Wheatus frontman still getting his teenage kicks from playing live


Jamie Bowman

It’s hard to believe Wheatus’ debut album is 17 years old this year. Formed in New York in 1995 by Brendan B Brown, the band’s self-titled debut spawned the band’s timeless calling card in Teenage Dirtbag, a song which charted at number two in the UK, spent four weeks at number one in Australia and sold an estimated five million copies worldwide.

Since then the band have built a reputation for near incessant touring with their forthcoming UK and Irish tour seeing Brendan and Co playing almost every night from April 27, when the tour kicks off in Cork, right through to June 4, when they finish up in Exeter – an incredible 32 shows in 39 days.

Along the way there are shows in Buckley and Chester and speaking to Brendan from his natural home of the tour van, he can’t wait to get started.

“Playing live is my favourite thing to do in the world,” he says.

“It was all I could think about when I was a kid – physically it’s pretty demanding but it keeps me fit and it’s all I ever wanted.

“We’ve just had two and a half months touring in the US in a van – it’s been a long haul and I think by by the end of this year we’ll have done more shows than we did back in 2003.”

In recent years, it’s taken some creative funding to get the show on the road, but it’s a reality of the modern music industry. No drama or panicking, just pragmatism.

“The good thing for us was that we never got used to having things done for us,” says Brendan.

“It’s always been a home-made project – I make all the rigging that we use in my downtime and make sure that it works and is roadworthy.

“Touring the UK is like the Lord of the Rings for us – we’re constantly on adventures in this country.

“We started off playing small places and I still love that. Sweaty clubs with a low ceiling and the walls are breaking and the PA is too loud.

“I feel we’ve been really fortunate to get this reputation and that comes from just saying ‘yes’ to everything early on – we’ve become the band that can do 40 clubs. You could do 12 theatres but it’s just not as cool or fun or an adventure.

“I saw an interview with Malcolm Young from AC/DC recently where he said ‘I’ve got nothing to worry about because I’ll always have clubs to play’ and that really hit me hard where it counts.

“When I was 10 years old I dressed as Angus Young for Halloween and I just wanted to be the guy from AC/DC so the desire to be out there has nothing to do with wanting to be a millionaire – you just want to do it.”

Last year saw Wheatus join the reformed Busted on tour, where those old enough to remember the early noughties sang away with much newer fans. Regardless of age, they all knew Teenage Dirtbag.

“James from Busted has been a friend since about 2005 and we’ve been talking about doing a tour since then,” says Brendan.

“It finally happened last year and it was surreal having a crowd of 20,000 people take your song away from you and sing it how they wanted to – they took over and it became the crowd’s show.

“There’s a whole new generation of kids getting into us and it’s interesting because they don’t stay pop fans for ever – they’ll have to go through their goth or metal phase soon!”

Brendan, is now also the only original member of the line-up remaining. It’s nothing new, he says, and laughs when I suggest Wheatus have had more drummers than Spinal Tap.

“They just keep exploding man!”

“I spent quite a few years writing and demoing the first album by myself so as for being the only original member left it’s kind of always been like that since the start anyway.

“With one exception all the departures from this band have been amicable and I still talk to everyone and we’re friends.

“It just always felt natural to have a loose collaboration of friendships come in and out as it always felt fascist for me to nail people down to one job. Plus we’re all adults, so that helps.”

The band’s current line-up of seven features three women and Brendan is keen to stress that it’s important for him that Wheatus continues to reflect his outlook on life.

“It’s like Fleetwood Mac without all the difficulties,” he laughs.

“On the first tour we had my sister and my girlfriend in the band and it’s just always more balanced with girls along for the ride. I went to an all-boys Catholic school and I’d had enough of that anyway!”

After the tour, there’ll be new material, possibly making its debut during the upcoming shows.

“Album seven is halfway recorded, so we’ll try to finish that in time for Christmas, adds Brendan.

“Then, in 2018, we’ve got some re-organising to do. I have a plan for a retrospective box-set style re-release of everything we’ve ever done.

“Finally we’re gonna get the album one vinyl package together.

“There’s lots of work to do in 2018. And then, after that, we’ll be gearing up for the 20th anniversary tour – I can’t believe I’m even saying that!” 

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