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wheat live reviews and interviews

Below you will find some live reviews and interviews taken from old wheat pages.

NME - October 22, 1998 - London WC1 Water Rats

Shambling, ambling, blushingly shy good humour - when a band sidle up out of the underground lo on fi and high on life, named like a gang of aw-shucks hayseeds and holding a clutch of eggshell songs, you can expect a certain amount of endearingly messy shuffling. Typically, in a world where nothing ever comes out quite right, Wheat buck the trend with casual cool, shining with fresh-minted charisma and capable of making their second UK show something between a random act of kindness and an intoxicating, rejuvenative draught in the veins of US songwriting.
Standing in a circle as if they can't bear to miss themselves play, these four men are relaxed like it's just another Friday night of beer and chord progressions in singer Scott Levesque's garage. Sure, they laugh when things get too loose, but you can always feel the fire-eyed intent, the absolute conviction. Quite right, when you have such lovely, lucid songs, glowing like Super-8 memories; the amorous surrender of 'Girl Singer', Scott's voice cracking like a sun-dried Steve Malkmus, 'Summer' looping round and round Rick Brennan's daydream guitar, the Guided By Voices desolation of 'Soft Polluted Blacks'. "An acoustic guitar just isn't sexy, is it?" smiles Scott, patently wrong for the first time tonight.
Adding the forcefield to the pastoral idyll, Wheat provide both the raw material and the pure grain spirit. Drink deep.
Victoria Segal

liveDaily - October 4, 1999 - Wheat Gears Up For "Hope And Adams" Release

With two weeks allotted to record their second album, "Hope and Adams," at Tarbox Road Studios in upstate New York, there wasn't a lot of time for Wheat (news | CDs | auctions) to be precious about the recording process. Luckily, the Boston foursome are hardly the precious types, and actually embraced the imperfections and accidents that helped shape their 14-song sophomore effort.

According to singer/guitarist Scott Levesque, "A lot of times we let things decide what they are and what they're going to be. You find you don't have as much control over it as you thought, and you don't want to control it. You don't want to tie up every loose end," Levesque said. "If you don't allow mistakes to somewhat dictate what you're doing, you'll never get beyond the original thought."

Levesque, guitarist Ricky Brennan, drummer Brendan Harney and newcomer bassist Kevin Camarce all acknowledged that producer Dave Fridmann's (Mercury Rev, Flaming Lips) quick translations of recording ideas into practical musical parts helped to fit the production into the slender time slot provided. A heavy January snowfall that made impossible any fun under the bright lights of Cassadaga, NY, didn't hurt either.

Scheduled for release Oct. 12, Wheat's second effort adds atmospheric touches to instantly memorable melodies. The band even uses a dance beat to get the party started in "Off The Pedestal," which in retrospect, the band agrees is representative of the direction the foursome are currently heading.

"We've really fallen more in love with groove, a naive sort of groove," Brennan said. "...Hope and Adams' is already behind us and what we're playing now and demo-ing is sort of like 'Off the Pedestal."'

Although song titles such as "And Someone With Strengths" and "More Than You'll Ever Know" suggest a serious outlook, Wheat's sense of humor shines through in songs like "San Diego," which sounds like a serious love song, but is undermined by video-game style squeaks and squeals throughout and acidly ironic lyrics such as "Your love is like a chemical plant."

"Sometimes people take our stuff very seriously," Brennan said. "We'd hate to be sort of a one-liner band, but there is tongue-in-cheek humor. We entertain ourselves with humor when we're on the road or wherever. That's how we get around without killing each other. Less John Candy, more Dr. Strangelove."
by Colin Devenish

The Boston Phoenix - October 7-14, 1999 - Cellars by Starlight

Just as the lads in Guster have kept their eyes on the stars (or, at least, that Jumbotron in NYC) and have bent over backward to make their moniker a household name, Wheat don't even want you to know that they're a band. But a band they are -- and a very, very good one at that. Although the Boston outfit's lovely 1997 debut, Medeiros (issued on the Chicago-based Sugar Free label), was one of the finest local releases of that year, the disc received as much attention for what wasn't on the album as for what was. No band credits. No photos. And no, the title of the disc didn't appear anywhere on the outer packaging.

Hope And Adams, Wheat's equally sublime sophomore effort (released last week on Sugar Free), does its predecessor one better. This time around, the band have put the title right there on the cover (perhaps as a concession to those who care about such things). Also for the first time, they appear ready to have embraced the novel concept of touring -- possibly, maybe, eventually -- in support of the album. In the meantime, they're scheduled to make a rare local appearance opening for Mike Watt at T.T. the Bear's Place on October 16. Finally, it seems singer/guitarist Scott Levesque is becoming a bit more comfortable with the attention being given his band, whose line-up also includes Brendan Harney (the two met while studying art at UMass-Dartmouth) and Ricky Brennan.

"When we released Medeiros, we weren't trying necessarily to do anything else except play some songs and maybe put out a record," Levesque says. "We didn't want to have to start making mailing lists and selling ourselves and all that shit. We just wanted to make an album that we would want to listen to."

That Wheat have now twice succeeded in making mini-masterpieces from their modest ambitions -- and that some of us have actually managed to stumble across them -- is a testament to the seductive allure and sheer quality of the trio's material. It's as if some music were so quietly powerful that it's destined to reach our ears. The music of Medeiros was just too good not to.

Hope and Adams represents the band's slightly more concerted effort to connect with a broader audience. This time out, Wheat enlisted Mercury Rev/Flaming Lips studio wiz Dave Fridmann to lend a production hand, and Fridmann emphasizes the band's dusky, twilit languor and Levesque's cryptic lyrics and laconic delivery. Sound familiar? Levesque knows where we're going here. "Pavement, of course, is just an amazing, amazing band," he volunteers before attempting to figure out -- or explain -- his own approach to songwriting. For him, that's not an easy task. He's partial to using the word "maddening" to describe the process.

"I think there's a kind of starkness to our music -- it's really insecure music," he says later. "I say insecure because it's wacky stuff to put down your thoughts. For me, Medeiros was a thought and a feeling and a vibe more than anything. Then there are times when you put things down and you say to yourself, `There's no way I should be able to get away with this.' It's difficult to know what you're going to say when you're writing a song. But every song that I love means something to me, and that's the magic. It's something you can't anticipate."

Like Pavement's Terror Twilight (Matador) or Creeper Lagoon's I Become Small and Go (Nickelbag), Hope and Adams is both an allusive and an elusive work replete with secret poetry and hidden innuendo dressed in a soft-focus sparkle. If the songs on Medeiros conjured summer in mood, the new one glows with the gold of autumn. What it all means, says Levesque, is up to each listener: "I think that there's a place for our records and what we do. But the only thing you can hope for is that somebody who hears your record will want to hang on to it. That's the cool thing about having no distribution -- people who want it really have to go out of their way to find it and get it." Levesque sounds peculiarly, genuinely proud of the predicament. Perhaps for Wheat, self-imposed obscurity is still its own enigmatic reward.
by Jonathan Perry

The Stranger Vol 9 No. 5 - October 21-27, 1999 - POSTMODERN AIR SUPPLY Wheat Reveal Which Members of Mötley Crüe They'd Want to Be

IN ROCK, AS IN LIFE, it could be argued that there are two types of men -- good boys and bad boys. Good boys are often more than a bit confused, but loyal as dogs (see Morrissey). Bad boys, on the other hand, are nothing if not self-assured, although they can hardly be called steady (see Mick Jagger). And so we spend our lives vacillating between them, looking forward to those rare occasions when we find something in-between, a line like "I can't believe I'm touching you/Especially when I'm fucking you."

The lyric, and the boys who wrote it, are Wheat: Ricky Brennan (guitar), Kevin Camara (bass), Brendan Harney (drums), and Scott Levesque (vocals). Three of them gave the same answer to the telltale "Which member of Mötley Crüe would you be?" personality test. They'd all be Tommy Lee. Scott Levesque, like myself, would be Nikki Sixx, "Partly because he wrote the songs, but mainly because he has the coolest name."

TR: So what's your biggest ethical struggle in life?
Scott: Um... wanting to kiss people I find attractive.
Brendan: Now that's it! That's the biggest one right there. Physical beauty just knocks me over. I cannot get around it. It's just a big struggle for me.
Scott: But not just physical beauty, it's wanting someone.
Brendan: For me it's totally not that. It's totally physical beauty. That's being honest.
Scott: Well having said that, about the attraction thing, I think that one and one works. One person and one person, that is.
TR: I'm always single, so I struggle with trying to get a date. But my ethical struggle is kind of the same... the fear that monogamy doesn't work.
Brendan: Au contraire! I think monogamy does work. I think it's a big false rumor that monogamy is dead. It's like transgression. Everybody thinks that transgression is so cool, but you know what? Ultimately transgression just makes you feel really, really bad.
Ricky: It's that whole thing where it's exciting to be doing what you shouldn't be doing.
Scott: Love is special, and the more you spread it around, the more it thins out. Then it's not special anymore.
Brendan: We're just trying to bring a little romance back.
TR: Since the new album has the word "hope" in the title, I thought I'd ask you what song you'd want to dance to at your wedding.
Ricky: If I marry the girl I'm with now, it would be "To the End" by Blur.
Scott: You know what's a really sweet song? That "Johnsburg, Illinois" by Tom Waits. The lyrics are like, "She's my only true love/She's all that I think of/Look here in my wallet/That's her." It's a really beautiful way to say "I love you" to somebody.
Kevin: I haven't gotten that far in my psyche yet.
TR: Mine is "More Than A Woman" by the Bee Gees.
Brendan: Now there's a band! Not even because it's the older disco thing and it's hip now. You know I was telling these guys, when everybody crapped on the Bee Gees and disco went out, they put out three hit albums that they just wrote for other people. One was like Barbra Streisand's biggest-selling album ever.
TR: I had a huge poster of Barry Gibb on my wall when I was a little girl.
Brendan: Well he's the good-looking one. Man those guys can write a tune!
TR: So what genre of music would you put yourself into?
Ricky: [laughs] Modern soft rock.
Postmodern Air Supply?
Scott: I like that stuff too. There are a lot of interesting things you can do with soft rock, like Alan Parsons and ELO, the Moody Blues....
Brendan: We're all pretty big fans of soft rock, and we talk about it a lot. But an ABBA song to me would be so much cooler if they did something with production. We are very into production, getting all the sounds and the textures in there.
TR: I saw you guys play the other night and I really enjoyed it. I'm going to be in London when you play at the end of the month, and I'm definitely coming to the show.
Brendan: It will be nice to have another person from the States over there.
Being a Yank there is fun, because you get really patriotic out of nowhere.
Brendan: Yeah, every sentence begins with, "You know what sucks about your country...."
TR: You just have to tell them you don't want another cup of tea.
Brendan: And what's up with the joints? They fill them almost entirely with tobacco!
Scott: It's like only a couple of leaves in those things.
TR: It's minimalism. You guys are indie rock. You should be able to appreciate the minimalism in their joints. It's just smoother that way. Like your music.
by Tanya Richardson

NME - December 2, 1999 - London WC1 ULU

Sometimes the tiny things mean the most. Sometimes the spaces between words say more than the words themselves. Wheat are a quiet bunch, seemingly loath to imprint their personalities upon their performance. There are no flourishes, no jokes, no superfluous gestures. They look like farmers. Yet somehow the band's restraint makes their music all the more vivid.
Unfeasibly nondescript singer Scott Levesque negotiates the microphone with workmanlike steadiness, offering only the occasional mumbled "thank you", and once - in a sudden burst of loquaciousness - "Is everybody having a good time?" A "good time", however, isn't exactly what one has at a Wheat gig. Although the set is more pop-inflected than one might have expected - considering the downbeat melodicism of their 'Medeiros' and 'Hope And Adams' LPs - Wheat aren't exactly a party band. Opener 'Off The Pedestal' suggests the unlikely pairing of Joy Division and Sparklehorse, all rhythmic melancholy and gently droning despair, while 'Raised Ranch Revolution' is a half-whispered, creepingly rattling lament.
Surprisingly, they dispense with naggingly insistent single 'Don't I Hold You' only five songs into the set, before tracing their steps back to the understated beauty of the first album. 'Death Car' and 'Karmic Episodes' are both sparse and sonorous, as Wheat prolong and replay certain phrases, driving home their ability to create gasping intensity out of only the simplest melodies. There isn't anything extraordinary about any of this, of course. There is no ambition to break new ground, no flouting of convention. Wheat bring us nothing more startling than fine songwriting and an obvious love of their craft. Which, in itself, is enough. Because even though songs like 'San Diego' may be infused with an AOR mildness, the darkness of their sentiment sets them firmly in a league of their own. Loving them like they want to be loved couldn't be easier.
April Long

Boston Globe Calendar - January 25, 2000 - An Elegant Harvest

Elusive is a word that often comes to mind when you listen to Wheat. Since its inception two albums and several years ago, both the Taunton-based band and its music have never been easy to pigeonhole. Then again, why would you want to? "I've never wanted to be in a band where you just get stuck [doing] one thing, and all you can do is that one thing because you're afraid people aren't going to like you," says singer-guitarist Scott Levesque by phone from Pain and Pleasure studio in Providence.
At the moment, he and his cohorts-guitarist Ricky Brennan, drummer Brendan Harney, and bassist Bob Melanson-are in the midst of recording Wheat's third album, due out in late spring or early summer. "The thing I like about Wheat is that you can't really pin it down, and this next record does the same thing. It really has this. . ." Stumped trying to find the right words, Levesque's voice trails off.
What we can say about Wheat's forthcoming disc is this: The album it follows, "Hope and Adams," was surely one of the best records of 1999. The disc's songs-reflections on adolescence, adulthood, and the things we choose to forget as well as remember-are infused with the hazy languor particular to twilight, when things slow down. The band's blend of formal pop elegance and understated indie-rock amateurism-which it had begun cultivating on its 1997 debut, "Medeiros"-struck a chord, and Levesque's inscrutable lyrics kept listeners' attention. Despite modest promotion (and the band's preference for retreating to the shadows instead of basking in the limelight), "Hope and Adams" found its way onto more than a few music critics' annual "best-of" lists and quickly established the soft-spoken group as one of the best in Boston. That should be reason enough -as if you needed one- to check out the band when they headline the Middle East Downstairs Feb. 9, where they share the bill with a pair of superb local pop acts, Star Ghost Dog, and the Clairvoyants. The show, Wheat's first of the new year, will showcase a band at the peak of its creative powers yet one that's still seeking out new territories. The new album, for example, concerns themes of acceleration and movement; pursuit and progress -elusive (there's that word again) qualities that, to the listener, might mean anything from improving your relationship with the person sitting next to you to acting on your creative impulses.
It's all part of what Levesque says is Wheat's desire to transcend its limitations-namely, small recording budgets, Levesque's ambivalence about the quality of his voice, and perhaps most crucially, an indie-rock scene that's often prone to its own stifling orthodoxy.
"I think as you grow older and you progress-not necessarily chronologically, but intellectually, spiritually-you start to want more," Levesque says.
by Jonathan Perry

Philadelphia City Paper - Feb 24-Mar 2, 2000

Wheat's 1997 debut, the drifting, lo-fi gem Medeiros, breathed new life into melodic, melancholy indie rock. Despite the fact that they hail from former indie rock mecca Boston, Wheat's managed to create music that defies regional scene boundaries. Via e-mail, guitarist Ricky Brennan admits a certain affinity for Beantown bands like the Pixies and Sebadoh, but claims wider, more holistic influences for the Wheat. "We're big fans of great songs, songs that stick with you after twenty years, songs that were relevant when they came out and are still relevant now." Their second LP, Hope and Adams (Sugar Free), still floats like its predecessor. But it also introduces a new, bigger sound, most evident on the lush "Don't I Hold You" and "Body Talk (Part Two)." Wheat enlisted producer Dave Fridmann (Flaming Lips, Mercury Rev) and his signature layered, multi-instrumental sound with big beats, but it's the band's own swaying tunes and world-weary lyrics that remain irresistible. Like a handful of other bands (Sebadoh, Pavement and Yo La Tengo come to mind) Wheat is able to make accessible music that remains artistic. "[Yo La Tengo] have slowly and constantly redefined their own identity while their fan base has steadily grown," Brennan explains. Because of their own collaborative attitude in the studio and a commitment to change, Brennan, drummer Brendan Harney and primary songwriter Scott Levesque hope to evolve and leave their own lasting mark on indie rock. "Let's just say that we're already conceptualizing and writing new material," he says, "and we're very excited about the directions we are heading in."
by Chris Nosal

Philadelphia City Paper - Vol 21 Issue 1019 - June 14, 2000 - Wheat Will, Wheat Will, Rock You

IF, AS WHEAT singer/guitarist Scott Levesque believes, indie rock is a "church of genre," with its acolytes slavishly worshiping their heroes' sounds and styles, the Boston-area quartet he fronts are neither choirboys nor apostates. They're just clean-cut kids composing cranky new verses for the hymns. The band's latest, Hope and Adams (Sugar Free) wants it both ways, too, featuring both grandly layered guitars and low-rent studio trickery as the musical sensibility wavers between gawky engagement and cool distance. When the self-effacement of "Slow Fade" ("No one likes it slow/And we take our time/And the crowd was rockin'/But the band played on") slides into angelic harmonies, you don't know whether to raise your Bic or stroke your chin. And that, says Levesque, is the idea.

"I love that point of being right on that line, of being, 'Geez is this good or not?'" he admits, speaking by phone from Providence, Rhode Island. "It's a weird line to walk, but we find it fun. There will even be groups of people who split on it. I read a review once where one guy [said], 'Instead of Hope and Adams it should be called Bryan Adams.' Which I thought was great. At least he took a stand!"

Formed in 1996, Wheat never meant to venture much beyond recording in bedrooms. Tired of fruitless efforts in earlier bands, core members Levesque, drummer Brendan Harney, and guitarist Ricky Brennan turned their backs on marketing and concentrated on amusing themselves. It worked all too well--one audience member, impressed by an early Providence gig the band deemed "horrendous," sent a tape to Chicago's Sugar Free records. The label signed Wheat immediately, resulting in 1997's beautiful, if perplexing, Medeiros.

Medeiros's stately pop melodies nearly balloon to the point of power-ballad pomposity, but crackly static, Levesque's supple voice (imagine Todd Rundgren and Paul Westerberg pooling their limited supplies of optimism), and sardonic lyrics relieve the pressure. "Summer" is a shadow of the Beach Boys' "Fun, Fun, Fun," detailing suburban boredom with pathos and irony: "Hey kid you already knew/When you dropped off that waitress that you/You'd be eating all by yourself." And "Leslie West" (its title feting Mountain's man-mountain main man) features a hilarious musical joke. A guitar solo that oozes like sweat on a beer bottle is announced by the sound of a tape player being cued up: "BIG SAPPY-ASS GUITAR SOLO AHEAD."

The band's sphere of influence grew when Medeiros's "Death Car" was released as a 45 in the U.K. "Car" became British rock mag NME's "Single of the Week," and landed Wheat a European tour. The shift from New England to Olde England wasn't seamless, but it was successful: While NME notices treated their fashion sense with alarm ("They look like farmers"), they had nothing but raves for the act's low-key show.

Less brooding than Wheat's debut, 1999's Hope and Adams found Flaming Lips producer David Frishman coating mid-Eighties guitar textures in studio sheen. Lyrically, the ratio of flat-out longing to acerbic self-deprecation has risen, spiked with some judiciously crafty thefts. "Body Talk Part II" filches from Paul Simon's "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," while "Roll the Road" (with vocals evoking an asthmatic Wayne Coyne) borrows from Tom Petty's "Free Fallin'."

Levesque talks about this larceny with good humor. "Bowie was quoting Beatles lyrics," he says. "Those [borrowings] become really interesting pieces of irony later." Without splitting semantic hairs, it's important to note that while Wheat poke fun at rock excess, the jabs at cliché are affectionate, not contemptuous. "I'd rather have it be a little ironic than just cynical," Levesque insists. "Because cynicism has become the new meal; it's what's for dinner now. Everywhere."
by Cecile Cloutier

Lost At Sea - 2000

On a recent trip through the Midwest Lost At Sea Editor Eric J Herboth had the chance to sit down with the members of Wheat to discuss their magnificent sophomore album Hope & Adams and, among other things, Gummo and freak accidents.


LAS: Okay, so we should get some introductions out of the way. You are two-thirds of Wheat. Could you give us your names and Wheat occupations?
Scott: Yes, I'm Scott [Levesque] and I play guitar and sing.
Brendan: I'm Brendan [Harney] and I play drums.
LAS: And the absentee is ...
Brendan: Ricky Brennan, who also plays guitar and sings.
Scott: And Bob plays the bass.
LAS: Okay, so is this a temporary configuration?
Brendan: There are really five people in the band. The three original members and then Bob and David.
Scott: Dave has actually been a part of Wheat from the start.
LAS: But they don't get to be on the promo poster.
Scott: Well, Bob didn't play on the record, so it would be kind of pointless.
LAS: How does the writing take place then, just the three of you?
Scott: Well, it is a process just like anything, a bit of an assembly line where everyone gets involved with it. The finished product everyone is responsible for.
LAS: So the record has been out for a little while now, hasn't it?
Brendan: Since November, 1999.
LAS: You recorded that with Dave Fridmann, who has also done sessions for Mogwai, Mercury Rev and the Flaming lips. How did you get hooked up with him?
Scott: We basically called him up.
Brendan: We had a short list of people that we wanted to work with and then we just started narrowing it down. I didn't know about the other projects he had worked on, at the time.
Scott: We probably wouldn't have recorded it with him, had we known.
LAS: I had a dubbed copy of your first album, Medeiros, and it sounded ...
Scott: You didn't pay for it or anything?
LAS: No, sorry, someone gave it to me on a blank tape.
Scott: Don't you feel bad about that?
LAS: No, actually, I don't feel bad at all. Your press rep sent me a copy of the new one and I didn't pay for it either.
Scott: Did you enjoy it?
LAS: Well, that is the thing, I felt that that record was ...
Brendan: Are you sure that it wasn't just a bad dub that you got, and not the actual record?
LAS: I guess that could be the thing, but on Hope & Adams I thought there was a much crisper, livelier, more visual feel to it. I thought the first record was a bit, uhm, I don't want to say transparent, but I think thin. At least not as textured as the new one.
Brendan: Oh, yeah, that's cool. But part of that is probably because the first record someone gets their hands on tends to be their favorite, because that is what the memory associates with.
LAS: True, and I didn't really listen to the first record until I had heard Hope & Adams.
Brendan: That is usually what happens, but in terms of the textured sounds, I think the writing on the second record sort of lent itself more to that. I think the band got better. Our abilities, in terms of the instruments and how we could get them to actual do what we wanted. It was a combination of the producer and the band growing up and learning how to be a band.
LAS: A lot of the songs on Hope & Adams are very visual, the listener almost able to picture definite scenes throughout. Do any of you start the songwriting process from a point of something visual?
Scott: Well, we're both very visually oriented. We met as painters.
Brendan: It depends on what kind of words you use, the semantics of it, but I know that personally, and in conversations with everyone else I know that we kind of see songs. I definitely see them in a very linear way, in that when I hear it I am also seeing in unfold, almost like a plot. I think that our background and the way that we create the songs like that contributes to that feel. We use visual terms a lot.
LAS: Are you guys still painting outside of the band?
Scott: Well, I haven't done much lately. It's hard to do anything outside of the band right now.
LAS: So what do you do when you're not on tour or writing?
Brendan: We're not working right now, but all of us had been. We're pretty much homebodies, really. Family and relationships and stuff.
LAS: Are you all originally from Boston?
Brendan:Well, we're all from within 30 or so miles of each other, growing up, but we didn't meet until later on, in college. But we're all from the same general area, yeah.
LAS: How did you end up on Sugar Free instead of something Boston-based like Big Top?
Scott: At our second show, someone asked if we had a tape or anything. We hadn't even planned on putting out records initially, we were just having fun, but we happened to have a copy of some demo stuff that we had done, they liked it and it went from there.
Brendan: It's funny because the first time we were supposed to meet someone from Sugar Free no one wanted to go. We were all too lazy. But we went and we were hanging out at a Yo La Tengo show, and their label had just started as well, so we just decided "Why not?" and did a record with them. Then someone in England at City Slang had heard the single and liked it, then it got single of the week, and then it started the whole European thing.
LAS: Have you guys been over there since the record came out?
Scott: A bunch. Brendan: We've toured for five more weeks over there than we have here. We come home and take a few days off before heading out again.
Scott: Next Thursday, actually.
LAS: Wow. Do any of you speak any other languages?
Scott: Not yet.
Favorite European country?
Scott: Stockholm at night is just gorgeous. Sweden is great.
Brendan: In terms of that, just walking around, it is really great. Not club-wise or anything. I think in terms of playing the UK is our biggest market. Germany is my least favorite.
LAS: Uh-oh. That's where my family is from. I'm one hundred percent German.
Scott: If you don't know the language, you're screwed. No one speaks English there, which is natural, which is okay.
Brendan: Well, a lot of the young people do.
LAS: Actually, all of my friends there that are my age speak little, if any, English.
Brendan: Two things for me about Germany. One, it is very difficult, on the road, to get decent food in Germany.
LAS: Do you eat meat?
Brendan: Well, I do, but I'd like to have some vegetables, and those are hard to get.
LAS: Tell me about it. I don't eat meat and I've lived there for several years.
Brendan: We were trying to find a carrot or something, which we couldn't get unless we were at a market in the city or something. So that, one, and two, everyone smokes everywhere there.
LAS: Fucking yeah. It is unbelievably out of control.
Brendan: Every fucking place you go in there are people smoking. It is mental man, it drives me crazy.
LAS: Yeah, you go to City Hall or the Police station or a grocery store or restaurant and everyone is smoking.
Brendan: You go to the toilet, close the door and there it is - a fucking ashtray. You're in a restaurant and there is just billowing smoke everywhere. Some happy medium. But that is why Germany is lowest on the list. But the lower section, where Munich is -Bavaria.
Brendan: Yeah, Bavaria is beautiful.
Scott: And the coast of Scotland is really nice as well. There are a lot of nice places.
LAS: One other thing I wanted to touch on was the packaging for the record, which is really nice. Is the art a painting by one of you?
Brendan: The outside of that is actually scanned, we cut a piece out of a vinyl chair and scanned it in.
Scott: We had talked about greens a lot and how they fit the record, and then where we rehearsed there were these chairs lying around that were the perfect green.
LAS: Did you decide on the packaging and everything?
Scott: We do all of that stuff for every record.
Brendan: We do ever visual thing, from the posters to the packaging to the artwork on every single in Europe. We monitor all of that stuff because you don't want to look gay. I don't mean that, gay, I mean that you don't want to look dumb. We like to have as much control as possible in the visual part, since we don't really get any anywhere else.
LAS: What does Wheat think about American television?
Rick: It depends on where you're living and what your situation is. I don't watch any television now, because I don't have that kind of situation going. I probably used to watch a lot more when I was living with my family, but I don't really watch anything now.
Brendan: I watch TV. I watch sports sometimes, some basketball or baseball.
Scott: I know that the other guys do this as well, but I put something on without the volume often times, a lot when I was painting, just to have something there that you can get gestures or ideas from.
But then it is more of moving images, like silent film. Segue into what Wheat thinks about film. Any recent favorites?
Brendan: That's hard, because I do watch a lot. I'd have to say that Being John Malkovich is up there. I would say "Safe" but that has been out for a few years. Another pretty amazing film is Gummo.
LAS: Gummo was pretty interesting. I don't know, I'm a big cat person so a lot of that movie was pretty hard to watch.
Brendan: I am too, I have a cat, and it was hard.
Rick: I couldn't watch it when they were whipping the one cat.
LAS: Yeah. And there was no disclaimer or anything at the end of the film saying that no animals were harmed in the making of the film. I don't know how I feel about that.
Scott: I think they were road kill animals or something.
LAS: I'm sure they didn't kill them for the movie, but it was still hard.
Brendan: The thing about that movie was that when I was done watching it I was so bummed that I just wanted to see something beautiful. I wanted to go out and smell flowers. And that is a hard thing to do in a film, because we are so desensitized to violence and all of the shit we see, that to see a movie that actually makes you feel that way is pretty remarkable. It can take you down that corridor where you just think "Wow, is this real? What in the hell is going on? Can I deal with this?" And then there was the scene where the guy beat up the chair, and it was such a comic relief at that you just die laughing, you want to grab on to anything that isn't terrible. I didn't like it when I saw it, but a few days later I thought about it and realized that it had, in an off way, been a very moving experience.
LAS: I felt the same way about KIDS, because it just made me feel bad as a person.
Rick: At the end when the girl is raped.
LAS: Korine has a way of doing exactly what he wants and putting you in a specific mood through very nontraditional means. Not like Braveheart but very confrontational. It's hard to remember that it is art and - I mean, I got really upset with it. That kind of stuff undoubtedly goes on though, even though the film isn't actual documentation.
Brendan: The more I talk about it, the more I think it is just incredible. As horrific as it was, it was also very beautiful, film-wise An unbelievable contrast of horror and beauty, the boy with the bunny ears against everything else.
Scott: You know, talking about American television earlier, one thing that I notice a lot now is the trauma shows, the real life stuff. You see a guy with his eye kicked in and it is all real.
LAS: Well, the society in this nation does have an obsession with things like that. Look at how many people sit up listening to radio scanners, listening to police calls.
Scott: I can't deal with that kind of stuff. Even driving down the highway, if we see an accident I have to go in the back. I just can't watch. It really disturbs me.
Brendan: We passed a couple of accidents in Europe and they were terrible. Even on this trip we have seen some things. There was this motor cycle accident, and I saw it. I saw the bike, I saw the guy lying there on the pavement. If no one was there, pulled over to help, we would have to deal with it, but otherwise I just can't deal with that type of stuff.
LAS: What do you think of airbags?
Scott: I think the idea is great, but I've never really used one.
LAS: What I didn't realize is that they deflate only a few seconds after they inflate. I worked with a woman who rear-ended another car and the airbag inflated and probably saved her, but ten seconds later someone hit her from behind and the airbag, deflated, had left the steering wheel torn open with all of the metal inside uncovered, and her face hit the exposed metal.
Everyone: Ouch.
LAS: Yeah, her face was all cut open and she had to have all of this reconstructive surgery. All in the space of about ten seconds.
Brendan: You ever cut yourself, like a major cut where you look down and think "Oh my god!"?
LAS: All of the fat cells and everything hanging out.
Brendan: I cut my finger once and I just couldn't believe that I had fucked up like that. I had to go to the doctor to keep my finger. It was just really shocking.
Rick: Then you see those guys working in a shop, they give you your change and they're missing a bunch of fingers.
Brendan: Have you ever been cut like that?
LAS: Well, when I was a kid my brother faked throwing a kitchen knife at me, but when his wrist snapped the blade somehow came out of the handle and hit me in the face. It stuck right between my eyeball and the eye socket. It was a virtual miracle that I didn't lose my eye.
Everyone: No way!
LAS: I shit you not. The funniest thing is that our insurance guy was at the house when it happened.
Brendan: Man, that is unbelievable. Just imagine, there is something like a millimeter or two that could save your eye and that is where it landed. That is amazing. And when it happens you just stop and think "Why did I do that?" or "How did that happen?" and you're just amazed.

Cincinnati City Beat - Volume 9, Issue 15; Feb 19-Feb 25, 2003

Wheat Grows Slowly
Massachusetts-based trio puts itself in unexpected situations
Interview By David Simutis

If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it on the record. Scott Levesque, lead singer for Massachusetts-based trio, Wheat, doesn't have many nice things to say about his peers. With the tape recorder off, he tears Math Rock, Punk Rock, Post Rock and just-plain-Rock bands to shreds. Nothing is sacred -- he even busts on one of Alternative Rock's sacred cows. But when you've made back-to-back brilliant records like Wheat has -- 1999's Hope and Adams and the soon-to-be-released (finally) Per Second Per Second Per Second Every Second -- you're entitled to diss a few lesser bands.

Thankfully, his criticisms come from a place of fandom and with a wry sense of humor, perhaps because he has watched many lesser bands come and go in the long downtime between the last Wheat record and their upcoming disc. The band, which also includes Ricky Brennan and Brendan Harney, formed in 1996. Wheat's own take on Alternative Rock borrows from British shoegazers, American Indie popsters, a little Americana and oddball production. Comparisons to other bands would include the Flaming Lips (whose longtime producer Dave Fridmann mixed Per Second), Grandaddy, Yo La Tengo, Wilco ... pretty much any band unafraid to write catchy, sensitive and straightforward songs, then twist and shift them until they're more complex and interesting. For instance, "I Met a Girl" opens with an acoustic guitar, stutters into a herky-jerky rhythm, and segues to a jazzy, swing-time bridge, before starting over from the top. Levesque's lyrics are dark, personal and clever (on Hope and Adams he compared a person's love to a parking lot), throwing cold water on meeting a new lady by following up the title line with "But I'm already with someone." Per Second isn't a downer of record, but it's certainly not background fare.

After releasing its first two records on tiny independent labels and touring sporadically, Wheat is now signed to Aware Records, the label that brought you Train, John Mayer and Five For Fighting. Wheat is finally in a place to capitalize on its songwriting strengths and remarkable sense of melody. Only, they don't fit into the fratboy rock of Train or the wussy songwriter camp of Mayer and Five for Fighting. They're not safe.

Levesque explains how the band decided to sign up with the Chicago-based company, which has a partnership with Columbia Records, even though most bands might have gone to a label with a like-minded roster: "When you think about a home for your music, it has to make sense. With every record we've done, it kind of needed to go somewhere new," he says. "Why do the same thing over and over again? I mean, what happens to your sex life when you do that? You have to change things up. You have to stay agile."

Continuing the path of most resistance, Wheat is touring in advance of Per Second's release, opening for a reunited Toad the Wet Sprocket. (Toad's lead singer, Glenn Phillips guests on the upcoming record, despite never meeting the band. Through the magic of technology, his tracks were recorded elsewhere.) Toad's fan base of nostalgic post-college yuppies might be confused by Wheat's less-than-straightforward approach, but it fits into Levesque's belief that if the band doesn't challenge itself, it's not worth continuing. It's a plan that makes sense, but after his many criticisms of other bands, does he even like Toad?

"I like Toad the Wet Sprocket, yeah. We like things that are interesting to us," says Levesque. "We didn't want to tour for three weeks with a Math Rock band. Because there's a weird legion of people who feel like they can't enjoy anything, and they would be at those shows. And I've been on that bus and I don't want to be there anymore. I like the optimism of the things we're doing." There's not much optimism in the disbelieving line "Do you really want me?" from Per Second's "Can't Wash It Off," especially back-to-back with (a reworked version of Hope and Adam's best track), "Don't I Hold You" ("Don't I hold you like you want to be held?/Don't I treat you like you want?"). This is post-breakup reflection for people who obsess over mistakes and miscues. Still, Levesque argues that Wheat's sense of hopelessness is evolving.

"I disagree, I think they are optimistic," he says. "The newer stuff, even when it tries to be light, it's still melodramatic and dark and stuff. It's changing; it's less about the guy and more about the guy who's trying to assimilate -- the character, we're talking about the character. He's trying to mingle. It's less person-specific. If there's misery, it's less directed at an individual. There's a letting things in a bit more."

Now doesn't that sound, well, nice?
by David Simutis

The Boston Phoenix - March 23, 2000 - Wheat - Playing Songs

The closest Wheat got to introducing themselves at their headlining show upstairs at the Middle East last Friday was when singer/guitarist Scott Levesque grinned impishly and said, "I spend a lot of the day worrying about not being entertaining -- it's a big problem with me. So if you'll bear with me, we'll just keep playing songs." The absurdity of this self-effacing remark was obvious: the sold-out show was packed, for one thing, and Wheat had already dazzled the audience by opening their 60-minute set with a clutch of jewels mined from their most recent album, Hope and Adams (Sugar Free).
Although the band failed to mention either that disc or the one that preceded it, 1997's Medeiros, by name, the dozen songs drawn from those discs spoke eloquently -- as did new (also unintroduced) bassist Bob Melanson, who joined up with Levesque, guitarist Ricky Brennan, and drummer Brendan Harney in January but sounded as if he'd been playing with them his whole life. With a European tour scheduled for April, the enigmatic group's mysterious ways and camera-shy days are likely coming to an end. After all, you can't sound this sublime and stay anonymous forever. Wheat's power to enthrall was put on display from the languid wash of notes that opened "Raised Ranch Revolution," a stunning number given a long, even more stunning coda that showcased the luxuriant guitar interplay between Levesque and Brennan (a recurring highlight that climaxed with the cresting, beautiful collision that decimated the finale, "Who's the One").
The new songs -- "San Diego," "No One Ever Told Me," "Slow Fade" -- unfurled one after the other with graceful, hazy splendor, and the band didn't feel the compulsion to deliver their first indie underground "hit," "Death Car," until the set's midway mark. Meanwhile, older material like "Summer" -- a lyrical love letter to adolescence set to loping, Pavement-esque guitars -- hung with a heavy, indolent air: "Smoking pot with your train-track friends," Levesque sang with Malkmusian detachment. "Close your eyes and let the music carry you, like some tailgate birthday song." And so it did. There was wonder and joy and discovery inside this music, and an outwardly humble yet supremely confident band at the helm. Just, as Levesque said, "playing songs." And discovering them, too.
Jonathan Perry

The War Against Silence - July 24, 2003

If we're going to jump-start an EP era, we may have to do a little conscription. Wheat have an album on the way in the fall, but for the summer we can pretend we don't know that, and take this preview EP in isolation. Hope and Adams, the last Wheat album, was quiet and beautiful in a way that swallowed its individual songs; stripped down to just five songs and about eighteen minutes, quiet beauty rather readily resolves into individual detail. The spikily ambivalent "I Met a Girl" ("I met a girl I'd like to know better, / But I'm already with someone...") tries to imagine what Weezer-esque novelty-pop could have sounded like if Jeff Buckley had made it. "Don't I Hold You" crosses the reverie notions of the Gin Blossoms, the Blue Nile and Pedro the Lion. The reedy, inward "Headphone Recorder" sends me out of my chair and across the room to shift my copy of the new eels album from the might-care pile to catalog-reference. The eerie, crinkling "Flat Black" broaches the idea that my dissatisfactions with Radiohead and Bright Eyes might be solved by simultaneous equations. And I don't know what to make of the "naked version" notation on the not-obviously-naked "Closer to Mercury", but if clothing doesn't obscure its swagger, it might augur a majestic oblique-pop album we could back-solve out of Ben Folds by excising Seventies nostalgia and fake irony, or out of Papas Fritas by suppressing naïveté and sun glare. But for the moment, while we can pretend it doesn't augur anything, it ends an EP that flares and flirts and fizzes, scattering impressions like public clues for a secret mystery. In the EP era, we will be tantalized more often than transformed, and maybe that means our fewer transformations will be better informed. We will smile at suggestions, and learn to lie suspended between answers, and maybe find better solutions for ourselves. We will salvage simplicity from passing chaos, and maybe our machines will save us despite themselves. We will find more space for fewer songs. We have been archivists and archeologists, lost in stacks and troughs, and maybe we will now see our histories and legacies already wrapped around us as poems. We will be harder to overwhelm, and easier to awe, and maybe silence and darkness and time only seem like such enemies because we fight them.

StarPolish Wednesday, September 10, 2003 - How I Got Signed... Three Times: Wheat

Hailing from Taunton, Massachusetts, Wheat is made up of singer/guitarist Scott Levesque, drummer Brendan Harney and guitarist Ricky Brennan. Having released two albums on one of Chicago's indie labels, Sugarfree Records, Wheat are set to launch their long-awaited major-label debut, Per Second, Per Second, Per Second, Every Second , in October on Aware Records (John Mayer, The Thorns, Alice Peacock).

One of the best quotes of all time about getting signed was overheard by Bren as he was walking into our rehearsal space. Although we cannot give the credit to any two particular guys, I think you shouldn't have to search too hard or long to put faces with it:

Dude #1: "I know why were not signed..."

Dude #2: (looking slightly puzzled...)

Dude #1: "It's because we don't suck!"

Our first show was an interesting mix of "I don't know" and "I don't care"... is it ignorance? or apathy? It was at a place in Boston called Mama Kin. Yes, the Aerosmith Mama Kin. I had thought it fitting to purchase someone's Guns n' Roses t-shirt collection at a Salvation Army thrift store..."What a find!" I figured there were, at the time, five of us and five GNR shirts, we were playing in Aerosmith's money laundry and, well, you see the connection? Anyway, our second show was playing with Mike Johnson, a jr. Dinosaur. We did our thing, and after the show a guy came up to Bren and asked if we had any records since a friend of his was a college rep for Virgin when he was in college and would now be starting a label called Sugarfree. He thought his friend would dig what we were doing. We had recorded four or five songs in my friend's living room -- which was coincidentally also my bedroom -- on my 8trk cassette recorder, and we gave him a copy. I remember that the guy, Mike, I think, gave us his card and it was a Virgin Records card. As he handed it to us he chuckled about us being a bit rough around the edges, and assured us that we were a bit of a "diamond in the rough" for Virgin. "So, what are you saying?" I thought to myself.

I met with the "sugar" in Sugarfree, David Simkins, at a Yo La Tengo show in Providence, RI, and he told us to do a record with them! We figured, "Sure," and the rest sort of fell into place. Well after quietly putting our record, recorded by Dave Auchenbach/mixed by Brian Deck (Mederios, 1997), out (with style) we were asked to release a 7" single in the UK on Easy Tiger records. The single would be limited to 1,000 copies and UK only, so we said, "Cool." The single received a "single of the week" in NME, which we later found out to be good. Since this was our first record, we only signed for one record at first. As much as Sugarfree hated it, they agreed, and so we signed. We also did our second record (Hope and Adams, 1999, Sugarfree, recorded by Dave Fridmann, assisted by Michael Ivins (Flaming Lips) who also introduced us to his manager, S. Booker, who became our manager... once again, style, cool concept, doing our own thing) that way. Why I mention this is to say don't get crazy and try to pick up the whole bull at once. Start with maybe the horns, some people say... I mean, Sugarfree got to do another record with us so our one-off thing was good for everyone, you know?

Okay, so we had two independent records out, had toured a bunch of Europe, had Gavin Bush come to a show, and were ready to make another record! This begins our second signing; we signed with the now defunct Nude Records (R.I.P.) sometime in 2000, and were excited because it was Nude's first US band on their label (again, style, cool concept, doing our own thing). This proved to be bad since the label was forced to shut down due to lack of major-label support and funding. Upside, we got paid (not truck-loads, but a tiny egg)... Downside, we were now stuck in major-label limbo, with Zomba (Britney Spears, Metallica publishing) holding the stick for us to limbo under...this was not good. It took about two years and a lot of reassuring from ourselves, management, and I think even the S.I.M.M.S. guy, and we had to wait for Lars Ulrich to take a breather from single-handedly suing the entire world, to get our record back. See, Zomba owned our contract. This is why you should never, ever give too much, too soon, for too little... remember our Sugarfree one-offs? Imagine if it was them and not Zomba that owned it...it's at least a better story, ya know?... style, cool concept, doing our own thing.

So, we thought, since we were stuck, we could either break up the band, or write some new songs. Well, we wrote -- with style, a cool concept, all the while, doing our own thing -- and wrote about 20 new songs. We (Bren, Rick and I), held up in our space in Taunton, MA, worked five days a week, 10-12 hours a day -- just the three of us -- and wrote with style, cool concepts, did our own thing, and happened to get the attention of Steve Smith at Aware Records (John Mayer, The Thorns, Alice Peacock). At this point you may ask, "What happened to style, cool concepts, and doing your own thing?" Well, StarPolished people, like the Guns n' Roses shirts of the past, (you guessed it, now vintage concert tees are swank, but in 1997?), it seemed just crazy enough to work...we thought that the Wheat* signing with Aware was chock full of style, an albeit wacky -- but cool -- concept, and a way to do our own thing.

At the root of all of this, you'll find work, hard work, more work, style, cool concepts, doing your own thing, luck and perhaps the most crucial of all: "Sucking".

-Scott Levesque

Pitchfork November 6, 2003 - Per Second Review

Per Second Per Second Per Second... Every Second
[Columbia; 2003]
Rating: 7.8
A lot can change in four years. You could argue that these last four have seen quite a bit more change than most similar spans-- the years all start with a 2 now, television networks have just stopped trying and resorted to shoveling unscripted emotional manipulation in front of their viewers, and the entire American complex of invulnerability came down in a horrible hail of debris two Septembers ago, changing our collective view of the world for the foreseeable future. It was four years ago, in 1999, that we last heard from the guys in Wheat, and mercy, what the time hasn't done to them.

Back when the 90s were drawing to a close, Wheat sounded pretty well at home plying a brand of melancholic, slightly lo-fi mope-rock. For all intents, they were an indie rock archetype for their era, filling in while Guided by Voices seemed to be aiming arenaward and Sebadoh were falling apart. But as much as they captured the era on their sophomore LP, Hope and Adams, most music has since moved on to brighter, more rhythmic pastures, and this apparently wasn't lost on Wheat. Per Second Per Second Per Second... Every Second is Wheat's third full-length and first for a major, and the difference is huge from the first note to the last.

Wheat always had a whiff of the suburban anthem in them (see: "Raised Ranch Revolution" from Hope and Adams), but they take a whole-hearted leap into huge, airwave-friendly shoes here that you'd hardly even recognize them. Producer Dave Fridmann, who also worked with the band four years ago, might as well be Dave Eringa as far as the sound of the thing is concerned-- it's punchy, and packed full of big riffs, tight harmonies and sharp, close-mic'd drumming, half a world removed from his work with Mercury Rev, The Flaming Lips and The Delgados.

Thankfully, the band is up to the challenge of turning up the spotlights and the volume, and they crank out a solid batch of insanely catchy, pristine pop songs that'll crawl inside your brain and die there, only to come back and haunt you at the oddest times. "Closer to Mercury" is bursting with guitar riffs and harmonized leads, occupying a strange place between Thin Lizzy and U2. Principle vocalist Scott Levesque breaks out in a big way on this album, verging on (rock) operatic at times-- he even tiptoes around the ghost of Jeff Buckley on "Life Still Applies"-- but always with his signature hint of grit and resignation holding it down to earth.

Wheat don't waste any time announcing how much they've changed, kicking off with the choppy rhythms of "I Met a Girl" and Levesque's chorus of "I met a girl I'd like to know better/ But I'm already with someone" bypassing everything for the jugular. The song's bridge smooths out, almost getting lost under a wave of vocal processing, but the chorus roars back for a final go-round just in time. "Breathe" nods to George Harrison with its lead guitar part over a bubbling bassline and wordless backing vocals, one of several songs that ought to keep college DJs busy for a few weeks.

Wheat have made a bold move here by stepping out entirely from behind whatever lo-fi shield remained on their last album and hurling themselves completely into no-holds-barred pop. Per Second has an immediacy that it once seemed unlikely we'd ever hear from this band, to the point where some of Wheat's old fans may not be willing to follow them down their new path. It's their loss, really. Per Second Per Second Per Second... Every Second is an expertly crafted great time.
-Joe Tangari