Thanks to their chart-topping hit—the seductive lookin’-for-love-at-last-call anthem “Closing Time”—Minneapolis trio Semisonic has become such a pop sensation that lead singer-songwriter Dan Wilson is getting the heartthrob treatment: The handsome 32-year-old recently modeled designer shirts on MTV’s House of Style and says he’s getting used to teenage girls scoping him out in airports.
“I don’t know about this heartthrob thing,” admits Wilson, a soft-spoken former Harvard art student who’s married with a 15-month-old daughter. “But I wanted our new album [Feeling Strangely Fine/MCA] to have some songs that are straightforwardly about romance, love, and sex. There are already enough bands busy parading their damaged and tattered psyches.”
Speaking of love songs, these guys are hardly industry virgins. Semisonic’s members have been touring and recording for more than a decade. Wilson and bassist John Munson (both part of cult favorite Trip Shakespeare until ’93) recruited drummer Jacob Slichter, and in 1996, the trio’s major-label debut, Great Divide, was released to critical praise. But the album sold just 60,000 copies. The omnipresence of “Closing Time” has helped Feeling top the 340,000 mark. “To show they’re not hopeless, fawning followers when they talk to me, some fans feel they have to insult the single by calling it a sellout,” says a bemused Wilson. “They assume I’m sick of ‘Closing Time’ just because it’s a hit.” (He’s not.)
Next up: the release of a second single—the decidedly more rockish but equally hooky “Singing in My Sleep”—and non-stop touring, including arena dates with matchbox 20 and fellow Twin Cities popsters Soul Asylum. Says Wilson of life on the road: “It’s hard for me to write songs when we’re traveling. I’m not like Matthew Sweet—one of those guys who’s written a song every three days for years and half of them are amazingly good. Writing turns me into a crazy, weird person, and I’m glad to be taking a break from that.”