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Hook ’Em, Horns

In the studio with the Fountains of Wayne and their hired brass.


Clockwise from top left: Adam Schlesinger, Randi Seplow (manager), Chris Collingwood, and Jody Porter (all of Fountains of Wayne), and Scott Wendholt, Ronnie Buttacavoli, and Scott Harrell (trumpet players); at Stratophere Sound, September 26, 2006.  

A week’s worth of jamming in a Woodstock recording studio in December 2005 yielded exactly one usable idea, a four-bar piano riff. Adam Schlesinger, the bassist-songwriter in Fountains of Wayne, then spent months listening to the fragment—in his car, on his iPod—expanding it and grafting it to a lyric about women on Spanish television. Still, something was missing. So now three hired hornsmen are in the Eleventh Avenue studio Schlesinger owns (with James Iha) to lay down the final element of a comic-sinister song called “Strapped for Cash.” Ronnie Buttacavoli, from Etta James’s band, listens to the playback of Schlesinger’s cheesy, place-holding synthesized horns and scribbles out a chart, then raises his vintage gold Bach Stradivarius alongside fellow trumpeters Scott Harrell and Scott Wendholt. “You like it loose? Greasier?” Buttacavoli asks after the tenth take; Schlesinger grins and nods. “It’s funny how session guys approach it,” singer Chris Collingwood says. “To them, the note is either here or here”—he points into the air. “Rock guys say, ‘This is a G, this is a C.’ ” In the final mix—which arrives this week as part of Traffic and Weather, the Fountains’ first album of new material in four years—the ten-note brass refrain turns the tune into 3:36 of hooky, power-pop genius. Today the horns also provide the inspiration for one joke. “Hey,” Collingwood says. “When did we turn into Chicago?”

Traffic and Weather
Virgin Records, April 3.
Fountains of Wayne play the Apple Store in Soho (acoustic) on April 20, and Webster Hall on April 24.


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