In Conversation With Fastball

Back in 1998, life really couldn’t have been much better for the members of the Texan power-pop band Fastball. After an indifferent reception to their 1996 debut record, their 1998 sophomore album All The Pain Money Can Buy launched them onto the charts in a big way. Their hits “The Way”, “Fire Escape” and “Out of My Head”, helped the group sell over a million copies of that second record before they would be unfairly banished to “Where are they now?” status with their follow-up efforts.

FBAC.jpgTruth be told, Fastball don’t really have a dud record in their arsenal of five studio records. While some bands veer from their original vision and make their arty record or their noisy record or what have you, Fastball have always stood by what got them to where they were: creating witty, irresistible pop songs in the retro vein of The Beatles while still appealing to fans of modern power-pop groups like Fountains of Wayne.

Luckily for their fans, the group has re-emerged with a terrific new record (Little White Lies) and a new outlook on a business that can jade even the most seasoned veterans.

Little White Lies is the band’s first studio record in five years. According to Fastball guitarist and vocalist Miles Zuniga, it was a much-needed break for all concerned:

“After Keep Your Wig On (the group’s 2004 record), the band wasn’t in the best of places,” Zuniga starts. “Our label at the time wasn’t helping matters; there were some issues with our management plus we had some stuff to work out between us in the band. We knew that we were going to have to look at restructuring ourselves so to speak and at the time, we weren’t ready to do it. But for the sake of the band, we agreed to walk away from Fastball for a period of time and let the dust settle.”

So what did Zuniga do to fill his unexpected downtime?

“I ended up playing in bands with some other people which ended up making me appreciate my colleagues in Fastball a lot more. I had fun but realized that a lot of people aren’t as dedicated as the guys in this band and I’m very fortunate to have that.”

One noted change with Fastball’s latest record is the fact that it is an independent release for the group after having recorded records for both Disney-owned Hollywood Records and noted independent label Rykodisc. Does the band feel liberated to have cut ties with labels as many of their peers are also choosing this route over signing with major labels?

“Being in control is a great thing,” Zuniga acknowledges. “There are some downsides, the major one being that we have fewer resources available at our fingertips “” we’ve got to work a little harder for them, that’s all. That being said, just because you’re on a big label doesn’t mean you get to use their all of their resources though. It’s all based on sales so if you’ve got a lot happening for your band, the more doors that open within the label for you.”

Zuniga is quick to point out that in terms of stability, their tenure at Hollywood Records was the most stable the band had experienced:

“A lot of people within the music industry are always on the lookout for better opportunities so you tend to have a lot of personnel change-over and that can affect the promotional efforts behind your record as well,” he says. “One reason we had parted ways with Hollywood was because our A&R man had left the label and encouraged us to head over to Rykodisc with him. We thought he was a cool guy and we felt as though Ryko would have our backs, much like Hollywood did but soon after we had handed our record in, a number of things had changed internally at Ryko. The label ended up getting a new President and although no one would necessarily say it, the feeling was that the ‘new’ Rykodisc President hadn’t signed us so the support for Keep Your Wig On wasn’t there from the get-go.”

It’s not all bad news for the band though. One positive aspect that has developed within the group over their past two records is that the songwriting process has become more collaborative. In the past, each member claimed credit for what they brought to the band in terms of songs. Zuniga acknowledged that although Fastball hadn’t experienced any adverse feelings towards one another over who racked up the most hits, the potential for negative feelings working their way into a group over an issue like this is very real.

So with one 1-million selling record to their credit, does Zuniga concern himself with reaching that apex again with Fastball?

” … I think it is a pipe dream to think we’ll be huge again. I think if you’ve got the right marketing behind you, you can sell anything; it doesn’t necessarily make it good though.

“The reality of the situation is that we’ve been away from people’s minds for the past five years so all we can do is take it one day at a time. We’re content with that for the time being.”

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