It seems like we went from lockdown to a million concert announcements overnight, and one of the first tours to start happening in the US is the Summerland Tour. Everclear, Hoobastank, Living Colour, and Wheatus were called off the bench to get themselves back in fighting form to hit the road ASAP, and after waiting more than a year for a live show, we have become rabid fans ready to pounce on our beloved bands.
Happily enough, the bands are feeling the same way. Those of us with office jobs may have enjoyed being away from our annoying co-workers for more than a year, but if your lifeblood is the stage, it had to have sucked to sit home. One of the bands excited to head out is Wheatus, creators of THE SONG of summer 2000, “Teenage Dirtbag.” We spoke with front-man and original member Brendan B. Brown about Summerland, “Teenage Dirtbag” at 20, and even dumpster fires. (By the way, if you are saying, “Summerland isn’t coming to my area,” all I can say now is just be patient…)
TEENAGE DIRTBAG ORIGINAL
TEENAGE DIRTBAG 2020
Even if you were not a full-fledged teen or adult in 2000, you still know “Teenage Dirtbag.” Between being used in movies, Rock Band 4, and covered by multiple artists (One Direction, SZA, Dashboard Confessional, Phoebe Bridgers), it has remained a song that immediately causes you to break out your rendition. Last year was meant to be the 20th anniversary celebration of the track and Wheatus’ debut album. They had grand plans, as we all did, but you know what got in the way. They were able to use that pandemic break to complete the redone version of “Teenage Dirtbag,” and by the end of this year, should have the whole album to release again. Wait, why do we need the album again? Brown can explain.
Traci: Thank you for chatting with me today! I’m super excited that you guys are coming to Nashville. I mean, I’m super excited for a live show at all, you know?
Brendan: It’s like starting over again!
Traci: What did you do to keep yourself occupied during lockdown?
Brendan: A lot of BMX riding here in New York City. (laughing) I tried my best to finish the rerecord of our first album, which has expanded from a 10-song record to a 20-song record. It was tough to coordinate and work with the other members of the band because when you’re a live touring band and you record live, you’re standing in a room together, breathing the same air, sweat and whatever else, and you couldn’t do that [during COVID]. Finding new ways to be together and get music done was a challenge. It took a lot longer. Everything took a lot longer, so we’re currently pushed back to release for Christmas 2021 on what would have been the 20th anniversary edition of our first album, which we have rerecorded in its entirety, plus 10 songs. And these masters will be masters that we own and control ourselves. It’s a cool story, but it took a long time and there was a pandemic in the middle of it.
Traci: What happened that caused the need for the rerecord?
Brendan: Back in 2013, I began rifling through the old digital tapes that I still had, which I knew were incomplete. I had sent five sets of the original complete masters multi-tracks to Sony back in the day and never got them back and never heard from them. Over the years, asking if they’ve been stored and updated and transferred and archived properly, and I never got any response on that. So that combined with the fact that the songs never appeared in any of the multi-player multi-track video games or any of the licensing that would have relied on the masters. I put two and two together and figured out that they maybe didn’t archive them properly. When I started asking questions around 2013 trying to figure out where they actually were, I never got a response. Then Rolling Stone tried reached out to Sony last year and they didn’t get a response. We’re figuring, at this point, that they actually have to be some degree of lost or destroyed. In 2013, I went to Dreamhire in New York City and me and a guy named Mark, poor engineer Mark, he sat with me for days and days painstakingly transferring these buggy, errored-out tapes. We were able to cobble together what amounted to, I guess you could say, the penultimate set of masters. It was most of the tracks minus the vocals and minus some guitar solos here and there. Some stuff was missing. But “Teenage Dirtbag” in particular, we were able to get the original drum, bass, guitar tracks, and the vocals were missing from that. We had enough of the original multi-track to replace instruments one at a time, and we transferred everything to a sort of “future proof” format and replace one instrument after another. So we’ve got new masters out of it, but it was a pain in the neck! (laughing)
Traci: I can’t even fathom that. You were able to get it all the way done?
Brendan: Yeah, “Teenage Dirtbag” is done and streaming on Apple Music and Spotify and everything else. The rest of them are done as well. I just am going through the process of finishing off percussion, a little bit of vocals here and there, and then we have to mix. I think we’re maybe two months away from being completely finished with the entire 20-song project.
Traci: And the tour won’t get in the way?
Brendan: Oh, no way. The tour is definitely getting in the way. (laughing) We didn’t expect the tour this soon. We were kind of surprised by, first of all, being invited by the kind of bands that we’re talking about here. I was watching Everclear on MTV when I was 15, and it was a big deal. It was such a big deal. They were so cool. And now it’s an even bigger deal because I’m going to have to figure out how to not be a fan dork on tour with them! (laughing) Everclear, and Art Alexakis’ songwriting, is something that I’ve been looking up to for damn near 30 years now. It’s long time that I have had these bands in my psyche, it’s just kind of unreal. It’s unreal to be touring in the first place after a pandemic because everything’s been in mothballs for two years, including us (laughing). Going out by ourselves on a little tour in a van would be one thing, but we’re doing this proper, American run with these classic bands. I haven’t even really had a chance to get my head around it because it’s squeezing so much prep into such a short period of time. It’s been a little overwhelming, but we’ll get out there. We’ll get out there on stage the first night and hopefully remember how to swim.
Traci: Yea, just do some stretching and you’ll be fine! (laughing)
Brendan: Just do some yoga and get out there, kid! (laughing)
Traci: When I was telling friends about the tour and that I was going to talk to you, it just seems like everyone – Gen X, Millennials, each generation – knows “Teenage Dirtbag” and can break out singing it. It has not only lasted, but gets put in pop culture frequently with covers. Who are some of the covers you’ve heard?
Brendan: Oh, my god, first Chris Carrabba, Dashboard Confessional. One of my favorite songwriters of all time. And then it was so many through the years, Girls Aloud did it and then One Direction did it, Phoebe Bridgers did it, and Mary Lambert and Ruston Kelly. Now this artist from New York called Jax has just done a version of it.
Traci: Is that strange to have your song all over?
Brendan: I have come to a place where I’m really happy with the way that it’s coming back to us. It’s gone out there and done whatever a song can do on its own, and you know that what is coming back is kind of pure. The way that people are making it their own is really heartening to me. Very, very meaningful. And it kind of completes the circle because there was always so much doubt early on in our process. When we were making a record in my mom’s basement, we just had no idea. … It was turned into this boat that we sail in. It’s the whole infrastructure. The song leads the way and we just kind of follow. Just like you coming back with that kind of a story, your friends singing it to you, that’s the best that we could hope for. A natural vibe. I hope that continues in the sense that people are able to see themselves in the songs, in the narrative, make it their own. It doesn’t do any good if it’s just what the author had in mind. It’s nice and everything, but that doesn’t make a song last. People carry it on to the next generation.
Traci: It is still strange we will see you in person soon. Summerland was a tour that as soon as things started opening, boom, here’s a bunch of dates.
Brendan: That’s right. Even in the lead up to this, there were all these questions because Summerland was one of the first to come out and say, “We’re hitting the road.” We were signed on, hook, line, and sinker from months and months before. Because of COVID times, it was all up in the air, then dealing with state and local and federal restrictions on being able to be in public spaces, it just seems so complicated. Then all of a sudden with about 45 days left, everything turned on full and we’re definitely going, it’s happening. It’s six months of work in 45 days, so we’re going to be a little rusty. But like I said, I was going to do some yoga at your insistence and get out there!
Traci: I think so many music fans are just so excited to see shows, “I don’t care if the band plays perfectly! Just be here!”
Brendan: Right? I am a huge AC/DC fan and if you told me that they were playing a dumpster fire, I would show up.
Traci: I think you will be better than dumpster fire…
Brendan: That should be a headline Wheatus “Better than a dumpster fire!” Not as good as Rush, but better than a dumpster fire. (laughing)
Traci: Sorry, I meant I know you guys will be great, limited practice and all! Ok, normal question: Who is hitting the road with you?
Brendan: I like that question. We’re such a tight-knit family and I do so much work with these people. We have Matthew Milligan on the bass. He’s been with us for about 15 years now. Joey Slater is on backing vocals. She’s been in the organization since 2004, 2005. Gabrielle Sterbenz is the other backing vocalist. She’s a singer songwriter in her own right. Leo Freire is on the drums. Madden Klass is on the other drums. Is that not a drummer name or what? Brandon Ticer from Memphis, Tennessee on the keyboards. My band are the only people in my life, really, it’s really intense. All we do is work together. It’s like asking me who my brothers and sisters are.
Traci: So you probably won’t kill each other on the road then?
Brendan: Probably not!
Traci: Good! I look forward to seeing everyone on this tour!
Brendan: We’re incredibly stoked to be out at all, but it’s more than a dream come true to be out with Living Colour and Everclear and Hoobastank. We feel like we’re in some kind of post-pandemic dream or something we can’t figure it out. It’s so great and we’re going to be out there doing our best to meet people again and just interact under whatever conditions we can.
Thank you to Brendan Brown for chatting with us and we look forward to the Summerland Tour.
Follow Wheatus on their socials and Patreon (where they hang out with fans on Sundays), plus put the 20th anniversary edition of “Wheatus” on your list to Santa; 10 original songs painstakingly redone, plus 10 new songs for a big ol’ 20-song disc.
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And keep your eyes on the Summerland Tour dates since you just never know what updates may occur…