It is not every day that a television is able to woo the likes of Fountains of Wayne’s bassist and songwriter Adam Schlesinger to bring his considerable musical talents to a comedy series. But in an auspicious move to make the music of WEDDING BAND as cutting edge and appealing to modern audiences, the creators of WEDDING BAND boldly approached Adam and brought him on board. It was a smart move as Adam and his partner Steven Gold helped fine-tuned the eclectic yet scintillating sound of the fictional band Mother of the Bride in WEDDING BAND. Their takes on such popular songs like “Hollaback Girl,” “Hot In Herre,” “Don’t You Forget About Me”, “YMCA” and “I Will Survive” definitely make you pick up your ears. In a recent exclusive interview, Adam talked about what it was like crafting songs and creating the unique sounds for WEDDING BAND.
How were you approached to do the music for WEDDING BAND?
ADAM: When they were starting up the pilot, and I’m not exactly sure what of mine they had heard before, but we went out and had a meeting. I also brought Steven Gold with me, who I’ve done lots of work with, and that was basically it.
And what is it about WEDDING BAND that struck you and made you want to be a part of it?
ADAM: First of all, it just seemed like a good idea for a show and it seemed like a fun idea. Also, I just really liked Josh [Lobis], Darin [Moiselle] and Mike Tolin and Ben Spector when I met them. We seemed to hit it off. They seemed like smart, funny guys and I just had a good feeling about it.
You’ve done a lot of television-related music in the past decade or so. What do you look for when you are looking for that kind of project?
ADAM: Most of the time people have come to me. I was sort of focused on just being in a band and doing more record business related things. But occasionally someone will call me up and offer me a chance to work on a project, and then I would just base my decision on whether it seemed interesting or not
Do you find it tricky to balance the television demands that you have with your band demands?
ADAM: Yeah, lately I have seemed to have started to devote a little bit more time to those kinds of extracurricular band activities, like the film and TV stuff and some theater stuff. It gets a little hard to juggle sometimes, but I usually find that it’s workable.
One of the things that really struck me about the show WEDDING BAND was the music. It’s just been amazing hearing all these different versions of these songs that we thought we had heard a thousand times before. How did you put your kind of spin on those?
ADAM: We would discuss each episode as we went along and talk about the context, and sometimes it was something pretty obvious from the script and other times it was something we had to come up with another take on it or come up with a song idea. It is a very collaborative process. So it was just an ongoing conversation between myself and the producers. But, thankfully, most of the time I feel like we got it right on the first attempt. There were a few songs where we tried a couple things until we got it right, but I would say the majority of them, we nailed it right away, which is good ’cause there was a ton of work even despite that fact.
When you’re looking at these scripts, do you think, “We’re going to need a song here” or did they tell you where they want the song inserted in an episode?
ADAM: Most of the time they had a sense of where they wanted a song. But there were some episodes where there was one song slot, but they were looking for another and then we would try to come up with another place.
Were there songs where you thought it was perfect but you found out that you couldn’t use? Something that just slipped through.
ADAM: There were definitely times when we went after some songs and we couldn’t get the rights to them, but I don’t remember which ones off the top of my head. It’s one of those things where each case is a negotiation with the songwriters and some people just aren’t interested in how much money it might be and some people are just too expensive.
It seems like you got really lucky and you got some big name songs for the show.
ADAM: Yeah, in the end I think we got a great cross-section of stuff too. It’s a nice mix melding current stuff and more classical stuff.
One of my favorites wasn’t a wedding song; it was when Harold Perrineau and Derek Miller performed “West End Girls” from the Pet Shop Boys. How did you come up with that? That was brilliant.
ADAM: That came from the producers. They had this idea that these guys would have a side project with a glockenspiel and a cello and they said, “Can you do West End Girls like that?” And I said, “I don’t know, but we’ll try. I’m sure I can come up with something.” The other part of our job was working with the actors to make sure it looked believable on camera. Those stars really did a lot of homework. In that scene in particular you can see Harold [Perrineau] learned to play this really elaborate part on the cello.
Are the actors actually playing? It looks like they are, but it is hard to tell.
ADAM: They are actually playing, but it is recorded beforehand by somebody else.
It feels very seamless, which is impressive as you’re watching it. It looks good.
ADAM: That was the idea. So if that was your impression, then we succeeded.
When you are thinking of song selections and music for each episode, are you considering the talents or vocal ranges of the actors?
ADAM: Oh yeah. But I think Brian [Austin Green], in particular, is very versatile as a lead singer. He can sort of sell a whole bunch of different genres pretty convincingly. So that made our job a lot easier. But we definitely had to figure out what key they could do things in and what was comfortable for them and all that stuff.
Are you locked into doing song covers or are you doing some original stuff for the show?
ADAM: There’s a few original songs in this season, but most come later in the season. There’s a British rock star character that we wrote songs for and one of them was supposed to be a famous song of his and the other one is the song he supposedly writes with Tommy during the episode. So we got to do that and then there’s a Def Leppard cover band that has their own original Def Leppard songs. [Laughs] So I had to write a fake Def Leppard song.
That’s hilarious! Must be fun.
ADAM: I don’t know when that one is airing, but that stuff was a lot of fun.
It seems like there is some extra magic you are infusing into the music. What do you find to be the one magical element to what you are all crafting for the show?
ADAM: I think you just have to be excited about what you’re working on and that comes through. You actually come up with an arrangement idea or stylistic idea for one of these songs and then the enthusiasm for that comes through in the final product.
Is it easy to be excited and enthusiastic about a project like this?
ADAM: Definitely. It was a really fun group of people to work with. For me, as a producer and an arranger, it’s a really fun gig because it’s all just coming up with new takes on these songs, but you don’t actually have the pressure of writing all the songs, which is really the hard part. For me, it was sort of a more pressure-free job than if I had to write a whole musical from scratch
So this is just a chance to play with some music then?
ADAM: Yeah, I really like arranging. I like coming up with new arrangement ideas and production ideas. That’s really what this gig was about.
Would you be excited to see more of this kind of opportunity in your career take off opposed to doing your band work?
ADAM: I’ve really gotten to the point where I don’t divide music into different categories. I like making music. I like the opportunity for people to hear it, whatever I’m working on. Certainly when you work on a television show a lot more people are getting to hear what you’re doing right away. If you’re making a record, it’s always a crap-shoot and you don’t know if anyone is going to hear it or not. You just hope they will.
Besides WEDDING BAND, are you currently working on something else?
ADAM: Right now I’m writing a Muppet song for a Disney Channel show and I have sporadic TV stuff when it comes along. But I’ve been mostly touring with Fountains of Wayne for the last few weeks. Then Chris Collingswood and I, from Fountains of Wayne, are working on a Christmas show in New York with Harry Shearer. Then we have another one a couple weeks later at this NPR show called “Cabinet of Wonders.”
It seems like you’re enjoying a heyday point in your career. Does that feel exciting or just a bit exhausting for you?
ADAM: It doesn’t feel exhausting. I’ve been lucky ’cause it’s been relatively steady for a long time. There’s just periods where you’re busier than other periods. But I think being involved with a lot of different things sort of helps you stay busy
Are you currently working on WEDDING BAND, or are you done for this season?
ADAM: We just handed in the last of the full-length versions of everything, which are currently for sale on iTunes. That was the last of the job for me and Steven and we just finished that very recently. Now it’s all basically done until the start of season 2.
As you reflect back over the first season of WEDDING BAND, is there one song that stuck out that you’re really pleased the way it turned out?
ADAM: There’s a lot of them. But I really like the jazz version of “Get Your Freak On” — it’s on iTunes if you want to check it out. That episode hasn’t aired yet, but it’s sung by Melora Hardin, who plays Roxie on the show and it’s a pretty cool jazz version.
A few of the featured Mother of The Bride songs can be found on iTunes:
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/mother-of-the-bride/id576026302 and to catch up or relive the hilariousness of WEDDING BAND, prior episodes may be seen at the TBS website: http://www.tbs.com/video/index.jsp?cid=875318
To hear more of Adam’s cool musical arrangements and his original songs for Mother of The Bride, be sure to catch an all new episode of WEDDING BAND which airs its fourth episode on Saturday, December 1st at 10:00 p.m. on TBS.
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