Don't let go

There are one-hit wonders, and then there are ton-of-hit wonders. The former is a pretty familiar term. The Buggles? One hit wonder. Everybody knows “Video Killed The Radio Star.” The latter concept we made up, but it’s pretty simple: If a one-hit wonder becomes famous for one hit song, a ton-of-hit wonder is a band that remains relatively unknown, despite several hit songs. You know the tunes, can probably sing along, but god help you if you had to name the artist. Foreigner wears the crown as king of the ton-of-hit wonder mountain, but that doesn’t mean the stalwart of both ’70s arena rock and ’80s power ballads are throwing in the towel. The band recently partnered with VH1’s Save the Music Foundation to raise money and awareness for public school music education programs. For their New Braunfels show, the group will perform their monster hit “I Want to Know What Love Is,” with the Canyon Lake High School choir, which gets $1,000 out of the deal. Proceeds from Foreigner’s latest album, the appropriately-titled Can’t Slow Down, go to the Save the Music Foundation. We caught up with Foreigner bassist Jeff Pilson, holed up in a hotel in Columbus, to discuss the band’s legacy, future, and love of early ’00s British alternative rock.

You’ve been with Foreigner since 2004, right?

That’s right.

How far can a band go, as far as taking on new membership over the course of the years, before it’s not the same band anymore?

I think we can go indefinitely. The secret is that Mick’s had a very clear, very consistent vision for Foreigner. We really understand where he’s going with it, and he picks people who really are part of that; he doesn’t pick people who are going to be contrary to the vision. We very much collectively are moving forward in a way that feels very true to the Foreigner sound and concept.

I’ve heard it said that for Foreigner, the songs themselves are recognized more than the band itself.

That’s right. I totally agree with you.

What do you think drives that?

Number one, they’re great songs. They’re part of this social consciousness of America and the world. Foreigner, because it came out in the ’70s, was never really into the whole image thing. I think it’s actually worked to our advantage, because I think it allows a band with only one original member, even though he is the founding and visionary member, to go on, because the songs themselves are more the image and legacy of the band than the personalities.

Do you think the band could get away with not playing any of the classic material at a concert?

Well, we have to get away with not playing some of it, because we have 16 top 30 hits, and we can’t always play 16 songs. Of course, we’ve gotta do “Urgent,” of course, we’ve gotta do “Feels Like The First Time.” That’s expected of us.

What new stuff out there is inspiring you guys and bringing new influences into the sound?

I know we all love Coldplay. I would love to play for Coldplay’s audience. I think if Coldplay’s audience saw us, they’d think, “Wow, there is something current about this band.” There is something relevant about this band, and yet there’s this legacy of great songs. •

7pm Thu, Sep 2
Whitewater Amphitheater
11860 FM 306, New Braunfels

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