To outsiders, it must seem silly, Chris Collingwood admits of his recently being diagnosed with an ailment known as seasonal affective disorder. A condition made even worse by where he lives, a rural area in western Massachusetts that’s “kind of off the map, real Unabomber territory that’s totally desolate and lonely,” he sighs.
Toss in a persistent sleep affliction that’s dogged him since childhood, and the Fountains of Wayne frontman — who sounds chipper and charming on the power-pop combo’s latest album, “Traffic and Weather” — says he’s “got ’em all — all the made-up diseases.”
Collingwood, who worked as a psychiatric counselor before forming FOW in ’95 with co-guitarist/co-writer Adam Schlesinger, isn’t kidding around. He always took his mental health for granted, he recalls, right until he was blindsided a few months ago by recurring acid-trippy visions of “my ex-girlfriend, pulling puppies out of her head, puppies that weren’t actually there.”
The first episode struck during a concert stop in Tokyo; Fountains (which hits S.F. today) cut its tour short so its singer could fly home for hospitalization.
“One of which my wife was there for,” he adds. “And she pointed out something that really made me look like a lunatic in front of a lot of doctors by saying that I collect clocks. And I never thought of myself as someone with a demented-sounding hobby like that, but then I thought about all the clocks in my house and how weird that is.”
The physicians apparently did. Their patient was prescribed a menu of antipsychotic medications. Now, he says, “whatever the hell it was seems to be in remission.”
Collingwood was forced to let his old college chum Schlesinger (already busy with his spinoff group Ivy and work on the “Music and Lyrics” soundtrack) take the “Traffic” reins.
He contributed only three tracks — “The Hotel Majestic,” “Seatbacks and Traytables” and “Fire in the Canyon.” He wishes he’d composed something as kooky as his teammate’s “’92 Subaru.”
“But I just seemed to wallow in my own self-imposed depression and seasonal affective disorder, which wasn’t easy, because I don’t consider myself a singer or a guitar player. All I ever wanted to be was a good songwriter.”