How does a band approach recording the follow-up to a sleeper hit album? For Fastball, the answer is simply getting down to work.
"We just hunkered down and knocked it out," guitarist-vocalist Miles Zuniga told MTV News of the band's new album, "The Harsh Light Of Day," which is tentatively scheduled for a September release.
The group, whose second LP, "All The Pain Money Can Buy," went platinum in 1998 (fueled by the inescapable hit "The Way"), has pretty much spent the last two years on the road. When it came time to record, the Texas trio of Zuniga, bassist-vocalist Tony Scalzo, and drummer Joey Shuffield quickly got into the studio to do their thing.
"We just work," Zuniga said emphatically. "I guess a lot of bands don't work. They show up. They eat lunch. They go shopping. We like to get it done. Some bands will spend two weeks on a guitar part or sound or something, keep erasing and re-recording things. I don't like to make records that
way. I think immediacy is part of the deal. It's part of what makes the record exciting.
"I like that we didn't spend a lot of time sitting on our ass," Zuniga added, laughing. "We wrote songs the whole time we were on tour, so it wasn't like we took two months off and wrote the record. We had been writing the entire time. Tony and I had demoed pretty much everything, so it was mostly going through the weeding-out process, figuring out which ones were the strongest, and basically just getting down to it."
After enjoying the success of hit song "The Way," a single that reached number one on the Modern Rock chart and number two on the Pop chart, the band could conceivably feel pressured to crank out more hits, but according to Zuniga, the group didn't worry very much.
"I tried really hard not to think about that," Zuniga said. "We didn't really know what a hit single was. We never thought 'The Way' was going to be a hit single. We thought it was an album track.
"The writing thing should be as pure as possible," he continued, "trying to get your feelings out, and trying to write a really good song. In my case, I tried really hard to write quickly, if I had a good idea. That's what Tony does, and that's what a lot of songwriters I admire do. Like John Lennon said -- if you have a good idea for a song, don't leave the room until you're done with it -- and it's true.
"I tried to write songs within twenty minutes while the feeling was there, and ironically enough, the two songs I just spit out are probably going to be singles," he recalled. "Those songs come from your subconscious, and it's better than something you're thinking about all the time."
After going through the batch of songs, the band got together with "All The Pain" producer Julian Raymond for his input, which Zuniga considers invaluable.
"In a way, Julian is kind of like our fourth member," he explained. "He just fits real good with us. He'll push
you to do stuff. He's got perfect pitch. As a vocalist he can push you to do things. He'll know what you can do, kind of, [to] help you get there. He has as a lot of really good ideas, and he works really hard. In a way, I think he's really critical to our sound."
Although Fastball used the same producer on "The Harsh Light of Day," Zuniga feels the sound has moved into a new territory.
"This record sounds different than the last one," Zuniga offered. "It's a little more modern-sounding. It's a little more rhythmic, but I mean, for us. It doesn't sound like Dru Hill or anything. There's a lot of drum loops going. We brought in a string quartet on a couple of songs.
"It's just a lot more ambitious sounding," he summed up, "but it's still really just about the songs. It's the same deal.... I think it's just more accomplished. I think it's better in every way."
Despite the pressures of following up a hit album and spending nearly all of the last two
years on the road, the band is eager to get back to playing live.
"Strike while the iron's hot," Zuniga said. "I just want to get out there and play for people and for them to hear our new music."
Zuniga admits that there is pressure following up a hit record, as reflected by the new album's title, "The Harsh Light Of Day."
"Because that's what we're going to be subjected to," Zuniga explained with a long laugh. "I feel very, very confident, though. I mean, I feel like we made a great album. It's a step forward. It has some really great songs on it. I think people are really going to like this record... and I think we'll be around for a while."