Revisiting my extensive music collection, one artist at a time
Following the recent death of Fountains Of Wayne songwriter Adam Schlesinger from COVID-19, I featured their eponymous debut album in this series and mentioned his contribution of the theme song to the Tom Hanks-directed movie That Thing You Do. As great as that song is, it’s the vocals that make it jump off the screen and stick in your head. Those vocals were provided by an equally talented songwriter/multi-instrumentalist named Mike Viola, whose 2-man band Candy Butchers (along with his childhood friend Todd Foulsham on drums & harmonies) started making a splash among my power-pop loving friends in New York during the mid-’90s. I previously discussed their unreleased 1996 debut album in the second Great Out Of The Gate post, so please see below to read more about it.
For more information on this series, please read the opening paragraph of the first post, which featured the debut album from Led Zeppelin.
From GREAT OUT OF THE GATE Part 2:
Here’s a band that should have been huge. Songwriter / singer / guitarist / keyboardist Mike Viola had just provided vocals & contributed to the writing of “That Thing You Do” from the Tom Hanks film of the same name, and that song’s early-Beatles homage carries over into many of his own songs. This is no mere pastiche, however, as he blends influences like Elvis Costello, Squeeze, The Beach Boys and pretty much any melodic pop/rock artist of the preceding 25 years, on songs like “Love’s Long Sleep,” “I Will Not Be Afraid,” “What I Won’t Give” and “Love Like Her.” I also hear more than a hint of Dan Fogelberg on the pretty ballad “I’m Not Over You,” and “Truckstop Sweetheart” could be a #1 hit for a contemporary country artist. Candy Butchers were essentially a duo consisting of Viola and his childhood friend Todd Foulsham on drums and vocal harmonies. They had released an EP, Live At La Bonbonniere, which included two songs from their upcoming debut album (“Bells On A Leper” and “Cupid Complained To Venus”) along with three other melodic gems. Sadly, their record label, Blue Thumb Records, closed its doors before the album could be released and it sat on a shelf for more than a decade before Viola released it on vinyl a few years ago. Several friends & I had connections with touring members of the band and employees at Blue Thumb in ‘96, and suddenly there was this underground scene where cassette copies were being swapped, and every sold-out Candy Butchers show in New York City had the crowd singing along to all of their unreleased songs. Viola eventually signed with Sony Music for a couple of Foulsham-free Candy Butchers albums, released several solo LPs as well as collaborations with other artists (including Ryan Adams), and contributed music to several movie soundtracks. There are numerous great albums in his catalog, but nothing as perfect from start to finish as the Candy Butchers’ debut.
Only the two songs which also appeared on the EP are available on YouTube so I’ve included them here, along with a mock K-Tel TV advertisement for the vinyl reissue (which now sadly appears to be out-of-print) and a special bonus video: Mike Viola performing “Truckstop Sweetheart” live with Adam & Chris from Fountains Of Wayne.
I know which of my friends have been die-hard Candy Butchers and Mike Viola fans for 2-1/2 decades, but I’m eager to find out who else was listening to & seeing them back in the ’90s. If they are new to you, which is likely the case, and you’re a fan of ridiculously melodic music, hopefully I’ve just introduced you to your new favorite band. Happy listening