We recently told you about the inaugural Flannel Nation, a ‘90s celebration festival coming to SoCal in August featuring Everclear, Soul Asylum, Filter, Fastball, Sponge, Cracker, and Candlebox. As a lover of alternative ‘90s music, I was stoked to hear about Scott Tucker’s new baby.
With his previous success putting on Like Totally Fest and So Cal Hoedown, Flannel Nation is destined to be a hit. OC Music News will be chatting with the bands in the months leading into Flannel Nation, and up first is Tony Scalzo of Fastball.
The Grammy-nominated band just celebrated the 26th anniversary of their debut album, “Make Your Mama Proud.” It was the follow up, 1998’s “All the Pain Money Can Buy,” that became the platinum seller camped out on the Billboard chart for a year.
With “Fire Escape” and “Out of My Head,” the album got incredible traction, but the song we all know and associate with Fastball is “The Way.”
Fastball is a rarity in that they have maintained their original line up of Miles Zuniga (vocals, guitar), Tony Scalzo (vocals, bass, keyboards, guitar), and Joey Shuffield (drums).
Despite having incredible success in the ‘90s, they have not been lounging on that; they continue to put new music. “The Help Machine” was released in 2019, but as we know, 2020 shut down touring. Fastball has continued to create and gave us an EP titled “Soundtrack” last month; they even dropped a new song this week on their Patreon.
The band originated in Austin, and since I used to live in the Texas capital city and still have radio friends there, I asked for dirt on Scalzo before our talk. I was told, “I have never heard a bad word about him” and “He is good people!” After our chat, I feel these are correct assessments.
Traci: Hey Tony! I’m glad to chat with you today, even though I have not found deep, dark secrets from my Austin intel.
Tony: Well, for me to have anything like that going on, it could be a career booster these days. (laughs) But we are too busy working on our thing to get into trouble right now. It takes all of our energy!
Traci: I can see why; you have been cranking out new stuff and sharing with fans.
Tony: Yeah. We would have done this before, but I don’t think it was a good environment, like 10 years ago to do what we are doing right now. We didn’t know how to do it really, and things are a lot easier now. If we were to shell out a bunch of music back then, like, say, 2010 or 2005, it probably would have been kind of substandard because we were scattered all over the place.
Traci: It is crazy the amount of change in technology since you began.
Tony: With the Internet, there’s new ways of making and putting out music, and there’s new ways of making money, too. For us to try and fund records rather than save all our money and max out a credit card to go in the studio, which is what we have done in the past. Now we do a crowd fund, which was basically the last couple of records. Alternative sources of getting money which didn’t exist 15 years ago. And now it’s just easier. We have access to connections with friends and other musicians and producers. We can easily get something worked out and make something of really high quality and not break the bank.
Traci: As a music lover, I’d rather my money go directly to you than funneling through streaming services and labels.
Tony: That’s what we heard. People still want it available on those formats, of course, but we do have a Patreon account and it’s proving to be really good for us. The hardcore fans subscribe and they’re getting that same satisfaction that you just talked about of being able to pay the artist directly and then the streams. They [streaming services] don’t really give [artists] a lot of money, as you probably are well aware, but you’ve got to be up there anyway. I don’t have the privilege of Neil Young or Joni Mitchell to pull all my music off. It doesn’t affect them if they do that. It affects us big time. (laughs)
Traci: I think when artists have Patreon, there are usually benefits that make it worth it, besides the “I’m supporting my band.” For instance, your subscribers get a new song each month, and you share all the inside info with them. I love hearing the stories behind songs, which you do on there.
Tony: We try to talk about how we write our songs. We try to talk about how they’re recorded. I try to talk about everything. Sometimes this is weird because I find out maybe people don’t really want to hear all the truth because the truth can be pretty mundane and boring, or it can shatter their dreams of whatever preconceived notion they had. So it’s kind of weird.
Traci: How are you using technology to make new music?
Tony: I love to create something from nothing and then go into a studio with a team. People say, “Why do you even bother? Why don’t you just get a rig and some speakers?” Good speakers and a decent interface and boom, you’re in business. Well, that’s not the way I really want to work. I need a vibe in a work environment that’s not my house. I need a place to go, where we can go long if we need to. Try out all kinds of things and also other people’s things. Other people’s gear, other people’s opinions, other people’s ideas. That all helps. Keeping it really organic. And I’m not ready to give up the old school methods. I mean, sure, we’re all digital and everything. We rarely use two-inch tape recorder anymore. We will if it’s there because you can get really great sounds out of analog stuff. At the same time, I love digital format for distributing music, too, because everybody can hear it if they want to. I need it myself because if I want to find out about an artist, boom, just go right to it. I’m going to check them out. Next thing you know, I’m a big fan.
Traci: I saw you are playing with Soul Asylum in Florida this weekend, a little taste of Flannel Nation?
Tony: I’m excited about this thing in San Pedro just because we haven’t played in Southern California in a long time and it brings back memories. I left Southern California in ‘93, but that whole round up PCH from Costa Mesa, Newport Beach to San Pedro. I had to go to work in Redondo Beach at a record store, so I would cross the Vincent Thomas Bridge and kind of skirt San Pedro, you go across the Peninsula.
Traci: We just found out you are doing the whole US thing with Everclear too.
Tony: Yeah. We had done it in 2017; we went on a big run with them and then we were supposed to go out in 2020, but the pandemic. And now they’re doing 30-year anniversary tour, which we’re happy to be able to be on. We’ve done a bunch of stuff with Everclear in the last five years, which is great. I can’t wait to be able to do some headlining touring.
Traci: What was touring like last year? Was it totally freaky or did it feel comfortable?
Tony: Back in April of 2021, we started playing our first gigs, one offs, and coincidentally with Everclear. At first it was super social distancing and tested. We had to test before we went out and all that, and then we started getting some real touring where we went out with Squeeze. But we were able to pretty much do normal life with just by masking, and we were vaccinated early on. I’m sure we’re going to be carrying boxes of tests on this one, and we’re probably not going to do a lot of hanging out and meet and greets. By the time we got our vaccinations, we were like, “let’s go to work!”
Traci: I know a lot of people, myself included, who with the pandemic, regressed in a way. I got way more into my ‘80s and ‘90s stuff because it reminded me of the “good ole days.”
Traci: Now in 2022, all the fashion of the ‘90s is back and everybody’s wearing Dr. Martens again, so Flannel Nation is perfect. There’s that wave of nostalgia, but I really enjoyed your new EP, “Soundtrack.” I feel silly saying they’re fun songs, but “Chump Change” really did put me in a good mood.
Tony: Well, I wrote them to be fun! They’ll be on our new album; all four of those are going to be available on our new album.
Traci: Plus you released “Real Good Problem” this week.
Tony: That’s on there, too. We’re going to basically put our Patreon songs, and we’re going to make an album out of that and then go out [on tour] with that. Then do it all over again next year with all this stuff, and hopefully we can put out a batch that big every year without starting to suck or getting watered down or whatever. That’s a pretty high peg to try and reach, but we’ll do our best.
Traci: The new album will be out in June?
Tony: Yes. The album, “The Deep End,” is only going to be available on a limited run at retailers, and it’s going to be sold at the shows this summer on CD. We may do a vinyl run later on.
An album in June, new stuff on their site now (“Electric Cool-Aide” is another “put you in a great mood” song), do what you gotta do to be caught up on all things Fastball. Catch them live this summer on their tour with Everclear, or Flannel Nation happening August 13th at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro.
OC Music News will have more interviews with the Flannel Nation bands and we’ll keep you posted on the secret headliner announcement…