How did Wheatus escape the pre-internet music industry dark age with their lives? "A very important record executive lost his cool with me in a meeting & threatened to drop us... I took him up on it..." - Brendan B Brown.
Wheatus' debut single 'Teenage Dirtbag' cracked the Top 40 BBC Official Sales Chart for a second time in March of 2011 and this year again in April - TEN YEARS after it's debut at #2 on the same chart. To say that Wheatus have been through the wringer in the decade between is the original understatement. Lawsuits, lineup changes, interstate art heist investigations (yes, really), betrayals, intellectual property theft, physical violence, post traumatic front man Brendan B Brown could write a book.
To date their first record has sold more than 5 million copies worldwide. Any manager or record label would be happy to tout those stats to the press but Wheatus have remained unsigned and unmanaged for the last 8 years. Unlike many of their peers from the early oughts, Wheatus continue to write, record, and tour 15 years after their inception, having taken control of their revenue stream with the home made, "pick-your-price" download system fans can use at Wheatus.com. They have released 5 studio albums since 2000 and are currently in preproduction for album 6.
Brendan addresses the radio silence they endured from 2002-2004 mysteriously, "... we were advised to lay low."
Question: You haven't been to Australian in 12 years; what inspired you to head to Australia for this tour?
Brendan B Brown: 12 years is a long time although you don't need to be inspired to come back to Australia because it's always something you want to do because it is so far away and different. We've been wanting to come back for a long time and we haven't had the chance due to making records all the time in New York and touring England.
We're playing music from across all of our albums on this Australian tour and we've thrown in a Regurgitator song into one of own and made a melody out of it and we have another cover in the set from an Australian band, but I won't say which!
Question: What have you been up to over the past years?
Brendan B Brown: We've been making albums, there are 44 songs on wheatus.com that you can download for free and there are a couple of vinyl records and CDs you can get on the website. We're in the middle of making album six right now titled The Valentine EP.
Question: How would you describe your new material?
Brendan B Brown: The new album has ten new songs, which are shorter than our last albums as albums four and five had these big epic progresses with massive arrangements. The longest song on the new record is six minutes with the rest being 3 and 4 minutes long.
Question: What's your inspiration when writing?
Brendan B Brown: The subject matter on the new album is different to our original album because obviously we are older now. The new record is about ten or eleven post-apocalyptic love songs with this idea of carrying on after the apocalypse. That's all I can really say about it right now…
Question: What music/artists do you listen to when you are not playing your own?
Brendan B Brown: That's a hard question to answer; lots and lots and lots of stuff! Lately I've been listening to a lot of Bonnie Bear records and I have a great vinyl copy of Justice For All by Metallica that I reference every once in a while as it's one of my favourites of all time as it has the best drum sounds ever. Ivan Franko is always in rotation and a 90's post-hard-core band called Quicksand which I listen to quite a bit.
Question: Was there a moment you contemplated throwing in the towel and walking away from the music industry?
Brendan B Brown: I have never really wanted to be a part of the music industry so I never had to think about throwing in the towel on what I want to do because what I want to do is make great records and that doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the -music industry'. In fact I find that in order to accomplish my goal, I have to stay as far away from the music industry as I possibly can. Record labels and managers tend to have bad ideas which is why they're record label people and managers instead of being artists.
Question: Do you prefer performing live or recording?
Brendan B Brown: Not really! Getting it right in either arena is very special and gratifying. It's an exploratory process when you're in the studio and it's an exercise process when you're on stage, I am trying to get it right all the time as opposed to trying to find something new.
Question: If you could collaborate with another artist, who would it be?
Brendan B Brown: Willie Nelson, he'd be my first choice. I am a humongous Angus Young fan but I wouldn't want to work with him, I'd just like to watch him play a set with me being the only person in the arena (laughing)! Amanda Palmer seems like she'd be fun to work with!
Interview by Brooke Hunter