Fountains of Wayne guitarist Jody Porter recently released his debut solo record, "Close to the Sun." Fans of his primary group will be delighted by the catchy power pop of first single "Aurora," but as a whole, Porter touches on a broader spectrum of influences with this record than he ever has with Fountains of Wayne. The guitarist-turned-frontman recently chatted with Blast about the record, the pros and cons of branching out on his own. And longtime Fountains devotees, have no fear â€” though he’s focusing on his solo gig this summer, Porter assured us that the band is still going strong and are even in the process of finalizing a new record.
Blast: Was a solo career something that was always in the back of your mind? What finally prompted you to get the ball rolling and put this album out?
Jody Porter: A solo career was nothing I wanted to ever do, but it just became something that I ended up doing. I’d been in bands back in England that I wrote for and sang and fronted, and that was in the â€˜90s, so as far as being a writer and all that, I’ve already kind of been there and done that. I’ve always liked playing in a band, but this is turning out to be a blast, too.
What’s the status of Fountains of Wayne?
JP: We’re still working on Fountains of Wayne. We have a record that’s being mixed right now. You know, there have been periods where I’ve gone off to do my own thing. And this is just an in-between thing. We’re definitely still doing the Fountains.
Are your Fountains of Wayne bandmates supportive of you going solo?
JP: Yeah. I mean, we all do different things on the side. It’s kind of the order of business from day one with that. It does probably lend itself (to side projects) for Fountains of Wayne to take three years in between things, you know? We’re good for a record every three years basically, is our work ethic. Plenty of time to do stuff in between.
Can you discuss the pros and cons of being a solo artist as opposed to a band member? Which do you prefer?
JP: A lot of times, you kind of have to do a little bit more production stuff just to get things rolling (as a solo artist). I’m not much of a micromanager. Being in Fountains â€¦ day to day, there’s not a whole lot of stuff to do. This project I’m doing now is a little more DIY. So we do have some managers involved, but I find myself having (to make) a lot more decisions than I’m used to. Just kind of scheduling stuff, you know, studio stuff, even down to interviews. (In a group), if we’re all sitting around or something, it’s a lot easier to have a direction for what’s going to happen with the next bunch of shows or the next recording. I think it’s probably a little less intimidating.
Are you happy to have the Fountains of Wayne recognition, and a built-in fanbase behind you? Or would your rather people just discover your solo material on its own merits?
JP: You know, it really doesn’t matter to me. I think (my involvement in Fountains of Wayne) is probably just a footnote. (The solo record) is completely independent of Fountains of Wayne and probably a little more like my first band, The Belltower, in England. It’s a little bit more rock ‘n’ roll and it’s more of a psychedelic approach than a straight ahead power pop approach. For me, coming out of Fountains of Wayne, it’s such a departure that I feel like it’s almost just like a new thing completely, rather than being a solo record.
Who are your musical influences? Are there any artists who you feel you were able to tap into more now than you did with Fountains?
JP: Yeah, I’d say so. You get 100 percent freedom (as a solo artist). It’s just one of those things, I guess, that gives you a little bit more vision and room to move with it. As far as my influences go, they’re more obscure than Fountains of Wayne’s probably would be. You know, those guys are totally influenced by a different sort of realm of music than I am. I’m more into stuff like (English blues-rockers) The Pretty Things. I guess we kind of share a common love for the British Invasion stuff, obviously The Beatles and all, but I don’t think either (Fountains of Wayne songwriters) Chris (Collingwood) or Adam (Schlesinger) are particularly big Stones fans, and that was obviously a big part of my influence.
What are some of your favorite tracks on the record, or ones you’re most proud of?
JP: As far as just a verse, chorus, pop song approach, I think that "Aurora" is a good one. "A Beautiful Life," that was in the film “The Messenger.” (The film crew) just kind of approached me as, looking for something that was a little paradoxical or slightly cynical, but uplifting at the same time. "Cars on the Motorway," more of the edgier stuff, some of the louder songs, are really fun to play live.
Do you have any favorite solo artists who have branched off from bands and done their own thing?
JP: I’m really a big Pulp fan, and I think Jarvis (Cocker) has made the transition (well). Going back to The Beatles’ stuff, I think Lennon’s records were still amazing after The Beatles.
You’ve collaborated with a number of artists, including Juliana Hatfield, Jesse Malin and The Strokes’ Albert Hammond, Jr. Is there anyone you haven’t worked with whom you’d like to?
JP: A lot of the people I’ve worked with are just kind of friends. I’ll get a call and just drop by because I’m in the neighborhood or whatever, and it just ends up being kind of spontaneous. With Juliana, that was a gas, because I went in just to do maybe one or two songs and ended up being on pretty much the whole record. And it went really quickly. That was a fun collaboration. I can just grasp at straws and say I really like Primal Scream. A lot of British bands. Maybe (Oasis’) Noel Gallagher, whatever he’s doing now.
What was the first album you were obsessed with?
JP: I had a pretty groovy father who had been a musician. He was a folkie on RCA in the late â€˜60s. The first record that he bought me was probably on my fifth birthday, and I had already scratched and worn out all his vinyl, like spinning it around with my hand when I was a wee toddler. So he had to re-buy a bunch of things, but I got for my fifth birthday "Sergeant Pepper." I was kind of basically shown the light.
So, is this going to be a one-time solo thing? Do you see yourself releasing more solo material down the road?
JP: I think I’m going to be proactive with it. I mean, so far it’s gotten really good response, and I have a fairly big backlog of songs that I didn’t put on the record and a lot of new ones that were kind of thrown together.
Jody Porter plays Boston’s Lizard Lounge on August 14.