Something in the Way

Fastball brings on the pain

Imagine Elvis Costello is walking down Visconde de Piraja in Rio de Janeiro when suddenly, out of nowhere, a marble statue of Jesus lands on his head. After coming to, Costello, now suffering from amnesia, stumbles into a Brazilian nightclub, staggers up the stage, grabs a guitar and starts jammin' to the Bossa Nova. Now, replace Costello with Fastball, Rio with Austin, Texas, a nightclub with a recording studio and take out the fallen icon and memory loss and the story makes sense.

"The Way," the first single from Fastball's sophomore album, All the Pain Money Can Buy, is sonically indicative of the bogus Costello Excursion and, so far, the world likes what it hears. More than two weeks before All the Pain Money Can Buy hits shelves, the quirky song is racing up the charts and has vocalist/guitarist Miles Zuniga carrying around a piece of wood just to knock every once in a while. "I know good things are happening when I hear that voice go, 'New buzz clip, Fastball!,'" says Zuniga, doing his best imitation of a heavily-reverberated DJ.

During the last day of pre-production for the new album, bassist/vocalist Tony Scalzo came to Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield with another idea for a song. "And we're like, 'whatever, I'm gonna go get a beer,'" Zuniga remembers. "No one wanted to hear the song because we'd been rehearsing all week with a bunch of other songs. I was like, 'Where do you get off bringing us a new song five minutes before we start?'"

Fortunately for Fastball, Zuniga and Shuffield caved and let Scalzo test drive "The Way." "[Tony] demoed the song with literally one finger playing on this little keyboard and I was just blown away," Zuniga says. "I thought, 'that's so great, we gotta record it just like that.' And [Tony] was adamantly opposed. He said, 'No way, I just [played it with one finger] because I wanted to demo it quickly. I don't want us to do it that way. That's silly.' And I'm like, 'That's good! Silly's good!'"

Now the early success of "The Way" has Fastball fearing the flood of baseball metaphors writers, DJs and VJs will undoubtedly use to describe their sound. "The first record [1996's Make Your Mama Proud] was an easy mark," Zuniga says. "Those songs were pretty fast. And so, [we] 'pitched one straight over the plate.' Every review was either 'they knock it outta the park' or 'they strike out on this first record.'" The trio even toyed with coming on stage dressed in baseball uniforms "with this Clockwork Orange bent to it like the droogs," recalls Zuniga.

In reality, the members of Fastball aren't baseball fans or fans of the name Fastball. The band's first choice for a name was Magneto, which was later changed to Magneto U.S.A., no thanks to a Mexican band also called Magneto. In the end the band made an eleventh hour decision to become Fastball. "As soon as they said, 'Smell the Glove' is here, I thought of [a better] name, the Magnetic Heads," says Zuniga, referencing Spinal Tap's ill-fated "black album," "but it was too late."

"It gives us incentive to turn the name into our own," says Zuniga optimistically. "Make it something people associate with us -- like the Police."

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