If you are of a certain age there is no doubt that Wheatus are imprinted on your memory. In 1995 three brothers from Newport, NY started a band and in the summer of 2000 they smashed charts across the globe with their pop punk banger ‘Teenage Dirtbag’, immediately staking their claim on the tender hearts of thousands of miserable, twisted, goofy teenagers worldwide. Teenage Dirtbag was certified Platinum in the UK in 2000, then bounced back for another run of the UK charts in 2011. The first Wheatus record topped a whopping 5 million sales worldwide.
But that was all a long time ago. Years later, with numerous line-up changes, an art heist investigation (we’ll explain that later…), issues with major record labels, internal troubles, a Lego video for a single that never was, multiple awards, a self-managed revenue stream, and that boy band cover later and Wheatus have grown up a bit, but not too much!
Pumped and ready to celebrate the 15th anniversary of their self-titled debut album, the latest iteration of Wheatus are bringing back that summer of 2000 vibe, playing the debut album in its entirety! On top of this Wheatus bring some new tunes and a fresh, more complex sound to the masses. We caught up with lead singer and guitarist Brendan B. Brown to discuss One Direction, Lego and the downfall of pop punk…
Firstly, happy birthday to Teenage Dirtbag. I’ve just finished reading an article that claims pop punk as a genre died the day you released that particular song…
Mwahahaha. Aren’t we powerful?! I’m just glad that everybody has had to admit that that was my plan from the beginning. At long last they’ve finally had to recognise my genius in destroying entire genres.
Well, clearly we’ve all been in denial for 15 years. All those new pop punk bands coming through have just been part of a huge cover up…
That’s right. Tom deLonge leaving Blink 182; that was us. We planned that as part of the conspiracy…haha.
Wheatus are about to embark on their celebratory 15th anniversary tour, is that exciting?
It is! It is! We’re playing the entire first album for the first time ever. We have toured the first album before without including one song in particular that everybody has been screaming for; the song that we used for the Jackie Chan cartoon. It’s a song on the record called ‘Punk Ass Bitch’ but I didn’t actually write it and I’m not too fond of the version that’s on the album but the version that was re-purposed for the Jackie Chan cartoon is really nice and we’re going to include that on this tour and that’s a first.
How have the shows been going so far?
Well just last week we were touring in Ireland and it was sort of the dry run for the anniversary tour and it was really, really cool. We had some great audiences in Ireland. Sligo in particular really kicked off and now that we’ve done it once, we’re kind of excited because we’ve never played a show where the entire first album is in the set every night. It feels, at first at least, like it’s going to be a difficult, heavy weight to carry around but it turned out that it wasn’t and it works. Overall we’ve worked on about 45 tunes from the catalogue from over the 6 albums that are ready for the set and it’s nice, it works well.
For the Southampton show you’re coming back to the Talking Heads. We hear you’re particularly fond of this venue, any reason why?
That room sounds so good. The fidelity of that PA system and that room and the way they maintain it… it’s always the case with a singular proprietor of a place; a guy who really cares about music maintaining his venue. It makes all the difference. It’s a really, really special club and there are only a handful of places like that in the entire world where somebody can have an intimate show and the sound is what you would get at the best of venues anywhere so it’s just the perfect combination for us. We love it.
One Direction famously started putting Teenage Dirtbag into their sets a while back. Is it covered all the time?
Yeah but you know what? I don’t think that anybody has actually released the song as a single for sale anywhere. I may be wrong about that. It’s a large planet and there’s lots of people making music. But only 1D have covered it to the point where they put it in their film but it just seems to be this song that everyone kind of needs to play in order to get started. These days now I’ve been sucked into the 1D fandom on Twitter it’s hard for me to see any of the news or current affairs I normally search for on there, it’s just full of new boy bands and rock bands that the kids are into and tonnes of them seem to play Teenage Dirtbag.
So if someone was going to put it out as a single again, who would you LIKE to do it?
Well Dashboard Confessional already did a version of it live and for my money they did the most close to home, emotional version of it. Mary Lambert also did a version of it recorded on piano for a YouTube video. There’s so many artists I admire…I would like to hear Elbow do a version, cos he’s so good at expanding on melodies and really dragging out the finest bits of an orchestration and what it could be. That would be quite an honour.
You’ve developed a pretty good friendship with the 1D boys…
Yes I have a side project with the drummer and bass player. We are collaborating on an EP at the moment. We’ve already released the single ‘Only You’ and the video is out now. We’re working on the EP in between tours which is to say that we have a handful of days within the year to get together and do it but they’re two of the finest musicians I’ve ever played with. I’m looking forward to doing more of that.
I was just watching the video. It’s a Lego video and it’s not the first Lego video you’ve made. What’s with all the Lego?
It’s actually the third! All three were done by my friend Oliver Broadbent in Leeds. The Only You video is based on the lyric which is a true story of how I was attacked on stage in Margate 2013.
We heard about that! You were playing One Direction’s ‘That’s What Makes You Beautiful’…
Yeah, and some sort of angry punk guy who was a bit older than you should be at a show like that, came charging drunk at me and pulled me off the stage and stopped the show right in the middle of the song. He didn’t hurt me or anything; he failed spectacularly to do any real damage. It was all over in a minute but we wrote the song about that event.
And now he’s immortalised in Lego…
Yeah, he’s been brought down to size haha.
What’s all this we hear about an interstate art heist investigation?
Back in ’98 or ’99 I had a good friend who was an anarchist graffiti artist and I asked him if he would please design our logo and he did. He did this beautiful oil painting of our bubble logo, as you know it, with this gigantic frog hanging off of it and I loved it. Anyway, when we got our deal I sent that oil painting to Sony to have it scanned and it never came back and I never got an explanation as to where it went. In 2009 somebody jumped onto a message board and said ‘hey Brendan is this real?’ and a link to an EBay auction and my painting was up on EBay for $11,000 and I immediately called the police and got in touch with an art detective in California and he got in touch with EBay and two days later I received the painting and it’s back in my possession now. It was incredibly strange…
Who would Wheatus most like to party with to celebrate your 15 years?
Wow! What a question! I haven’t met a lot of real celebrities, but one time Mel B was so very nice to us… we were absolutely exhausted, just come off a really long tour and we were at an awards show and I was sleeping on the floor in the dressing room and she popped her head in just to say hi. She was so lovely and so nice and so understanding of the fact that we were shattered and I just thought ‘I hope they’re all like that’. So I think I would invite Mel B to the tour bus and say thank you for being so kind and here’s a drink.
And finally, after the tour, what’s next for Wheatus?
We are making album 7. I think it’s going to be 20 songs, a double album. And from a philosophical producer stand point I’m going to try and solve the ‘And Justice for All’ bass problem for Metallica haha.
Catch them live Wednesday 7 October @ Talking Heads