June 09 2016

Annie O Presents: Look Park

New York-Standard Sounds
We have a secret weapon at The Standard in the form of a French-Moroccan music maven named Annie O. After years in the music industry representing greats like Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Peter Gabriel, we nabbed her to curate The Annie O Music Series, a regular concert series in the airy Penthouse of The Standard, East Village.

On Monday, June 20, Look Park ascends to The Penthouse. You may already know the band's lead singer Chris Collingwoodhe's the founder and frontman of Fountains of Wayne. Annie O asked Collingwood some questions to get us all familiar with his new sound. 

Annie O Presents: Look Park
Mon., June 20, 7-9pm
The Standard, East Village Penthouse
Free with an RSVP to aohayon@standardhotels.com


ANNIE O: 
Many might know you as the lead singer of Fountains of Wayne. Tell us a little bit about your new project and how it came about?
CHRIS COLLINGWOOD: For a while, I've been writing non-ironic songs, and for various reasons I had a hard time getting them on FOW records. You get older, a little less cocky, and one day you realize you're not a wise-cracking 25-year-old anymore. It should have been the simplest thing in the world, but it took a long time to realize I could make a record that sits alongside other albums I actually listen to.
 
I made a lot of demos at my home studio, without thinking whether the arrangements were appropriate for a four-piece rock band. I'm a bad piano player, but most of the demos had a lot of piano. I was trying to get away from quarter notes on the guitar, four-on-the-floor rock beats, and the other signature elements of power pop that had come to define FOW. 
 
I also knew I wanted to work with a producer other than myself. Mitchell Froom had long been a favorite, but I considered him a long shot. We had never met, but I found him on LinkedIn and sent him some demos. A couple weeks later, we started planning the record. 

Who are the influences behind this new album?
Mitchell and I spent a long time on the phone every day getting to know each other and talking about lots of stuff. I've always loved his work and it's fair to say that some of my biggest influences are records he made—Crowded House, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, and Sheryl Crow, to name a few. But outside of the obvious, like The Beatles, we discovered we were both fans of the Moody Blues, and in particular all those fantastic operatic Mellotron songs like "Tuesday Afternoon" and "Question." Mitchell played a lot of keyboards on the record, but the single most recognizable sound is the Mellotron. At its core it's still a pop record, but maybe just one that grew a mustache and put on a leisure suit.
 
Is Look Park a real place?
Yup, right off the rotary outside of Northampton, MA. I liked the name for the same reason I liked Fountains of Wayne: if you don't know where it comes from, it doesn't make any sense. It turns out the park is a memorial to a man called Frank Newhall Look. They have a little water park and a big moose sculpture made of logs.
 
How do the writing and recording processes differ as a solo artist? What did you learn in the process about yourself as an artist?
Making home demos is incredibly liberating and very different from working with other musicians. I can indulge myself and make an arrangement without having to explain what's in my head to anyone else. But working with Mitchell, Davey Faragher, and Michael Urbano was in a lot of ways more band-like than FOW ever was. Mitchell and I started with my demos, some of them fully fleshed out and some not, and built arrangements via email and phone. We played those arrangements for Davey and Michael, but once the tape was rolling, both of those guys were playing to some platonic idea of the song rather than a strict chart. Mitchell's philosophy, and he's right, is that if you record with great players, it's best to let them do what they do. They're smart, and if their version is a little different, it's probably just as good. It was so much easier to let that happen since I had great respect for Mitchell before we even started. I hope we get to make another one together.
 
Can you tell us a little bit about the first single, "Aeroplane," and the inspiration behind it?
I've written a lot of songs that romanticize travel or complain about it. “Aeroplane” is different because it's more about the isolation and disorientation of the experience. It took me a long time to even figure out what was happening in the chorus—where the root was. It's a natural inclination in your brain to seek out the tonic, but for most of the chorus it's not there. Then when it shows up, it's actually not the root, but a fifth of the chord before it. David Boucher, the record's engineer, patiently explained to me that there are two key changes. I was like, "Shut up nerd."
 
 
"At its core it's still a pop record, but maybe just one that grew a mustache and put on a leisure suit."
Are there any specific tracks by other artists you are listening to right now?
I really like "Archie, Marry Me" by Alvvays. It's got a loud, boomy arrangement and very clever words that I didn't pay attention to at first, but I'm glad I did because they're good. The new Winterpills record just came out and the first single "Celia Johnson" is catchy as hell. Damien Jurado's new record, Visions of Us on the Land. "Depreston" by Courtney Barnett. And of course the new Squeeze album Cradle To The Grave.
 
Are you hitting the road this summer?
There are some sporadic shows this summer, including the Fuji Rock Festival in Japan. FOW played there many times and I'm very excited to go back. The record doesn't come out until late July, though, so we probably won't be playing a US tour until the fall.
 
What are the best and worst things about being on the road?
The only way to answer this question honestly is with a cliché, but it's true: Connecting with people face-to-face who dig your music is the best high in the world. That's the best hour every time it happens. The worst thing about being on the road is the other 23 hours of the day.
 
If Look Park had a superpower, what would it be?
I wish I could write a novel. I’ve read a lot of them, and it's not until you try to finish a bad one that you realize you've been taking the good ones for granted. 
 
What can we expect from your upcoming show at The Standard, East Village?
It'll be me along with Scott Klass on the piano. Scott is my old friend and has a fantastic band called The Davenports. We used to play in bars sometimes as a duo before Fountains of Wayne existed. I imagine it'll be a lot like that since we'll be playing a bunch of songs no one has ever heard.