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No Management, No Record Label – Wheatus Are Their Own Bosses

Published on: 15 Oct, 2023
Updated on: 15 Oct, 2023

Wheatus Photo by Max Skaff

By Mark Kitchen

New York pop rockers Wheatus return to the stage on Saturday, October 21, at the Boileroom ahead of the anniversary re-release of their eponymous debut album on December 1.

While many people know them for their classic hit Teenage Dirtbag back in 2000, and the album that accompanied it, we are likely to hear some newer material too, with a brand new album currently in the works.

We put nine questions to bass player Matthew Milligan to find out what got him into music, some stories of what it’s like to play in Wheatus, and where the band is heading next.

Brendan B Brown (centre) is the only band member to have been in its original line up in 1995 Photo by Max Skaff

What got you into music?

I grew up around music. My mom was always singing around the house and there was always an acoustic guitar nearby.  Then when I was a teenager I got into heavy metal and that was everything to me.

What was the first gig you ever went to?

The first real one I went to was Metallica. The…And Justice For All tour.  It was life changing!

What is your creative process like when it comes to making music?

I’m really interested in the technical side of production and I love tying that into the creative process. There are so many ways to use tech in creative ways.

I use effects, EQs, pedals etc to shape all aspects of guitar, bass, keys, and even drum sounds! There are infinite possibilities and that’s really exciting to me. The sound design is as much part of the song as the arrangement.

I’ve been the primary songwriter since forming the band back in 1995 but there’s always been an open invitation for other band members to contribute songs, in which case they are in charge of the production.

On our latest record, the ‘Just A Dirtbag Christmas EP’, there are songs written by our two backing vocalists Joey and Gabrielle, and those both had very different processes to mine. So really we don’t have one main creative process, it varies from song to song.

What is your favourite song to perform?

That’s a tough one! Right now it’s probably “Temporary Song”. It’s a rocker, definitely inspired by my teenage AC/DC fandom days. But it’s heavy and melodic and super fun to play live. But we do all-request sets, and that keeps the performances fresh and interesting.

We never get bored of playing Teenage Dirtbag, though. Even after all these years it remains challenging to play it just right, and seeing the crowd response will never not be joyful.

Which bands influenced you the most?

In the early days I was listening to a lot of AC/DC, Metallica, Walt Mink, Willie Nelson, Quicksand. These days I listen to loads of stuff. Right now I’m really inspired by The 1975, boygenius, and Juliana Hatfield.

Matthew Milligan (bass), KC Marotta (drums), Joey Slater (backing vocals), Brendan B Brown (lead vocals, guitar), Brandon Ticer (keyboards), Gabrielle Sterbenz (backing vocals) Photo by Max Skaff

What are the best and worst parts of being on tour?

The worst part is getting sick. It’s inevitable, and it sucks. The best part is, of course, playing shows. I know that seems like an obvious answer but that’s really what it’s all about.

How has your music evolved since you first started playing together?

Album 1 was simple and hooky. I still love that album but my taste as a songwriter and musician and producer has changed over the past 20 years. I love to explore interesting harmonies and dark sounds. Now that we’re fully independent I don’t have to worry about pleasing executives with my song-writing, I can make any music I want, and I’m very fortunate in that way.

What is the funniest thing that has happened to you as a band?

Oh wow – that might be impossible to answer.  It’s rare that a whole day goes by where we don’t all laugh our asses off at some point.  A couple stories come to mind that I can’t imagine would translate if I typed them out here. And there are a couple more that we couldn’t share with anyone we hadn’t sworn to secrecy.  Let’s just say we laugh a LOT out here on the road.

What are your future goals for yourself and the band?

To keep doing what we’re doing… the future is now! We’re a self-sustaining independent band and that’s awesome. We have no management, no label. We make all our own decisions. We make our own music, and we get to travel the world playing it for people. I can’t imagine anything better.

Book tickets here.


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Responses to No Management, No Record Label – Wheatus Are Their Own Bosses

  1. D Watkins Reply

    October 17, 2023 at 9:49 am

    I was very excited to read this article about one of the bands who defined my teenage years. Their anthem ” Teenage Dirtbag” is one of the few songs that my own teenager agrees is good music from my time !! However I was sadly disappointed to find that the gig has been (understandably) sold out at The Boiler room this weekend. I have joined the waiting list for returns, so fingers crossed. 🤞

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