“We have sort of an invisible band name,” explains Fastball bassist/vocalist Tony Scalzo. “Everyone knows our songs but we tend not to do well even in our hometown of Austin . . . they perceive us as ‘90’s one-hit wonders.” If you are not familiar with the group known as Fastball, chances are you are familiar with many of their songs. The band formed in 1994 in Austin, Texas and didn’t take long to completely dominate radio stations across the country with hits like “The Way”, “You’re An Ocean”, and “Out Of My Head” which recently was updated by artist Machine Gun Kelly. “He (MGK) did the song . . . our publisher got a request and they sent over the MP3. We thought it was neat . . . sounds totally different than our version. We accepted . . . we were like maybe something will happen . . . the more popular it gets helps us to give familiarity to a younger audience.” Tony explained his five-year-old son’s affinity for the song, “he knows everything MGK.”
Speaking over the phone while he looked out into the Minnesota skyline from the window of his hotel room was a great experience for this writer who has a enduring love for the scene he and his band helped to build. It was not quite alternative but not quite pop either. Fastball were masters at reaching far beyond their fan base to a world wide audience. Their lyrics are both relatable and well crafted in a mix of sounds that gives them an everyman band feel. It has been eight years since they released an album and now they are back with Step Into The Light. “Four years ago we were on a tour with Sugar Ray, Smash Mouth, and Gin Blossoms and we said let’s just do an album . . . it was super quick.” But after a tour fell through, they had extra time to work on the album and wanted for it to be better than previous releases. The band secured new management and a booking agent, and then did a successful pledge drive. “The new company is great. They are artist focused . . . we control all things now. If you want to control your future, avoid big labels.” Their new single “I Will Never Let You Down” is a catchy standout on the album and one of his favorites.
“We love having something to promote . . . we want to run this album as far as we can, tour through the summer . . . do a headline tour in the Fall and then start a new record. We want people to get dizzy with our songs.” Currently they are on a tour with equally groundbreaking act Everclear who are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their So Much For The Afterglow album. “Going on first is quite easy . . . we play for like twenty minutes where as when we headline, we play for seventy-five or ninety minutes. The challenge is not having too much fun.”
I asked Tony about an incredible collaboration that I found out about while I was researching the history of the band. At the height of the band’s success in ’00, they were able to work with the great Billy Preston. “We had a great producer who was connected . . . on one track I said I wanted to hear a Billy Preston style piano part . . . he called the next day and brought him in. It wasn’t like the Beatles . . . wasn’t Let it Be. He wasn’t real friendly and didn’t want to be there . . . he sort of hated the song, did five passes on it then said, “I’m already forgetting the sound”. We had to do a lot of cleaning it up after he left.”
Before we hung up, I asked Tony for some advice for up and coming musicians. “Decide whether to be business or artistic. Get your songs together, write, and keep your songs. Don’t sign away publishing rights.” Their work ethic and take on music shines through on their new release. Look for the boys on tour this summer and while you’re at it, pick up their newly released album.