Catching Up With Craig Wedren

Music Features Craig Wedren
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Former Shudder to Think frontman and Baby ringleader Craig Wedren never left the music industry. Post Shudder to Think’s breakup in 1998, Wedren launched a solo career, followed by his creation of the pop-mash group Baby in 2004. Most recently, Baby track “Get Your Body” made an appearance in the 2012 comedy Wanderlust.

Wanderlust isn’t the only place Wedren has popped up. Although tours and band gigs became a part of his past, he continued to hone his musical talents through TV and movie scores. Yet it was the revival of “Get Your Body” that ignited new ambition for his pop project. Along with a re-mastering of the band’s original songs, Wedren will re-release their self-titled album with bonus content, just in time for the Wanderlust DVD release.

We caught up with Wedren to talk about his work with the film and beyond, as well as how it felt to revive a long lost love.

Paste: What kind of work went into the rerelease [of Baby], and how is it different from the original release?

Craig Wedren: Well, basically it’s the original album re-mastered, plus an entire other album’s worth of unreleased but pretty much finished material. Stuff that was either written or recorded for a second record, which never happened, or stuff that I felt at the time didn’t quite fit in with the vibe of the first record, but that 10 years down the line, it all feels very much part of the piece. The original was 11 or 12 songs, and it’s about 21 songs long. In addition to that, on my website—I don’t think it’s up yet, but in the next couple days there’s gonna be about an hour and a half, two hours worth of unreleased demos and remixes and cover songs and things that incorporated samples that I just never bothered to clear. It’s stuff that I can’t sell, but that I think is really awesome. It’s kind of clearing out the Baby computer. All of this music—really, the original release, which maybe was like a traditional 40-minute album, was all that ever saw the light of day. And there’s hours of music that I thought was worthwhile and had just been sitting there on various hard drives and in the corner of my mind for the last 10 years that I really wanted to get out there. So, when this movie that I scored a few months ago called Wanderlust used a Baby song called “Get Your Body,” it seemed like—I don’t know, it just kind of brought it to the fore of my attention, and I figured, “Oh, let’s put all of this out sometime around the release of the Wanderlust DVD.” And it feels like a good enough reason to put some time and energy into dusting everything thing off, re-mastering and reorganizing. That’s the long answer.

Paste: You mentioned that you scored [Wanderlust]. Do you have a hand in all the music? How does that work?

Craig Wedren: Basically when I score a movie, I write the instrumental background score of the movie, and then there’s somebody called a music supervisor who licenses the songs. So, for instance, if you hear a Rolling Stones song in a movie, that’s usually coming from a music supervisor, but then when you hear background music—the orchestral stuff that’s behind a love scene—that’s the composer’s job, and I’m usually the composer. But, because of my background in bands and songwriting, I often wind up writing or supplying a few songs to movie projects that I’m on, and in the case of Wanderlust, that used “Get Your Body,” a Baby song, it was one of my best, oldest friends, David Wain who directed it, and Ken Marino who co-wrote it with David. We grew up together, they were with me through Shudder to Think, Baby and my film scoring stuff, so when I work with the, it’s just short of a given that I’m going to also be helping out with the songs. But the Baby song actually came from them. They just sort of threw it up against a picture one day because they were both big Baby fans, as well as being big babies. And it just worked. It became sort of a theme for the movie.

Paste: What is about that song that you really think connects with the movie?

Craig Wedren: In the beginning of the movie, Paul Rudd and Jennifer Aniston are living in a ten-by-ten foot loft in New York City. And then they’re forced, for economic reasons, to leave Manhattan, and they move down south to a hippie commune. So we needed very distinct musical identities for the different locations. There’s New York. There’s the hippie commune, which is pretty clear—it’s like acoustic guitars and fiddles, and then there’s some stuff that takes place in Atlanta, which we thought would be a little more crunk, or tech—basically “dirty south” hip-hop or rock. And it was like, “But what’s New York?” I think that they thought of Baby because we were very much just kind of a conglomerate of New York sounds, past and present. We were very modern, but we were sort of hearkening back to some classic New Yorky, new wavey decadent stuff. But there was something still modern and futuristic about it, and it’s just super catchy. So, I’m sure that’s what inspired them to put “Get Your Body” into the movie. I honestly probably wouldn’t have thought about it because when you’re so close to some of your own music, it’s not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind, much to my manager’s dismay. But lucky for me, David and Ken thought of it and it just kind of embodied New York. So it worked really well with Paul and Jennifer’s characters in that kind of hip but claustrophobic city life.

Paste: So how does it feel to pull a song like that from your past and see it given a second life in something like a movie soundtrack?

Craig Wedren: Oh, it was great. I love it. In fact, weirdly, in the past year, I’ve noticed people starting to call me about Baby stuff, and to use Baby stuff in movies. Or, people working on projects will call and be like, “Do you have anything that’s kinda like New Yorky, poppy, but maybe a little sleazy?” It’s perfect. And so it seems to be having this—and you know, things go in a 10 or 20 year cycle—and it seems to be revolving kind of back around. It makes me really happy, because honestly at the time, I was thrilled with the music and thrilled with the band, and very frustrated at the kind of limited audience. People were definitely coming out to shows, and we had a cult following in New York, but it just never got off the island. And so, to have it have the kind of life that I hoped it would have then, or at least part of that kind of life, which is to say movies and TV shows. It’s great. I’ll take it. I’ll take it late. I’ll take it anytime.

Paste: It’s interesting because the album was released back in 2004 during the NYC disco craze, but listening to it today, I’d say it shares a lot of similar elements with well-known pop music. It doesn’t feel dated; it fits right in. Would you consider yourself ahead of the curve, or do you think that sort of music is making a comeback?

Craig Wedren: I think what was happening at the time is the stuff that was most exciting to me culturally was a combination of burgeoning indie rock and New York disco and the underground disco rock craze, mixed with commercial hip hop production. And it’s a kind of “boy band, bubble gum” thing that was happening. Like early Britney Spears. To me, what felt like the next thing was all about fusing into one big mush. Hip hop would start becoming more wavey, and bubble gum pop would start getting darker and more experimental production wise. Essentially, the boundaries and categories between things would melt. I guess in that sense, it was ahead of its time. But it really was just what felt natural or obvious at the time. People were still sort of stuck in their little cubicles, I think, because the Internet hadn’t obliterated all genres yet. So I guess it was ahead of the curve. But in a way, so many of the influences are sort of ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s melodically and I think that stuff is still getting constantly rehashed in popular music.

Paste: So how do you think your audience is going to connect with the album after all this time?

Craig Wedren: I think people will love it. Like you said, it weirdly doesn’t feel dated. It feels like its own thing. It goes very well with Katy Perry or Ke$ha, or any number of more indie bands nowadays, and I think still stands apart as kind of—it fits in with all that, but awkwardly, and it was sort of awkward at the time. I think anybody who liked it then, will love it now, and I think the bonus material will be really fun for people, especially coming into summer. It’s very kind of, nostalgic, endless summer longing, lusty vibe melodically and lyrically and a lot of the bonus material. I think fans will be psyched. I know I was very presently surprised when I listened to all of it. I was trying to figure out what I wanted to be on it, what songs I wanted to be in the different collections. I really hadn’t listened to it in ages, particularly as one piece. I was taking these long walks—I live in Los Angeles now—so I was walking through the hills listening for hours at a time, and remembering that the entire germ of Baby, the birth of Baby started in Los Angeles a year after Shudder to Think had broken up. I was staying at a friend house in the hills, and I was thinking about all this music that you and I were just talking about, the future of pop music and everything like that, and so to have it bookended by walking around on the hills on the eve of this re-release listening to all this music felt, A, very satisfying and full circle like completing a circuit, but also, I was thrilled that all of my intentions going in to very detailed production and ideas about song structure and sonic palate and essentially vibe of the band—everything I had hoped it would be at the time still works. It does still feel timeless, but classic. It does still feel futuristic, but also very present. It does still evoke those sort of dreamy, blissed out summer, meth teenage memories, but it is kind of adult at the same time. None of this feels hokier to me than it did at the time. It’s all a little bit overwrought. It’s very theatrical in its expression. But that’s no surprise. That’s part of the intention. I was really happy to hear that everything still stood up.

Paste: When you originally created Baby, you said that you wanted to create “an actual relevant pop group to destroy all the shit and to be The Shit. Looking back on that now, do you feel like you succeeded?

Craig Wedren: No, we neither destroyed the shit, or became The Shit. But we made awesome shit, and we kinda fuckin’ destroyed. We were really good. But I wanted us to be much bigger than we were. But I also didn’t want to go on tour, because I’d spent the last 12 years in Shudder to Think being on tour, watching my friendships disintegrate. I didn’t want to get caught up in the band promotion cycle again, which I think limited our commercial potential. Not to say we would have been huge, but in my mind, I saw stadiums. In reality we were playing for a couple hundred people, only in downtown New York. So we never quite fulfilled that dream, but it makes good copy.

Paste: With the album make a reappearance in the music world, are there any plans for the band? Could we ever expect new tracks?

Craig Wedren: Yeah, in fact I would really love to make new tracks, although so much of what I do nowadays, I find strains of Baby. I’ll do a song for a movie or a TV show—in fact, I just scored the TV show Don’t Trust the B in Apartment 23, and there were tracks that we were doing that were so Babyish. In that way, like what you were saying, a lot of those ideas still feel very contemporary and pop. So if I’m making a song for a club scene in a TV show, it just feels like Baby. Something we did for the TV show Hung when I was scoring that, felt very Baby again. It took place in a bar or a club or something like that. So I find it comes up in very strange script places. In terms of actually making a new record under the moniker “Baby,” I think I would probably only do it if for some reason there was this commercial demand for it. If people wanted Baby TM, I would love to do it. But, I find I’m able to express all of those ideas creatively that went into baby on a pretty much daily basis doing other stuff that frankly more people hear and that makes more money and is more fun than it is than trying to put together a band and organize everybody’s schedules and put together a record, take it on tour. So really, there has to be a demand for it.

Paste: So what’s next?

Craig Wedren: I’m working on a movie right now called Thanks for Sharing, which stars Mark Ruffalo and Gwyneth Paltrow and Pink, interestingly—who’s amazing by the way. I’m going to do some songs for that, as well as composing the actual background score music. And after that, I’m doing a Fleetwood Mac cover song with Annie Clark from St. Vincent. for this Fleetwood Mac compilation which I guess is coming out this summer. Movies and TV shows are always coming up. The B in Apartment 23 just got renewed, so that’s gonna happen again. Things are constantly flowing upward, which is great. There’s always music to be made of all different stripes, and that’s what I was hoping for, probably during the time of Baby and certainly during the Shudder to Think era was that at some point I would be able to make all of this music all the time. And it seems to be happening, so it’s good.

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