This year, Amy Shark’s album Love Monster went to Number One in her native Australia. But in the United States, the indie pop singer is still unknown, which makes her cover of Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” for the Spotify Singles series even more appropriately self-deprecating. And because it is her favorite song, you learn a lot about her past and present when she talks about it on the Under Cover podcast.
“The first time I heard ‘Teenage Dirtbag’ by Wheatus, I was in high school and I was crazy obsessed with it … it was in my head all day, every day,” Shark said. She loved Brendan B. Brown’s high-pitched nasal voice, which she mimicked in a bad American accent growing up, particularly the pre-chorus bridge that goes “I’ve got two tickets to Iron Maiden baby/ Come with me Friday don’t say maybe.”
“If I was going to have a theme song [at the time] it was that song,” Shark said. Her affinity for the song wound up being legitimately useful because she was learning to play guitar at the time and it motivated her to advance to bar chords so she could play it. “I think I owe it to that song [for] making me practice.”
Though it sounds like Shark could’ve done a spot-on impersonation of Brown, her voice has a warmer tone that makes her version of “Dirtbag” sound more somber and earnest. She also slowed down the cadence and stripped back the instrumentation, emphasizing her voice on the introduction and the first chorus. The highlight of her cover, though, is the quirky, Hawaiian-style electric guitar lick. Shark is especially proud of how it melds two of her influences, Wheatus with Pixies. “I feel like tapping Wheatus on the shoulder and saying ‘I’ve got this really cool idea!’ … But I’m 20 years too late.”
Beyond “Dirtbag,” you won’t hear many covers coming from Shark in the near future. When she was making her bones on the Gold Coast’s club and bar circuit, she said playing covers for four hours, five days a week got to be “soul-destroying.” “It was all people wanted to listen to where I’m from,” she said. “It was just Tracy Chapman and Cold Chisel.”