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"It was just circumstance," Tony Scalzo says of the eight-year recording gap that preceded the most recent Fastball album, Step Into Light. "We've always been active, and we've never really gone a year without doing a bunch of Fastball shows. But things are really picking up now, and things are rolling like crazy."
The 12-song Step Into Light, on the band's own 33 1/3 label, embodies all of the qualities that have endeared Fastball to listeners during the trio's twenty-year-plus career. Such catchy, compelling new tunes as "We're On Our Way," "Behind The Sun," "Best Friend," "Love Comes In Waves" and "I Will Never Let You Down" continue the band's longstanding legacy of infectious songcraft and pointed lyrics, as well as playfully inventive arrangements that lend additional depth and resonance to Scalzo and Miles Zuniga's distinctive songwriting.
"My favorite kind of songs," Zuniga says, "are the ones that have hope in the face of hopelessness. Songs that say 'Life sucks and everything's against me, but I'm gonna smile and survive anyway.' That's the essence of rock 'n' roll music for me, and I think there's a fair amount of that on this album."
Fastball recorded Step Into Light in their hometown of Austin, Texas, with bandmates co-producing with longtime friend Chris "Frenchie" Smith (Slayer, Meat Puppets, ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead).
The resulting album extends and expands Fastball's widely-loved body of work, which encompasses such acclaimed albums as the band's 1996 debut Make Your Mama Proud, their 1998 platinum breakthrough All the Pain Money Can Buy (which spawned the Grammy-nominated Top Five hit "The Way"), 2000's The Harsh Light of Day, 2004's Keep Your Wig On and 2009's Little White Lies.
While it's a natural musical successor to the band's prior work, the self-financed, self-released Step Into Light—the first Fastball album to get a vinyl LP release—also continues Fastball's seamless evolution into a resourceful, self-contained D.I.Y. combo.
Step Into Light demonstrates that Fastball's collective creative rapport, forged over two decades of writing, recording and touring, remains as potent as ever. "There's nothing more satisfying than being in a room with those guys and making it sound like a Fastball song," Shuffield says. "That chemistry has always been there, from the very first time we played together. Our history, and the musical journey that we've been on together—all that stuff comes out when we play together."
Another continuing thread in Fastball's musical life is the band's loyal fan base, which has continued to support the band through thick and thin.
"I'm continually amazed," Shuffield says, "that we'll play deep cuts and lesser-known songs, and people will know every single word to every song. It's extremely gratifying to know that you had that kind of effect on someone, and that the music you created resonates with them so strongly. Now it's become a generational thing; our original fans bring their kids to the shows, and then the kids become fans."
With a beloved body of work under their collective belt and Step Into Light making it clear that their musical light still burns as brightly as ever, Fastball is entering a positive and productive period that promises all manner of musical riches.