Wheatus, the legends that wrote and produced “Teenage Dirtbag”, have announced a 20th anniversary re-record of their debut self-titled album Wheatus! Fans can expect 10 of the original songs from that first album (with 2 replacements), and 10 new, never-heard-before tracks.
With artists such as One Direction, All Time Low, and 5 Seconds of Summer covering their work, Wheatus continues to inspire new artists who come behind them hoping to carve their own place in the industry.
Brendan B. Brown, affectionately dubbed BBB by his fans, is the only remaining founder of Wheatus, and he was kind enough to take time out of his recording schedule to answer our burning questions!
What is it about Teenage Dirtbag that you think makes it so timeless?
“Not sure… I think it’s maybe because most people experience life from the outside at some point, albeit to varying degrees. If people can see themselves in the narrative they’ll consider it theirs. I’m not particularly precious about my original intent or the events in my childhood that led to that song. It’s much more important that people can make it their own & claim their own story in the song… that’s more vital… it’s history may be interesting but it’s not important to it’s longevity”.
If you could pick one other song from your catalogue to have the same success, which would you choose, and why?
“Probably the title track from our 6th album, Valentine. It’s a post apocalyptic love song. It was a challenge to record because it pushed us to the limit of what we were capable of at the time. It’s also a good story about finding love, I think… and it’s fun to sing!”
How do you think Teenage Dirtbag helped pave the way for the so popular pop-punk phase that quickly followed its release?
“That’s an interesting question because it’s not pop-punk. It’s much more of a NYC song & pop-punk was very SoCal. I wanted dirtbag to sound like James Taylor & Paul Simon wrote a song with Metallica, LL Cool J, AC/DC & Public Enemy. I wasn’t really into punk as a kid unless you count post punk straight edge hard core & bands like Fugazi & Quicksand & Helmet. I always thought it was lumped into that pop-punk trend because of Green Day & Blink having vocal ranges that were similar & because guitar music was generally classed that way back then but it didn’t come from punk, I must admit. It’s slower with more Motown & hip hop influence in the rhythm. I think some of the sentiment flowed into the music that came afterward but I’ve yet to hear a band approach the NYC style the way we tried to”.
What songs did you grow up listening to that inspire your sound and what’s on your playlist right now?
“As I said lots of AC/DC & Metallica Rush etc. big Willie Nelson fan… Madonna, Tom Petty… Prince, Geddy Lee & Bon Scott & Cindi LLauper were a big influences on my singing. Lately, I’ve been listening to Dawes a lot, J. Cole, Phoebe Bridgers, St. Vincent, Bob Weir’s new record, Buffy Clyro… So much music”.
How has your sonic changed as you’ve spent more time in the industry, and how have the changes in the industry changed the way you create?
“I’ve kinda gone against the waves a bit… we work slower now trying hard to find something new rather than simplifying, we’ve become more experimental. I still lean toward accessibility & the big sing-a-long but in a jazzy progressive way”.
What do you like to see when other artists cover Teenage Dirtbag? Homage to the original elements? Or a bold transformation?
“I love when someone else gets the story right.. .when you can tell they know the characters & the arc becomes their own. Recently, Walk Off The Earth have done well with that. Roswell Kid have a version that’s really heavy, I love that one. I prefer versions that alter the tone significantly, but that may be because no one has ever done a totally accurate cover in regards to our original drum & bass arrangement”.
If a Wheatus tribute album was made, who would you like to see on there?
“The acts I’ve mentioned above. I’d really love to see Phoenix or The Strokes or Passion Pit take a shot at our music. I’ve also wanted to see an LGBTQ tribute. We’ve been Queer positive forever so that would be cool”.
Can you tell us anything about the 10 new songs we haven’t heard yet?
“I can tell you that they are not B-sides. They are fully realized complete songs. It’s kinda like an alternative universe first album. The songs are a bit more akin to the stuff I was writing in 1991-94. Over the years those feelings have been a part of my writing but I felt as though they didn’t fit in the time line… they feel like they only make sense in the 1st album vibe”.
Why was it so important for you to re-record your old songs for this album? Tell us more about this album.
“The master multi-tracks for our 1st album are lost. BITD I sent out 3 sets of the tapes for mixing & remixing… while we were on tour in 2001 the 4th & final set went out & I never got any of them back. So we need to recreate it all which is fine & even a little fun. We still have all the gear & mics & stuff & we have the penultimate masters set that has no vocals & is missing some percussion so we have a decent guide to start from scratch with.
I recorded & RE-recorded our first album 4 times from 1995-2000. I was working to try & come up with an original production….also, learning how to make a record. We’re fortunate that it has touched people the way it has & that we get to do it again in 2020, with a whole other album in addition to the first is kinda great”.
What’s next for Wheatus?
“We’ll be recording for the rest of 2019 & then prepping for the 20th Anniversary Tour in 2020. Lots of work to do, we’ll also be continuing to engage our Patreon.com/wheatus people, updating our website & carrying on the conversation at Twitter“.
You can catch Wheatus out on the road in 2020 touring their upcoming album. Keep an eye on their socials for details…