It’s their best-known song by far, but the funny thing about “I’ll Be There for You (Theme from Friends)” by The Rembrandts is that it isn’t the highest-charting Billboard Hot 100 song recorded by Danny Wilde and Phil Solem.
“Just the Way It Is, Baby,” the duo’s first entry on the pop-singles chart, reached No. 14 in 1991, while “I’ll Be There for You” peaked at No. 17 four years later. But thanks to their TV theme song, The Rembrandts have had the great fortune of steady exposure over the past 25 years via Friends’ 10-season prime-time run on NBC and steady cable reruns ever since.
During most of that quarter century, though, there haven’t been many Rembrandts albums. On Aug. 23, they’ll end an 18-year gap between new studio efforts with Via Satellite (Blue Elan Records). Prior to playing South by Southwest, Wilde checked in to talk about familiar and fresh music he’s made with Solem.
Medleyville.us: As a Billboard Hot 100 devotee, I take pride knowing when a band’s signature song is not its highest entry on that chart. Have you on occasion pointed out to fans or the media that “Just the Way It Is, Baby” actually made it a few slots higher than “I’ll Be There for You”? And if so, under what circumstances — perhaps when someone thinks The Rembrandts are a one-hit wonder?
Danny Wilde: “I actually did not know that! But yeah, ‘Baby’ should’ve definitely taken us off that list. I don’t feel the need to defend it one way or another.”
According to the “I’ll Be There for You” sheet music, four others — among them Friends co-creators David Krane and Marta Kaufman — are credited along with you and Phil as writers of the song. Who was responsible for the bridge that’s part of the single but not the TV version? My money has always been on you and Phil coming up with the music for that, but I’m not so sure about the lyrics.
Wilde: “Phil and I did the heavy lifting for the long version musically, but it was ultimately tweaked by the other writers.”
It’s been 18 years since the last Rembrandts album. How much of that long break between new studio efforts was intentional, and how much was circumstantial?
Wilde: “That’s the weird part: We really never took a break for too long. Just when we think Via Satellite is ready to go, one of us writes another song that has to be on the album. As a result, we have a bunch of extra tracks that will hopefully be on record one day.”
When and how did you and Phil begin the process to write and record Via Satellite?
Wilde: “Phil moved back to L.A. around 2005, so we just started recording again. ‘Come to California’ was the first track we cut in our drummer’s garage. We love garages!”
You are the self-described “romantic in the band” who writes “more relationship stuff.” Which songs on Via Satellite do you think best reflect that aspect of your songwriting?
Wilde: “That’s a big part of my comfort zone — songs like ‘Now’ and ‘Count on You.’ ”
Finish this sentence: At this year’s SXSW, I will …
Wilde: “ … have the time of my life and hopefully not break a string!”
— Introduction and interview by Chris M. Junior
The Rembrandts at South by Southwest 2019 (schedule subject to change):
9 a.m. hour March 14: Good Day Austin, Fox TV
10 p.m. March 15: Lamberts, 401 W. 2ndSt. (official SXSW showcase)