Fuel Interview

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By Gray Vickers

In the mid to late 90's, when grunge began to wither away and MTV strived to find the next easy to access label to attach to new batch of up and coming rock bands, global attention started to shine on the Alt Rock scene. Shaped by the aggressiveness of grunge yet defined by a polished sound and slick song writing, the doors opened up for plethora of bands to fill the void of emotionally driven hard rock music over the airwaves. Right at the top of the heap of this new roster was Fuel. Leading with their first single Shimmer, the band launched into popularity with their debut album Sunburn. 20 Years, 5 studio albums, and a few line-up changes later, Fuel are about to hit our shores to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of their seminal, and ground breaking debut album. I was lucky enough to steal some time with lead singer and guitarist Brett Scallions shortly after the announcement was made.

Although their success started to build early in 1996 with their single Shimmer, it wasn't until 1998 that Fuel launched Sunburn and quickly became one of Rock's hottest tickets across the US and the world. While certainly not an overnight success (the band had been touring and releasing EP's for 4 years by the time Sunburn was released), it was definitely the reception to Shimmer that started Fuel's exponential boost in momentum. “When we first released Shimmer as the first single, it immediately started impacting at radio and immediately started building up steam” says Scallions, “We didn't know at the time, we didn't know how far it was it was going to go and how big it was gonna get but we knew we had a good shot.” The band had been touring almost non-stop prior to the release, so were ready to really double down and make the best they could of the new found success. “We thought that the best thing we could do was make sure that we were always there to support it and help build awareness by doing shows and performing for the fans and touring the world...”

The singer also acknowledged that the success was as much a part of the songs as it was the team behind it, making sure the band was well represented. The album, produced by Steven Haigler still stands firm today in terms of its production value and song writing prowess, something the band attributes to a lot of work and the desire to put out the best product you can. “You know, you gotta start out with good songs, for one, but you have to record it right too. You know we worked really hard to record that album and make it best we can, and then once you get it record and make it sound the best that it can sound, then you gotta have the right team to be able to get it out there to make sure that people hear it and understand that it exists.” Behind them on their debut record was Epic Records, who'd established themselves firmly in the Alt Rock space and were able to push Fuel heavily around the world, ensuring the success of the record. “We were really fortunate to have a great record label like Epic Records that were behind us, and Sony you know, they stood behind us and they really worked hard to get it out there and make it and build a sense of awareness for it.”

Something new to the fold with Fuel is the band behind Scallions. Original guitarist Carl Bell and bassist Jeff Abercrombie departed in 2010, with drummer Kevin Miller leaving in 2004. The band has seen several line-up changes since their first release, including a passage when even Scallions himself took a leave of absence. The current line-up however solidified itself in 2016 with guitarist Jason Womak joining bassist Phil Buckman and drummer Shannon Boone. Despite the numerous changes to the band, the line-up has been proving themselves as a formidable live force with tours all over the United States and Europe in support of Fuels latest album, Puppet Strings. With new players brings new attitudes and flavours to the music, something Brett has enjoyed watching evolve as the band takes its form. “I've always been lucky enough to have really seasoned players surrounding me, you know. I would never take anything away from my old band mates and stuff, you know, with my guys that I'm playing with right now, when we go in, I always tell 'em – Hey you know what, there's a foundation to these songs that are very important and we have to keep certain aspects of the songs in mind and use those elements of those songs, but in between all of that, you have plenty of moments to play and have fun and embellish things and jam.”

Fuel made their way over to Australasia in 2000 on the backs of their second record, Something Like Human but have not been back since, although the singer has fond memories of his time here. “I'm so excited to get down there and visit the old places that I've been to, like walking around in Kings Cross and things like that, I don't know it's like there now but it was kinda cool back in the day.” Clearly, Sydney had made an impact on him. “There were a number of amazing restaurants to go eat at, and I love the Australian beer, so I'm looking forward to all of that.” According to Brett, he's “putting my list together of things to do.” 

Fuel are hitting up Australia and New Zealand in December, 2017

2nd December – Perth – Capitol

3rd December – Adelaide – The Gov

6th December – Gold Coast – Coolangatta Hotel

7th December – Brisbane – Eatons Hill Hotel

8th December – Sydney – Manning Bar

9th December – Melbourne – Prince Bandroom

13th December – Auckland – The Studio

Tickets via https://metropolistouring.com/fuel

Hear the Full interview below, recorded on the 17th October, 2017. The sound file has been edited to balance levels, remove pops and squeaks and pleasantries.