“The word ‘forward’ is really the key. It’s just about looking forward,” remarks Tony Scalzo of Fastball. Although it may be nearly two decades since Fastball rocketed to success with their smash single “The Way” off their 1998 album, All the Pain Money Can Buy, band members Tony Scalzo (vocals, bass, guitar, keyboards), Miles Zuniga (vocals, guitar), and Joey Shuffield (drums, percussion) continue to demonstrate their unwavering passion for creating and expanding their music. They have recently embarked on a North American tour with Everclear and Vertical Horizon, and will be supporting their new album Step Into Light. We recently caught up with frontman, Tony Scalzo, to ask him about the process of song writing, making their new record, what lies ahead, and much more.
“Most of the songs were already written by the time we decided to make a record.” Tony went on to explain about a unique songwriting challenge he accepted in the process. “There is a particular song on there that I think is interesting. The way it came about was someone challenged me to come up with a song that didn’t rhyme. None of the lines rhyme and you don’t even notice it, and I love that.” Some may find such a change in style unnerving, although his result was quite wonderful. “I didn’t even realize that it was actually a really freeing experience because I didn’t have to come up with a rhyme or a complicated rhyme scheme, as it’s called sometimes, where you are trying to be a bit of an architect, trying to make something fit structurally on a lyrical level. I had the freedom from that particular constraint on this song…the song is called “Just Another Dream.” Sure, it works rhythmically and its got a catchy chorus, but none of it rhymes. I was really happy that I got that challenge to be able to do something like that, and I’m going to try to do it again.”
The actual making of the new record, Step Into Light, was Fastball’s quickest recording experience. “It was a very smooth process. All the tracks that are on the records were recorded within the period of two weeks that we were in The Bubble studios in Austin, Texas. We were able to do it very quickly because most of the songs were already written, arranged, and fleshed out and had been performed by us a little bit, at least in the rehearsal context. So, once we got into the studio to record them, basically we got just the three of us, Joey, Miles and myself, and I was either playing bass or piano, sometimes Miles would play bass, and we would just lay down this basic track. Then, the studio, The Bubble, is such an awesome situation because there are two engineers and two recording rooms, so while one guy is downstairs overdubbing electric guitars, I can be upstairs singing and recording lead vocals, and then switch around, so a lot of tracks got laid down simultaneously. We were able to consolidate our time. It actually worked out really well.”
The record itself was made at the band’s own expense, with promotion support through a Pledge Music fund drive for fans, and production aid from friends. Tony acknowledged some changes since the days of working with record companies back in the late 90’s and figuring out ways to produce a record for a fraction of the cost, although he shared about positive trends as well. “I have something to say about the current music situation, as far as the industry goes, I think that things are on an upward path for musicians and writers, performers and recording artists, it’s pretty awesome. Vinyl is making a huge resurgence, people want it, it’s cool. You can find your customers so much easier now because of an internet that really didn’t exist in the form it does today.”
Tony’s positive vibe shined through with not only his thoughts about the current music situation, but also in his own personal perspective. “The way the climate seems to be looking when you look on the news…it’s weird because all of a sudden all this good stuff is happening to us (laughs). While I look around me and it looks really ugly and basically unsavory, but I feel all this opportunity right now and the ability to really be inspired. I don’t know if it’s being inspired by the negative stuff all around us or if it’s just a coincidence. Maybe it’s just I feel like I’ve grown a lot over the years and I’m able to do things I couldn’t do back when we had a major label and we were all up around and doing all that stuff. I feel way more capable of doing it now and I feel like we have a chance to do it, and that’s what I’m grateful about.” What helps Tony keep things in perspective? “My family and thinking. Once in a while I sit and think. (laughs) I listen to people and I take advice from people, even younger people, I take advice from people who I think can give me a better perspective on what is going on with me. It helps me realize that the best thing to do is to be grateful for what you’ve got and build on that.”
Opportunities to continue to build and expand can also be understood with what Tony had to say about styles of music and staying open to learn. “We just love all kinds of styles. From classical to world music and reggae, to punk and metal, old-time rock and roll, rhythm and blues, country music. It’s all a part of us.” He identifies as having two hometowns in both Southern California and Texas, but it was his arrival to Austin and increase of knowledge of American music that developed into “more of a richness in our repertoire” and resulted in “Tex Mex running through our blood.” The appreciation for blending or transforming styles of music can also be heard in Tony’s hope for the listener to connect his song “Out of My Head” with the re-interpreted version by Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello for their Top 10 hit, “Bad Things.” “For me to have a song that I wrote be part of a single that was number one on the pop charts for three weeks back in March, that’s pretty awesome.”
Even through the expanding horizons, there is an essential part of remaining true to the Fastball sound and relationships within the band. “We work together and we take care of each other, it’s probably the main thing. We realize that the band is just a fraction of itself without one of the tones. Our sound would not be the same without Joey, or Miles, or myself. Yes, we bring in other people, but we try to do it in a way that those people compliment the Fastball sound and what it is we do.”
View “I Will Never Let You Down” here.