Arts | Entertainment

Aimee Mann And Ted Leo: A Collaboration, Inspired By The Fonz

NPR | May 8, 2014 6:45 a.m. | Updated: May 8, 2014 8:06 a.m.

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Acclaimed singer-songwriter Aimee Mann and indie rocker Ted Leo inhabit different ends of the rock music spectrum, but life on the road has a way of bringing musicians together. In 2012, while touring in support of her most recent solo record, Charmer, Mann invited Leo to be the opening act. She initially thought her music was a bit too soft and melodic for the progressive punk guitarist of The Pharmacists, but Leo jumped at the chance. After a successful show at the Pabst Theater in Milwaukee and a day spent exploring the city, they were inspired to write a song, thanks in part to The Bronze Fonz, a statue of Arthur Fonzarelli from Happy Days, which was set in Milwaukee. Months later, after constant contact via Twitter, the duo joined forces to record an album as a new band called The Both.

They returned to the Pabst Theater to perform “Milwaukee,” the lead single from their self-titled debut, and chat with Ask Me Another host Ophira Eisenberg about how their strengths have pushed each other’s songwriting to a new level.

“Sometimes, I’ll write a song that I think that ‘This a real rockin’ song,’” said Mann. “Then my voice gets on it, and once again, it’s a lilting folk song. So I really like that Ted brings a lot of energy…and verve…vim…he brings an enormous amount of zeal!”

Given the amount of time they’ve spent touring together, we wanted to know just how much Mann and Leo know about each other’s habits and foibles. So in an Ask Me Another Challenge called “The Newly-Formed-Band-Game,” we challenge the songwriting partners guess how the other person answered a few random questions. Find out if Leo can name the one thing Mann would save in a fire, and the answer may surprise you.

Interview Highlights

On finding the similarities in their playing styles

Ted: I think that what people think are the differences of our backgrounds are a little overstated, you know? I mean, Aimee does play rock songs, and I do make use of melody every now and then.

On the duo first encounter with “The Bronze Fonz”

Ted: We had a fun day in town being startled by the oddness of the Arthur Fonzarelli statue.

Aimee: I’m not gonna lie, it’s not the greatest likeness. I’m sure you guys are proud of it, as you should be.

On who spends more time checking their smartphone

Aimee: Ted is a smartphone wizard. I’ve never seen anybody text as fast or tweet as fast, or have such a ready hand with the emojis.

Ted: It’s perhaps the speed differential that made me answer that you actually spend more time on your smartphone. [Copyright 2014 NPR]

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