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Members include JeffAbercrombie, bass; CarlBell, guitar, vocals; KevinMiller, drums; BrettScallions, lead vocals, guitar. Addresses: Home--Harrisburg, PA; Management--Media Five. Record company-- Sony 550 Music, 2100 Colorado Ave., Santa Monica, CA 90404. Phone: (310) 449-2100 Fax: (310) 449-2932.

While it is not unusual for a band to produce and finance a record in an attempt to gain an audience and a record contract, Fuel took such an initiative a step further. After relocating to the mid-sized Pennsylvania town of Harrisburg rather than to a large American city, the band ultimately distributed their self-made EP entitled Porcelain to radio stations and record stores across the United States. Before long, Fuel accepted a recording offer with Sony subsidiary 550 Music, recorded their major-label debut, released the hit single "Shimmer," earned critical accolades, headlined stadium concerts, and toured with various acts from the rock band the Foo Fighters to the punk outfit Green Day. "It was a big job," said guitarist and songwriter Carl Bell in an interview with Wendy Hermanson for Launch.com. "We had the record stores designing and hanging up displays for us! They were so supportive. Some of the stores were part of [national] chains, so they'd distribute [our record] for us by sending it to other stores along with the shipments!"

Lead guitarist and vocalist Carl Bell, along with boyhood friend and bas guitarist Jeff Abercrombie, grew up in Kenton, Tennessee, located in the western part of the state near the Kentucky border. "There was nothing much to do there," Bell informed Billboard magazine's Mark Marone. "It's just soybeans and cattle, pretty barren. Some great people, but as far as activities, you're not going to find any." Growing up without television in a town with only two stoplights and a population of around 2,000 people, Bell resorted to other forms of entertainment, mainly listening to a collection of 500 rock and roll albums that his brother won from a Memphis radio station contest. "I inherited the complete [Led] Zeppelin and everything coming out at the time," Bell told Noah Tarnow of Rolling Stone. "Instead of flipping on the TV, I'd just open up the console stereo system and throw on a [Rolling] Stones record."

Although both Bell and Abercrombie started out playing guitar, Bell slyly convinced his pal to switch to bass "cause it was cooler," recalled Abercrombie, according to the band's record label. Throughout the years, though, the young men experienced trouble finding other musicians to form a band with. Eventually, Abercrombie met singer and guitarist Brett Scallions, who lived in the nearby town of Brownsville and performed in small venues with other musicians. While the young singer worshipped the vocals of the Cult's Ian Astbury, Scallions's own voice resonated with an expressive energy. Soon thereafter, Scallions agreed to join Bell and Abercrombie on lead vocals and rhythm guitar, and the group began to crystallize.

After rehearsing together for a short time, Fuel recorded their first piece of music, an eight- song demo tape that sold close to 5,000 copies at local stores and live gigs. Encouraged by this initial success, Fuel decided to take their music more seriously and move to a larger town in 1995. But instead of relocating to one of the more recognized cities for hopeful musicians, such as New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, or Nashville, the group opted to move to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, a town not usually considered a springboard for rock bands. However, Fuel chose the town for two reasons. First, Harrisburg was central to a host of larger cities, including Washington, D.C., New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia. And second, Fuel had already amassed a cult following of fans in Harrisburg. "Actually, local radio would play local music, and we knew we'd get gigs," Bell said to Tarnow. Scallions further added, "We began to build a loyal following. The fan base supported us from day one, and it just grew and grew," as quoted by the band's record label.

In fact, Fuel found not only a receptive audience in their adopted hometown, but also discovered that local radio stations and record stores seemed eager to help the band with the promotion and distribution of their first EP, the self-produced and self-financed Porcelain, 1996. Record stores designed displays for Fuel and distributed the EP by sending it to other stores in their respective national chains, while radio stations began to play an early version of the single "Shimmer" from Porcelain. Soon after their first gig at the Electric Factory in Philadelphia, Fuel had sold-out shows, positive press, and calls from various record companies. Before long, Fuel signed a recording contract with 550 Music, a division of Sony Music.

In 1998, Fuel released their major-label debut Sunburn, produced by Steve Haigler (noted for his work with the Pixies, Quicksand, and Local H) and engineered by Tom Lord-Alge (known for his work mixing songs with the Dave Matthews Band and the Wallflowers). All of Sunburn's eleven songs were written by Bell. The prolific songwriter explained, "Writing is like therapy for me," as quoted by 550 Music. "It helps you decode what's going on in your life." Bell admitted to at times spending several hours searching for the most compelling word to match the melodies in his head. "There has to be something that hooks me. You have to find it quickly, then slowly flesh out the details." His attention to detail both musically and lyrically paid off with Sunburn. Edgy, explosive tracks that unexpectedly switch to introspective moments included "Untitled" as well as "Jesus or a Gun," while the song "It's Come to This" centered around a drum and bass approach. The album's most successful single, in terms of popular attention, was "Shimmer," described by Tarnow as "super premium plus," and a good mix of "breezy melodies with full-out metallic aggression." By September of 1998, "Shimmer" reached number five on the Billboard Modern Rock chart, and in December, Radio & Records ranked the single as the number one modern rock track of the year. The album overall went certified gold, selling over 500,000 copies, and also hit the number one slot on Billboard's Heatseakers chart.

In the meantime, the trio befriended drummer Kevin Miller, a member of another East Coast band who grew up in Allentown, Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg. After recording Sunburn with an outside sessions drummer, Fuel asked Miller to join the group. The quartet rehearsed just six hours before playing onstage together for the first time--a high-profile show at New York's C.B.G.B.'s nightclub. "It was my first show, and they threw me right into the melting pot," Miller remembered, according to 550 Music. "I figured that I had honed my skills for years and years for a moment like this, so it was either put up or shut up!" Also in 1998, Fuel recorded a single for the platinum-selling Godzilla soundtrack entitled "Walk the Sky" with Pearl Jam producer Brendan O'Brien and appeared for the first time on television on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. In addition, the band toured with well-known acts such as the Foo Fighters and Green Day.

With their hit radio songs and widely-televised videos, Fuel quickly became one of the most popular up-and-coming bands of the year. In September of 1998, the band set out on their first headlining tour, including dates overseas, arena shows, and an enthusiastic performance at the Bumbershoot Festival in Seattle, Washington. All four musicians claimed that while they enjoy writing and recording music together, they find the greatest adrenaline rush during live performances. During one performance in Sacramento, California, in late 1998, the onstage excitement led to a trip to the hospital. "We were rockin' out," Bell told Tarnow. "and my guitar hit [lead singer] Brett Scallions and he needed eight stitches in his face. He was, like, snorting and blowing blood and chunks out of his nose. The hospital report said, 'Assault with guitar.'"

Despite Fuel's acceptance by modern rock fans and radio, the group remained adamant about the correct genre to place their music under. "We're a rock band," Bell confessed to Hermanson. "If you want to call it alternative, so be it, and we're glad of the alternative airplay. But we like to just think 'Rock.'"

by Laura Hightower

Fuel's Career

Abercrombie, Bell, and Scallions formed band in Kenton, TN, and recorded first demo tape, c. 1995; relocated to Harrisburg, PA, 1995; released self-produced, self-financed EP Porcelain, 1996; signed with Sony 550 Music and released major-label debut Sunburn, 1998; recorded single for Godzilla soundtrack, 1998.

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