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Members include Tony Scalzo, bass, vocals; Joey Shuffield, drums; Miles Zuniga, guitars, vocals. Addresses: Record company--Hollywood Records, 500 S. Buena Vista St., Burbank, CA 91521.
Fastball arrived on the rock scene during an era when the classic, straightforward melodic style of bands like the Beatles had become music history. But the group didn't let that stop them. They filled a niche that had no competition when they released their debut, Make Your Mama Proud. Critics often compared them to such artists as the Beatles, Cheap Trick, and Elvis Costello. Their next release in 1998, All The Pain Money Can Buy, was far from a sophomore slump. The album reached platinum sales within six months of its release, and stayed on Billboard's Top 200 Albums chart for a year.
In 1994, Tony Scalzo on bass and vocals, Joey Shuffield on drums, and Miles Zuniga on guitars and vocals, formed Fastball in Austin, Texas. Shuffield and Zuniga first played together in a band called Big Car. After a stint with another group called Wild Seeds, Shuffield introduced Zuniga to Scalzo, who had played in a band called the Goods in Orange County, California. The trio decided to form their own band, and began playing around the Austin area.
When they first started out, the band tried out several names, such as Star 69, Magneto, Magneto USA, and Starchy, before finally deciding to adopt the name Fastball. They share the name with the group's favorite pornographic film. "It's a typical porno movie," Zuniga told Rob Brunner in Entertainment Weekly, "but it's about baseball. It's like a really raunchy Bull Durham."
Fastball quickly built a strong following in the Austin area, and created a regional buzz. As a result, a local journalist spotted them, and suggested that Hollywood Records check them out. They did, and Fastball soon signed a record contract. Scalzo and Zuniga took turns singing and writing the songs, while Shuffield backed them up on drums. In 1996, Make Your Mama Proud arrived in stores. The album didn't sell very well, but it did win the Best Pop Band category at the Austin Music Awards. The following year, the members of Fastball were unsure of their future.
"We all kind of didn't know what was going to happen, but then [Hollywood Records] gave us another record, and we couldn't believe it," Zuniga told Richard Skanse in Rolling Stone. "We were like, 'Can you believe this? This is hilarious.' We probably felt like our second record was our last shot."
The members of Fastball still had side jobs as late as January of 1998. Tony Scalzo worked the graveyard shift at The Bagel Manufactory in Austin. Little did he know at the time that he, Shuffield, and Zuniga would be on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Late Night with Conan O'Brien just four months later. Fastball's second album, All The Pain Money Can Buy, was released on Hollywood Records. Within just six months, it had sold more than a million copies.
The single "The Way" stayed on top of Billboard's Modern Rock chart for seven weeks, and was a top five hit on Billboard's Top 40 chart. Scalzo was inspired to write the song in 1997, after reading a news article about an elderly couple who had disappeared in Texas. "When I first came across the story, it was a running story," Scalzo told MTV News. "It's a missing person story, the kind of thing that will be in the paper for two weeks, or at least until there's a resolution. There was no resolution at the point where I wrote the song, so I romanced my own sort of take on it." The couple was on their way to a family reunion when they disappeared. Scalzo imagined that they began reminiscing and decided to take off on their own romantic trip; however, the true story didn't have such a happy ending. The real-life couple had veered off the road in their RV and were found dead at the bottom of a canyon.
Fastball followed up "The Way" with a second single called "Out of My Head," which quickly joined its chart-topping predecessor. "Out of My Head" reached the top ten on Billboard's Top 40 chart and was a top ten hit on the Adult Top 40 chart for 29 weeks. The band followed up their album release with a tour that also featured March Playground and Everclear. After that, they landed a spot on the H.O.R.D.E. tour.
In 1999, Fastball received two Grammy Award nominations as a result of All the Pain Money Can Buy. One was for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals, and the other was Best Long Form Video for They Wanted the Highway. They also received an MTV Award nomination for Best New Artist.
Riding high on their success, the group headed back into the studio to record their third album, The Harsh Light of Day. Produced by Julian Raymond and Fastball, the album was released in September of 2000. The release included "You're an Ocean," which featured the piano stylings of Billy Preston (who previously collaborated with The Beatles). Singer-guitarist Brian Setzer also contributed to the album with Latin guitar on "Love Is Expensive and Free." "Instead of tailoring the music for short attention spans, we tried to make an album that holds up well to extensive listening ... kind of cinematic, where you notice new themes entering the frame each time you see the film," Zuniga said in the band's record company bio.
Although The Harsh Light of Day didn't reach the same sales or hit status that Fastball had received with All The Pain Money Can Buy, the trio didn't lose steam and chalked it up to lacking a musical category to fit into. "You can't write down what we do in a sentence," Zuniga told Mac Randall at Launch.com. "Marketing us is a problem. But in a way, that's our saving grace also, because you can't find an easy angle to summarize us and exploit us. We might sell more records if you could, but at the same time, it forces people that really want to be interested in us to pay a little more attention to what we're doing."
In October of 2000, Fastball began touring in support of The Harsh Light of Dayin Amsterdam. Despite the slowed success, the members of the group didn't regret any of their creative decisions, and their aim remained true. "It makes me feel proud that we're one of these song-oriented guitar bands," Scalzo told Richard Skanse in Rolling Stone. "I think there's a couple of bands that are still putting out real good quality guitar rock songs, and I think we're one of them."
by Sonya Shelton
Band formed in Austin, TX, 1994; released Make Your Mama Proud, 1996; All the Pain Money Can Buy, 1998; The Harsh Light of Day, 2000.
- Selected discography
- Make Your Mama Proud , Hollywood Records, 1996.
- All the Pain Money Can Buy (includes "The Way," "Out of My Head"), Hollywood Records, 1998.
- The Harsh Light of Day (includes "You're an Ocean"), Hollywood Records, 2000.
- Entertainment Weekly, June 12, 1998; September 22, 2000.
- Guitar Player, December 1998, December 2000.
- Rolling Stone, May 14, 1998.
- Texas Monthly, March 1998, March 1999, September 2000.
- Launch.com, http://www.launch.com (January 15, 2001).
- ModernRock.com, http://www.modernrock.com (January 15, 2001).
- MusicAustin.com, http://www.musicaustin.com (January 15, 2001).
- MTV News Gallery, http://www.mtv.com (January 15, 2001).
- RollingStone.com, http://www.rollingstone.com (January 15, 2001).
- Additional information was provided by Hollywood Records press materials, 2000.
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