Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
It must be relatively simple to get disconnected from many of the realities associated with the way things work, the way that normal, everyday people do things and get by. It must be easy for this to happen for those who have experienced a variety of tickertape success, where you're everywhere - your voice, music and words are at least - and a lot of people are getting sick of you, but not before they've loved you for a good while and then decided that the flavor was fading and spit you clumsily out like a dull ball of bubble gum. It's sometimes the life that can be adapted to or believed in my men and woman who have done something that is almost impossible, yet it happens all the time: writing a song in their apartment that goes on to become a massive sensation, that overnight makes one recognizable and sometimes even moderately wealthy. The good feelings and pats on the back keep coming for a while, the praise is heaped and then things peak out and the either slow or rapid decline in popularity inevitably starts to take care of itself. Up there on the tippy-top, the air is thinner and it messes with heads, making them think things that are full of absurdities and errors. People are changed and they're suddenly in a different club, for a while. Tony Scalzo, Miles Zuniga and Joey Shuffield of the Austin, Texas, band Fastball got their sweet and bittersweet tastes of what this all comes down to when their 1990s-born hit song "The Way" was an unavoidable phenom of the radio station airwaves and made the group into relative superstars. All of that is relative in hindsight and it is what was made of it. Things may have become distorted and disorienting, but what remains from any kind of mainstream success is if you're a good band or not. Fastball has survived and continues to release albums because they are great at what they do and that's writing hooky, harmony-driven rock and roll songs that sometimes sound as if they've been backpacking along the Santa Fe Trail or they've got a jalapeno or two tucked into their back pockets. Fastball songs are packed with the kinds of hooks that are always there, tagging along with you like a faithful, furry man's best friend, just inches from your pants leg. Those kinds of hooks are not simple to bring into the light of day, but Scalzo, Zuniga and Shuffield make it seem simple. Almost too simple. And what they make the hooks do is reflect on the disconnected-ness of those who have seen the ways that people act when they've got all eyes and no eyes on them. The tales on their latest record, 2009's "Little White Lies," is a snapshot of those weathered and flimsy beings who change when the wind blows, whatever gives them an edge. These are the boys who look too pretty and the plastic girls that they're singing about in "The Malcontent," and they continue by saying, "And none of you can reach me/I'm alone and I feel fine/There's nothing anyone can sell to me/Nothing's new." They explore the natural vanities that seem to surface so easily when the impressionable are ripe for them, willing to feed them and love them. It's this modern world that pops up in other songs, where there's just a man out there fending for himself, away from any sort of help or true friend. There are those fading in and out of view on "Soul Radio," with the main protagonist saying, "I feel like I'm floating out in space/I no longer see your face/But your voice is breaking over my soul radio/And now you're fading out of view/There's no me and there's no you," and it's where the modern world gets its shape, fit into an experienced past life of people meeting people, people leaving people and all of the in-between.