Friday, August 12, 2016

Fountains of Wayne singer Chris Collingwood debuts Look Park

Chris Collingwood, frontman for Fountains of Wayne, and his new band Look Park released their self-titled debut last month via Yep Roc Records.

The smart alt-pop tunes should definitely appeal to FOW enthusiasts, especially on breezy tracks like "You Can Come 'Round If You Want To" and "Stars of New York." On a different than usual tack are the aptly-titled, '60s-leaning "I'm Gonna Haunt This Place," lush, almost samba-styled "Crash That Piano" and the shimmering power pop of "Shout, Part 1."

This is Collingwood's first album apart from FoW and was recorded in collaboration with producer Mitchell Froom (Elvis Costello, Crowded House, Suzanne Vega). The name was borrowed from a favorite green space in his hometown of Northampton, MA.

"I don't like the expression 'solo record,'" Collingwood says. "It means you don't have to pay attention to it, it's really just a side project. It really felt important to me to give this a proper name, so I'm in service to this idea, as opposed to just narcissism."

The singer returned home after touring the world in support of Fountains of Wayne's most recent album Sky Full of Holes and began writing new material immediately. Over the next three years, he demoed over 100 new songs with acoustic guitar, MIDI, and a range of complex but spare percussion sounds - tambourines, shakers, everything up to a full kit.

"It was a matter of trying to find a distinctive voice from Fountains of Wayne," Collingwood says. "It was liberating to know I could arrange them any way I wanted, I could write songs the band could never play live as a four-piece rock band."

Collingwood knew he needed the right studio collaborator to help flesh out his vision and so why not ask one of his all-time favorite producers? He reached out directly to Froom and a communication began, with the two musicians immediately bonding upon discovery of their joint attendance at "ultra-conservative, all-male" boarding school, The Hill School in Pottstown, PA.

Several weeks were then spent doing extended pre-production in their respective home studios, "working out arrangements by email and talking for two hours a day on the phone," says Collingwood. "We talked about music and art and film and politics, just getting to know each other. I think that was intentional on his part - he's a very immersive producer, he wants to figure out the artist and where he's coming from."

Together Collingwood and Froom concocted a truly distinctive musical palette for Look Park, strange and spatial, ribboned with layered keyboards, atmospheric harmonies, and prominent use of Mellotrons inspired by a shared love of The Moody Blues.

"It became something completely different than anything I'd done before," Collingwood says. "It seemed a way to present these songs using a softer palette. It also places this music in a era when people still made full-length albums."

August 2015 saw Collingwood head west for a week of sessions at Froom's Santa Monica home studio, ably accompanied by bassist Davey Faragher (Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams, Cracker) and drummer Michael Urbano (Smash Mouth, Ron Sexsmith, Todd Rundgren), a powerhouse rhythm section adept at both subtlety and the heavy horsepower needed to make Look Park come alive.

"I love singer/songwriters," Collingwood says, "but I'm very proud this doesn't sound like a singer/songwriter record. It sounds like a band."

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