The unique conditions that gifted the world Ivy sound more like an incredible movie script than the origin story of an indie band. Dominique Durand had no intention of being a musician, let alone fronting a band when she left Paris for New York in 1989, but events transpired that would change her life forever. There, she met a young Andy Chase, and the two bonded over a shared love of 80’s UK bands like The Smiths and Orange Juice. With her encouragement, Chase began to write his first songs on guitar, eventually placing an ad in The Village Voice to enlist collaborators.
The ad attracted Adam Schlesinger and Chris Collingwood, who arrived at the apartment with their own plans, hoping to enlist Chase for their new project, the proto-Fountains of Wayne group Pinwheel. Though the meeting didn’t yield either group the players they were seeking, Chase and Durand were impressed with Schlesinger’s inspired energy, and kept up a correspondence.
Just as the two were settling into their new life in New York, Durand was stopped at Logan Airport, interrogated, and then deported back to Paris. The turn of events is part of the long obscured, deeply romantic Ivy origin story, which was kept hidden from the public for fear it would color the perception of the music. For Chase, there was no option but to leave for France with the girl he loved, and figure things out there. The two decided that it was only inevitable that they would get married, so why not now.
Upon returning to the States, Fiancé Visa in hand, Chase suggested they finish the songs he’d been working on, and perform them at the wedding with Durand singing for the first time. Soon after, with the encouragement of a bottle of wine, the two tracked the brief collection in their apartment. Schlesinger was enlisted to perform bass, and quickly became enamored with the songs and Durand’s voice. At his suggestion, they began to share the demo with record labels, and in short order were signed to Seed Records (Atlantic) without ever having performed live. Waking one morning to find he’d scribbled a list of potential names on a notepad the night before, Schlesinger suggested they adopt Ivy, and the band was born.
The release of those bedroom demos garnered such an overwhelming response, it was only logical the band had to be seen live, with journalists flying out from the UK to see this new group whose songs were both intimately catchy, and cooly removed. With minutes to go before their first ever, sold out show, Durand was nowhere to be found. Upon rushing out into the alley behind the club, Chase found her, hands in the air hailing a cab. After some coaxing, she returned to the stage, but to the band’s horror, performed the entire set facing away from the audience, eyes cast to the ground. When the reviews came out, the band were shocked – the show was a unanimous success. Coming full circle, The Village Voice raved, “Nico’s ghost can rest now that Dominique Durand is on the scene”, and NME proclaimed it “the most generous sampling of pure pop you’ll hear for years to come.” Recalling that night, Chase laughs, “It was like a scene out of a movie”.
In the coming years, the band would grow into their newfound role as the purveyors of sophisticated, icy pop, releasing a catalog of timeless and critically acclaimed records. There’s the jangly, breezy collection on Realistic (1995), and the breakthrough, four-album run of Apartment Life (1997), Long Distance (2000), Guestroom (2002), and In The Clear (2005). After a brief hiatus, the trio returned with All Hours (2011), a record Durand remembers wryly was “not effortless”. Like all great bands, there’s a window where their star shines so bright it’s impossible to ignore. Ivy had shone bright for over 16 years, and as the group’s lives began to move in different directions, they quietly left the band behind.
The tragic passing of Schlesinger in 2020 unearthed a trove of memories for the remaining members. Breaking their silence for the first time in a decade, Chase and Durand have culled together a collection of home videos, remembering their friend and bandmate, and the once in a lifetime moment that they shared together. “We wanted to show a more intimate, human side to Adam – the friend, the father, the bandmate, the whirlwind force that he was”, they explain, “Hopefully this will help add more weight and color to the extraordinary legacy that Adam left behind.”