Interview: Wheatus

Wheatus might be more well known for their song Teenage Dirtbag, but they’ve had a long and lengthy career. The band are currently on in the middle of a sold-out UK tour, their debut album is being re-released soon, Teenage Dirtbag is back in the charts and they’ve got a new Christmas EP coming out very soon! It’s certainly a good time to be a member of Wheatus – find out more about what the band have been up to in our interview with Brendan B. Brown below!

By Jane Howkins

You have a brand new holiday EP coming out titled Just A Dirtbag Christmas. What can you tell us about the record? 

Well, there are contributions from most of the band, which is different for us.  Gabrielle Sterbenz wrote the lyrics to Christmas Dirtbag and all of Feels Like Christmas, Joey Slater wrote You Made Me Believe In Christmas, and I wrote Mean Christmas. And then we have the string quartet version of Teenage Dirtbag which was arranged by our dear friend Andrew Livingston.  It was really a mad rush to cram in everything to make sure we had a proper Christmas EP – everyone rose to the occasion and worked hard both in the studio and from home to pull it off.  It must be the most collaborative record we’ve ever made.

You’ve also re-created your most famous song, Teenage Dirtbag (also the first single I ever bought as a kid!), in true holiday style. What was the writing process like? 

Essentially, I put it in Gabrielle’s hands as I was really short on time and asked her to come up with something.  And she hit it out of the park.  I had one or two contributions – I liked the idea of doing Santa in verse 3 to go low as opposed to the high vocal everyone expects there – but really it was all Gabrielle.  She’s very into Christmas and had no problem creating a new narrative out of the Teenage Dirtbag story.  Myself and Phil Jimenez (who co-produced the original song with me back in the day) mixed it and added some additional Christmas production. 

Why did you decide to write a holiday EP? Is it something you’d consider doing again?

Definitely – it’s something we’ve considered for years but have never had the time.  We usually tour in the fall and never have the time or budget to pull it off.  But this time, miraculously, we had just enough of both.  So we did it!

What does a typical Wheatus Christmas look like? 

As many Christmas trees as we can fit in the house. Lots of old records being played.  Savoury roast meals happening constantly.  Lots of family bursting out of various corners of the house.  And artichokes! I love to make my grandmother’s recipe for stuffed artichoke.

Do you plan on releasing any more singles from Just A Dirtbag Christmas? 

Good question!  Maybe – I guess it depends on how people react over the coming weeks?  As we get closer towards Christmas, I’m sure people will pick their favourites and we’ll take it from there. 

After the EP, are there any plans to release a full-length album?

 Oh yeah!  We have our long awaited re-release of our first album finally coming out this December 1st, and that’s going to be paired with 10 newly recorded bonus tracks – so that already kinda feels like a new album.  But we have ANOTHER new album that’s been in the works for years and we just keep getting sidetracked from.  The songs are ready to go – just have to find the time to record them.

You’re currently in the middle of a sold out UK & Irish tour. How’s it going so far? What are your highlights? 

It’s been truly miraculous. Couldn’t possibly pick any specific highlights because every show has been great.  But we especially love playing more unusual, off the beaten path towns such as Corby, Tarbert & Mexborough.  It’s just amazing playing these community spaces and turning them into rock venues for a night.

Why do you think people should come and see Wheatus live, and what can fans expect from a show? 

Because YOU get precisely what YOU expect from us.  We do our shows entirely by request, so whatever you want out of our show is what you’ll get.  If there’s one precise reason to see us, it’s because you get your own show.  If there’s songs of ours you wanna hear, you shout it out and we play it.  It’s that simple.

You’ve been going for several decades now. What’s the secret to your longevity?

Lots of water. Lay off the alcohol.  Stretch. Rehearse a lot. And most of all, never forget that it’s a gift to be able to play music.  It’s a privilege – always treat it like that.

Any last words for the fans? 

We hope this holiday season you can find some peace, quiet, and meditative space to enjoy with your family, loved ones, found family or whomever you’re with that matters to you. We love you very much.