New Album From Ivy

NYC group gets second wind from new label and a new lease on Apartment Life LP.

Adam Schlesinger is a busy guy.

The singer/songwriter behind fuzzy power-poppers Fountains Of Wayne, who had a modern-rock radio hit in 1996 with "Radiation Vibe," also is devoting his energy to the moody, New York-based pop-trio Ivy.

With their bouncy, Blondie-esque "This Is The Day" -- featured in the irreverent, comedy-hit flick "There's Something About Mary" -- Ivy set a much different tone and feel than the guitar-driven pop of Fountains Of Wayne.

"I usually write specifically for one or the other," the youthful-looking, 31-year-old Schlesinger said, sitting in the office of Ivy's new record company, Sony's 550 Records in New York. "The songs aren't really the same. Ivy's a little more about mood and texture."

That feeling Schlesinger is referring to highlights the breezy lounge-pop of Ivy's recently reissued and retooled Apartment Life LP. With the breathy vocals of sultry, French-born singer Dominique Durand, Ivy's quirky, horn-inflected pop is underlined by Schlesinger's guitar and biting, intelligent lyrics.

Andy Chase, 29, Ivy's other guitarist/songwriter and Durand's husband, works closely with Schlesinger and Durand on the trio's tunes. "For a while, he would write the songs and I would write the lyrics," Chase explained. "For Apartment Life it was about 50/50. Sometimes I'll collaborate with Dominique on the lyrics."

Apartment Life has a complicated history. It was originally released in October 1997 on Ivy's former label, Atlantic. When the record didn't have any hits, the label gave them the record back to do with as they pleased, Schlesinger said. Ivy wasted no time in signing to 550, which agreed to the band's stipulation that the album be reissued -- but not without a little tinkering.

"We remixed four songs," Schlesinger said. "There [are] subtle differences [in] choices about arrangements. If you ask any band [if it would] want to have a chance to go back and screw around with their record a little more after it comes out, everybody would say yes. There's always something you could have tried."

Sony also thought it would be nice if Ivy reworked a few things to give people a reason to check out the album again, Schlesinger said. So the band added two verses to the closer "Back In Our Town" and remastered the entire LP.

The band's history is much less complicated.

Chase and Schlesinger met when the former put an ad in the New York City weekly Village Voice in 1991, seeking a guitarist who liked the bands Prefab Sprout, the Go-Betweens and the Smiths. Chase wanted to start a new band and reasoned that his eclectic list of groups would weed out pretenders who knew nothing about modern music.

Schlesinger said he was one of the few who answered Chase's ad. Although he met with Chase and Durand to talk about music, they didn't see each other again for more than a year. At the second meeting, the men became better friends and began sharing song ideas. But the topic of being in a band together didn't resurface until attention shifted to Durand.

Initially, Durand was reluctant; she had liked to sing in her youth, but never planned on a music career, she said. Chase said he coaxed her into the studio with a bottle of wine to alleviate her anxiety. The result was satisfying enough for them to continue.

"I loved her voice," Schlesinger continued. "I was actually the one saying we should do some more. A lot of musicians will probably tell you this, but you could spend years working on one group and then you could spend five minutes with a different group of people, but something clicks and it's right."

And then, a surprising thing happened when Chase began shopping tapes of his music to record companies.

"I was slipping the Ivy tape in," he explained. "[The labels] would all call back and say, 'The tape with the guy singing I'm not that into, but who's this chick?' We found ourselves with an offer from Seed Records. [The label executives] said, 'We need to see you play,' and [Durand] said, 'No way.' It made us more desirable!"

The early tapes with Durand became Ivy's debut, the Lately EP (1993). The LP Realistic, also on Seed Records, followed in 1995.

"I was so perfectly happy just being a music fan," Durand said. "It was enough for me. [Ivy] just happened as an accident."

Until Ivy reconvene in the studio, their new record label is hoping that the "This Is The Day" exposure in "There's Something About Mary" will give Apartment Life the needed push. The album is filled with similarly catchy pop in songs such as "The Best Thing" and "I've Got a Feeling," which seem likely to succeed at radio if given a chance.

And the industrious Schlesinger, who also found the time to write the title theme to Tom Hanks' 1996 film "That Thing You Do!," is determined to divide his time between bands. Fountains of Wayne are still together, he said, and recently played a show at Manhattan, N.Y.'s Tonic nightclub.

"There [have been] times we heard a song that Fountains of Wayne [did] and I [think] Ivy could have used that, but most of the time I know that when [Schlesinger] writes a song, he knows whether it's an Ivy song or not," Chase said. "There's never really been possessiveness."