Adam Schlesinger is a busy man. In the past few months he’s produced the forthcoming Verve Pipe album, produced and written tracks for the Josie and the Pussycats soundtrack, landed a new deal for his band Ivy, begun penning songs for his other band, Fountains of Wayne, and signed on to produce a handful of tunes for perennially great quirk-rockers They Might Be Giants.
Ivy’s new deal, with Nettwerk (home to Coldplay and Sarah McLachlan) will finally allow for a stateside release of Long Distance, an album that’s already been out in Japan since late last year. Slated to drop July 10th, the follow-up to 1997’s sickly sweet Apartment Life, finds the trio — Schlesinger, Andy Chase and singer Dominique Durand — covering slightly moodier ground.
“We’re moving away from the indie guitar thing,” says Schlesinger. “It’s a little groovier, maybe a little mellower. We started liking the more atmospheric stuff and became less interested in constant jangle.”
Produced by both Schlesinger and Chase, Long Distance features a guest guitar spot from former Smashing Pumpkin James Iha on “Midnight Sun” (Schlesinger and Iha co-own fledgling Scratchie Records) and drummer Brian Young of the Posies. While Schlesinger has already directed a video for the song, “Lucy Doesn’t Love You,” the album’s first single will in fact be a song called “Edge of the Ocean,” which will first appear in Jennifer Lopez’s forthcoming film, Angel Eyes.
Schlesinger’s other outfit, the notoriously slow-working Fountains of Wayne, have re-convened to begin work on the follow-up to 1999’s Utopia Parkway. While they’d originally hoped to release a new full-length this year, something that now “seems less and less likely,” Fountains fans can look forward to at least one new track from the group this summer. The band will appear alongside Wilco, Fastbal and Matthew Sweet on This Is Where I Belong: The Songs of Ray Davies and the Kinks. Fountains have contributed their rendition of “Better Things” (from The Kinks’ 1981 album Give The People What They Want) to the tribute collection, coming July 24th on Praxis Recordings.
Schlesinger and Sweet are also among a long list of artists featured on the soundtrack to Josie and the Pussycats, the screen version of the popular 1970’s cartoon series. The Pussycats’ current incarnation — Rachael Leigh Cook, Tara Reid and Rosario Dawson — air-guitar and lip-synch to tracks penned/played on/produced by Babyface, Jason Falkner, Anna Waronker, the Go-Go’s Jane Wiedlin, the Counting Crows’ Adam Duritz and ex-Letters to Cleo singer Kay Hanley, who sang Josie’s parts.
Schlesinger himself authored one cut (“Pretend to Be Nice”), co-wrote another (“Come On”) and produced six songs altogether. “I actually find it very liberating to write on assignment,” Schlesinger says. “It gives you really tight guidelines and you don’t have time to sit around and wait for your muse to strike. It’s a different headspace to be in.”
While Schlesinger’s inclusion in the very poppy endeavor comes as no surprise, particularly given he wrote the title song to Tom Hanks’ 1996 film That Thing You Do, the involvement of smoothed-out R&B hitmaker Babyface seems a tad strange. “Initially it seemed a little odd that [Babyface] was involved, but he’s a pretty smart guy,” says Schlesinger. “I think with something like this he knows how to do what’s appropriate. He knows that a big part of it is just bringing in the right people.”
As with That Thing You Do, Schlesinger’s songwriting and producing prowess will certainly take a distant back seat to the actors mock-playing the tunes. Yet he has no qualms with the Hollywood prop-up and hardly sees his involvement in the Josie project as a blow to his cred. “It’s a movie,” he says. “I don’t think there’s any credibility issues there. Everybody is aware that these people are actresses. I don’t think there’s any pretense being made that it’s anything but that.”
Though Schlesinger has yet to see Josie and the Pussycats in its finished form, he professes to being a fan of the original series. “I was a very little kid when it was on TV,” he says, “but I watched it. I was a fan of anything that had a band in it at that age. Archie and Jughead weren’t so happening, I guess . . . I liked their early singles on SubPop, but then they sold out.”