Wheatus Sings to Make a Difference

Despite a busy year ahead, Wheatus squeezed in time to rock out for a good cause. The Northport band, perhaps best known for 2000’s “Teenage Dirtbag,” will play an acoustic set on June 29 to benefit THRIVE, a recovery center that opened in Hauppauge in March 2017.

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“We all happen to be in the same place at the same time and [this] looked like a really worthy and beautiful effort to put forth,” said singer Brendan B. Brown.

The intimate performance will take place at the facility with proceeds benefiting the center’s mission. THRIVE (Transformation, Healing, Recovery, Inspiration, Validation and Empowerment) is a peer-run, volunteer-based center dedicated to helping those battling substance abuse through methods including peer-based support, educational programs and substance-free recreational activities.

Center director Lisa Ganz pointed out the magnitude of Long Island’s opioid epidemic—at least 600 people died from overdoses in Nassau and Suffolk counties in 2017, marking the highest numbers to date. But Ganz added that more awareness in recent years is helping to rid the stigma that addiction is “a moral failing.” “We’re talking about somebody who is truly not in their right state of mind. This is a medical, mental health issue,” she said.

And there’s been a steady increase, she said, of people coming to THRIVE, often from word of mouth. “There’s nothing more powerful than someone saying, ‘I’m a person in recovery and I found this center really helpful and I think it could be helpful for you as well,'” she said.

Following the benefit show, Wheatus will continue on the road with shows in Pennsylvania, as well as plans for a mini-Canadian trek and a lengthy British tour. The musicians are also in the midst of going through old material for a special re-recording of their debut album. An as-yet untitled seventh studio album is also looming.

“Aesthetically we’re working quite a bit on a metal sound,” Brown said of the new album. “I’m a big fan of the (1988) Metallica record …And Justice for All. I always thought it would be interesting if somebody tried to approach those sounds, at least the initial sounds, with an eye towards having the bass in the mix as well. Of course it’s a very difficult puzzle to put together.”

The group is also busy releasing material on Patreon that satisfies die-hard fans wanting a totally different spin on some of their favorite Wheatus songs. In addition to a William Shatner-esque take on “Satchel Of Pain,” the group recorded “Teenage Dirtbag” in Irish Gaelic, which was challenging.

“It was a phonetic exercise for me,” Brown said. “I do not speak the language and my grandmother did speak Irish Gaelic so I was kind of trying to get that spirit from her. And the guys from (Irish broadcaster) RTE helped me out a bit.”

But Brown will always get a thrill from hearing the band’s original version of the hit whether on the radio or when he’s in a store, shopping mall or the airport.

“I always go back to being 10 years old…and thinking on those rare occasions when AC/DC was on MTV in the middle of the night [and] saying, ‘Man if any version of that can befall me in life I can die happy,'” he said. “Anytime it happens where [“Teenage Dirtbag”] comes on I’m like, ‘Okay we did it, we got there somehow, some version of that has come to us.’”

jason macneil

jason macneil

Jason MacNeil is a Toronto-based freelance writer for various outlets over his career including the Toronto Sun, Billboard.com, MTV.com, Huffington Post and All Music Guide among others. Originally from Atlantic Canada (Cape Breton to be exact), he enjoys trying to find the next great band first and nagging his friends about them. Follow him on Twitter @kingjmusicman