I mean, if you've heard the contributions he has had on a few of the Ivy songs, it's really fantastic. Those songs really wouldn't have been the same without those contributions, you know, the guitar stuff he did on "Quick, Painless and Easy" off of Apartment Life, or his background vocals on whatever the hell the name of that song was...
"Back In Our Town"?
A: Yeah, thank you. I mean, they're really great, they truly are. Just in those little examples you can see that there's a whole nother side to this guy that you would never have known if you just based them on the Smashing Pumpkins. So when you hear that and you see that, it's not so strange that on the musical level, he and we can all kind of hang out. But people don't know that, unfortunately.
Long Distance was released in Japan before the U.S. Do you have a substantial fanbase there? What was the cause of both the delay in getting it released here and the fact that it was released there first?
A: We had been feeling since our first EP that we were based in New York and we were only getting our records released in the U.S., and yet, the irony is that we felt like we would be the most underappreciated here. And it's people in the U.S. that really don't get the kind of music that we're doing, and so we've always felt that the countries that were most important were not the United States but more like England and Japan. And the irony was, we have a French singer on top of it and yet we never saw foreign releases for one reason or another. We were only ever released here.
D: You know, Japanese people, they love pop music. They're completely fascinated with the French culture and they're also fascinated by the American music, so it's like Ivy is the perfect blend of all of that. And so, we have said to the people at Atlantic, "Maybe you should really concentrate on Japan instead of wasting your time in America." And they didn't care. And back then, in '96 or '97, the Cardigans were huge in Japan. They were selling, I mean, they were number one.
A: We kept getting these reviews that said, "If you guys like the Cardigans, you might like this band Ivy." And we'd show these comments to our label and say, "Look, release this in Japan."
D: Anyway, we had a connection years ago, who worked in Japan, and she was a huge Ivy fan. We were recording Long Distance, and she came along to New York and visited while we were recording. And she said, "I really love that record and I want to release it? So, is that okay?" And we finished the record and gave it to her. And the record came out there. And it was the perfect timing, too, because Andy during the same time produced a French band who became huge in Japan called Tahiti 80. Have you heard of them?
I've seen the t-shirts you were wearing when you performed live, but I've never actually heard them.
D: Amazing. I guess you'd love them. Truly unbelievable. They became number one in Japan, so then we went there to tour, opening up for Tahiti 80. It was perfect timing.
A: The reason for the time delay was that the problem that other countries have is imports. The cost of the records is almost twice as much there as in the U.S. So what happens is you have an import problem. A lot of U.S. records end up getting imported to Japan and people buy the imports rather than the domestic 'cause ironically they're cheaper. So it was important for Japan to say, "Okay, we'll release it and we'll actually really go for it, but you have to give us a six-month window of exclusivity," meaning we couldn't release it anywhere else in the world, so that Japan had plenty of time to not have to deal with an import problem. They offered us a great deal, and we were really excited that they were gonna give it a real crack in Japan. And so we said okay. So we sat on the record for six, seven, eight months, and let Japan work it, and it paid off. We sold more records in Japan than we had anywhere else, so it kind of validated what we had been saying all these years, that if somebody just did the right thing in some of these other countries, it's not that we could be huge, but we could have moderate success, which is all that we ever set our sights for. So we were really happy. It paid off. So that's the big time delay. It was already six or seven months before we could ever release the record anywhere else. And then, for a multitude of reasons, Nettwerk, who we gave it to for the rest of the world, decided that they needed to wait as well. And if you can believe it, it just came out this week in the U.K. Same reason. The timing wasn't right in the U.K. and we were grumbling about it. We were like, "I can't believe it's only coming now in the U.K., it's been almost two years and we're ready to start moving on, thinking about another record," and yet for the first time in our career, we actually are having some real radio success over there.
So are you basically preparing the third round of promoting this record, then?
A: We don't know what to expect, because basically we heard they were releasing it in the U.K. and the rest of Europe. The record was being released this week and we were just thinking, okay, you know, whatever. Kind of over for us, but "Edge of the Ocean" was the first single and it's actually put us on the top 40 charts. This Monday we got an email from our label from Nettwerk in London congratulating us that we had finally moved up into the number 40 slot, which means we eked into the Top of the Pops. So we're scratching our heads. We don't know what that means, whether Long Distance is just basically starting over and they're relaunching it in Europe or whether we can just see what happens there and go about our business over here.
D: Because also we just finished a cover record, actually [last year's Guestroom]. We've been working on that the past few months.
A: It's gonna be released worldwide. We're hoping the end of the summer or early fall. We're looking at labels now. It doesn't have to be Nettwerk, because it's not original songs.
What covers are you doing and what determined which songs that you'd play?
D: Well, we've always wanted to do a cover record because it's fun to record other people's songs. We've always had that in the back of our mind, and we found that that period was the perfect time. Andy and Adam were not too busy, and before starting another Ivy record, I'm like, "Why not doing a cover record?" So we just sat down and chose a bunch of songs we wanted to do.
A: We already had done five, so we realized it wasn't like doing a real record. We didn't have to write any of the songs and we only had to record five because we had done five in the past. So we figured we'd do five new ones and put them all together. We'd have an album. I mean, I think it's a really good collection of songs. I'd buy it.
Well, that's one.
A: My mom'll buy 30. END