- May 15, 2017

Exclusive: Fastball Frontman Miles Zuniga Talks New Music

Known for hits such as “The Way” and “Fire Escape” on their 1999 LP All the Pain Money Can Buy, Austin-based rock band Fastball became known as not just a local act, but a national band that could churn out songs that still stand solid 20 years later. Now six albums into their career, the group will be dropping their new record Step into Light on May 19, a short but heartfelt release that goes back to their original sound froim their 1996 debut, Make Your Mama Proud.

Speaking to front man Miles Zuniga over the phone, he gives details about Step into Light, the recording process, and how the group is reaching out to fans in the current digital era and keeping them engaged with the new music, in addition to how mainstream artists are turning their songs into brand new hits.

Forming in 1995, Zuniga and drummer Joey Shuffield played together in the group Big Car before disbanding and founding Fastball. After building a strong regional buzz, a journalist suggested to Hollywood Records that they should check out the group, leading the band to sign on the dotted line. While sales of Make Your Mama Proud were poor, the group would taste success with All the Pain Money Can Buy two years later, which would garner them several hit singles and two Grammy nominations. While the groups forthcoming records did not see the same success as All the Pain…the band has remained a strong local act that everyone is familiar with.

Fresh from performing at SXSW this year, Fastball did not give fans much of an introduction to the record by performing a lot of songs from it saying, “we played stuff off the new record, but by this point this will be our sixth record and a lot of the time you think that this will be the best record that you’ve ever done. But maybe the fourth record is the best or the third record. So, we tried not to make it to new record centric.”

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Saxon Pub, Sunday night. Photo by KB Imle.

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As for discussing the writing process for the record, Zuniga states that “The new record breaks the record for the fastest album we’ve ever recorded. We did it in about two weeks because we were supposed to go on this tour and it fell through. We were operating under this presumption that there was going to be this tour and there was a hard deadline, and we were going to record the record and get it manufactured and everything, so we did it in about two weeks and there wasn’t a lot of chin scratching over it.”

“We’ve never taken more than a couple of months to do records, but it’s still interesting to see the results. I like it, it’s much more direct. I like listening back to it, and that’s what I remember the most. Plus, we are way better musicians than we were 20 years ago. It’s a lot easier to zero in and really get across what you are trying to say then it used to be, and it’s a lot easier to know when something isn’t working and you can just leave it behind.”

Growing up in the small Texas town of Laredo, Zuniga was introduced to the guitar from his older brother and from playing in the choir band at his Catholic school. After realizing that the guitar had become his passion, Zuniga eventually made the move to Austin where he hoped to make a name for himself.

While Zuniga is of course most well known for his work with Fastball, he has also released music as a solo artist, and while he has thought about going the modern route to reach his audience by giving his music away for free, he admits that for Fastball, that’s probably not the best idea. “I floated around with the idea of just giving this new record away, but fortunately people talked me out of it. They said ‘you have a legacy, and you aren’t an unknown band and you shouldn’t treat it like an unknown band. You should wait and get it set up right, and things are going really well right now and it wouldn’t have happened the way that it did if we had given it away.”

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Alaskan Moose

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If you are a fan of Fastball, you may have noticed that the group had a PledgeMusic campaign to fund the release of Step into Light, with fans donating set amount of money in return for rewards, such as rare items from the bands vault such as a t-shirt or prop from a music video, and at the higher end of the award ladder – dinner with the band.

Zuniga states that they started a PledgeMusic campaign due to already starting Kickstarter campaigns in the past and that “we were already going to put the record out and it was already recorded. We needed the money for publicity and to launch the record. We decided to give Pledge a try, and plus, its dedicated solely to music and you’ll see everybody on there now. It’s pretty much become the way for bands to release music.”

As for how they chose the awards, Zuniga says “Our manager – I think this is his seventh Pledge campaign, and so he had a pretty good idea of what to charge and the people who worked at Pledge have an idea of what to charge and what would work. Though, I do think that we should have charged more for the coffee cup in the “Fire Escape” video since that went immediately.”

While Fastball hasn’t had a hit in quite a while, they have made a comeback on mainstream radio as rapper Machine Gun Kelly used an interpolation, or portions of the melody, from the chorus of Fastball’s single “Out of my Head” on his song “Bad Things,” with an appearance by former Fifth Harmony vocalist Camila Cabello. While Fastball has been introduced to a younger crowd, it’s also put them back in the spotlight.

“Here’s the only metric you need”, Zuniga says when discussing how the group has reached a younger audience. “Everyone has had a YouTube Channel for a while and we just put one up. “The Way” video has like nine million views or something, since the channel has only been up for a few months, but the “Out of My Head” video has like 150 thousand views. That’s an easy indication for how many people have been checking out the band based on that song.”

Fastball will be celebrating the release of Step Into Light at The Saxon Pub on April 20th. You can get your tickets here. The event is 21+.

Watch the music video for the bands new single “I Will Never Let You Down” below.

Featured photo: Fastball

If you would like to read more of Lauren Gribble’s interviews, you can head to website Listen Here Reviews.