Saturday 18 March 2023

TO FUZZINITY AND BEYOND - An Interview With Psych Stoner/Fuzz Rockers FUZZ LIGHTYEAR

I always enjoy discovering new bands and giving them a spotlight to tell them a little bit more about themselves and today is no exception with Fuzz/Stoner/Doom Rockers FUZZ LIGHTYEAR.

Fuzz Lightyear are releasing their debut album on April 20th 2023 and they play a blend of Fuzzed Up Stoner Metal with Psyhedelic and Doomed Out Elements that will go down a storm with fans of bands such as Truckfighters, Black Sabbath and Kyuss whilst doing their own FUZZILICIOUS thing.

I caught up with John Spargo (Bassist) from the band to get the ultimate lowdown from the band and here's what we discussed...

Hi there. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you today?

Heya thanks for having me. I’m good, it’s SXSW season in Austin as I’m writing this so I’m a little hungover and my sleep cycle is all messed up, but in a good way haha.

For folks not in the know, can you give a brief history of how the band came together and where it is today.

Felipe, the guitarist, and I, that is, John Spargo, the bassist- we met in college and found that we had a similar taste in music. We started jamming with some other friends, nothing too serious, just smoking weed and jamming in our living room, you know? Eventually we made our way to Austin and started taking it to the next level. We wrote some tunes and played our first show in June 2019. Since then we’ve gone through several drummers and now we’re playing with Brad, who we think is a perfect fit for our sound.

Can you advise if you’ve played or currently playing in other bands so folks can check out your other musical projects?.

Brad’s got a few other bands he drums in. He’s in a really good post-rock kinda thing called Take Us To Tomorrow, and he’s also in a shoe-gaze band called Jay Satellite. It’s worth mentioning that he’s been filling in for Dayeater while their own drummer recovers from surgery. I myself am trying to get something new started with another buddy from college, but it’s probably best to be hush hush on the details for now.

How would you describe your own sound. Well apart from it's FUZZY as hell.

Ha ha, well it’s psychedelic, I think it might go without saying but a fair bit of mushroom consumption went into the song-writing process, on my part, at least. We’re bass heavy, but I think the highlight for most people when they hear our sound is Felipe’s soaring guitar solos. He’s a helluva guitar player and the way his solos dynamically elevate the music is right on the money. I guess I’m also proud of our use of dynamics, that is- the range of volume in each song. Each song has loud parts and quiet parts that I think help keep the listener engaged.

Why did you call yourselves FUZZ LIGHTYEAR and obviously inspired the classic film - Toy Story.

Our first run of shows were under the moniker “High Orbit”, but I personally didn’t really think that name had the flair and pizazz that “Fuzz Lightyear” does. We changed the name after we brought Brad onboard as our drummer. We figured it was fitting given our use of Fuzz and our sci-fi/fantasy lyrics, but also when we have more money to cover the promotional costs we want to incorporate a lightshow into our performance.

Your have your debut album coming out in April 20th. What can people expect to hear from this album?

We’ve got a little bit of something for everybody on this album. At some points we have the uptempo rippers for the headbangers, at other points we have the slow-and-low for the doomers, and then we’ve also got the dreamy-psychedelic moments to keep the headbangers from developing neck injuries.

What bands and artists influenced you when recording this album?

Well Black Sabbath and Sleep go without saying, with just a touch of Kyuss for seasoning. But I think it’d be a mistake to not give mention to Truckfighters and Asteroid- two psych bands from Sweden- for the profound influence they had on our sound.

Was this a hard album to write and record for?

Some songs were harder to write than others. For example, we’ve shelved and unshelved the Riff Wizard tracks multiple times. Before we split it up into two parts, Riff Wizard was one long-ass song that quite frankly had a few pacing issues. It took us multiple tries over a number of years to figure out the necessary transitions and breaks to make the song work. On the other hand, I literally wrote the track High Orbit in less than fifteen minutes.

Recording the album was challenging. We only had enough money to pay for two days in the studio, so we had to move fast! We recorded everything live without click-tracks on Saturday, and spent Sunday doing guitar and vocal overdubs. Felipe improvises all of his solos when we play live, but in the studio you have to record all of your solos twice, so he had to do dozens of takes of each solo until we found two that sounded similar to one another. All in all we spent about eighteen hours in the studio. We came into it prepared, we were focused and ready to work hard, and because of that we banged out an album that I think we’re all proud of!

The artwork is awesome. Who designed the artwork and how much input did you have into the overall design of this?

We commissioned a fella from Berlin named Mirkow Gastow. I’m personally really into occult stuff- you know, alchemy, astrology, kabbalah, stuff like that. I thought it’d be really cool to take the ptolemaic model of the solar system and depict a rocket-ship flying up the planetary spheres.

Mirkow said he wasn’t familiar with those astrological concepts but I showed him some alchemical emblems and he caught on easily enough. A couple of days later he showed me his design and it was spot-on!

What is the creative process or setup within the band? Do you all write the music together or do certain people within the band do that?

I do most of the arranging at home, I’ll come up with a sequence of riffs or chord-progressions and show it to the band, usually I record the guitars onto a phone app that has a midi-drumset, so that I can give the other guys a sense of the energy the song is supposed to have. Then we try to jam it out to see what works and doesn’t work, then I’ll make adjustments and whatnot until we zero in on a song that works from beginning to end.

That’s not always the case, though. Felipe has his bag of riffs that he brings to the jam room, plenty of songs waiting to be written from them. Neutron Star/Desert Planet is one of his songs, he brought it ready-made when we first started this project, all I had to do was add in the lyrics! In fact a few weeks ago while I was in the bathroom, Felipe and Brad started jamming something off the top of their heads, and it was a ripper! I pulled out my phone and recorded the last half of it, so I know that it’s eventually gonna become a song when I do some work on it.

How did you get involved with music? Was it a particular album, group or artist that made you want to write and play your own music?

Me personally, it was when I first discovered Black Sabbath. I wanted to learn guitar and play all those riffs! I’ve been chasing that dragon down the riff rabbit hole ever since, just looking for that perfect riff.

What formats is the album being released upon. Any plans for physical media.

Obviously we’re gonna put it out through Bandcamp. I’m personally not very motivated to put it out through Spotify, kinda feels like I would be selling my soul to the devil for a little bit of chump change, so I don’t think we’re gonna do that. But I did put in a small order for CDs and Cassettes. Eventually, when we have more money, we’re gonna put it on vinyl as well (but that probably won’t be out till later this year).

What is the current state of Austin, Texas? Do you perform gigs on a regular basis and do you have a local scene that you're actively involved with?

Austin is great! Every week there are usually three or four rock showcases for me to choose from if I feel like I wanna go out and let loose. There’s so many good bands here, almost too many to list, and there are new bands showing up on the scene all the time! Fuzz Lightyear usually plays about two shows a month which I feel like is an ideal pace

Will you be performing any gigs to promote this album on vinyl locally or further afield!

We will be playing an album release show on 4/20 at Kickbutt Coffee, and another show at Independence Brewery on 4/21. We’ve talked about doing some sort of regional tour in the summer but we haven’t made much headway into reaching out to the right contacts to make that happen yet.

If you're planning a tour what can people expect from the LIVE version of Fuzz Lightyear.

Just three incredibly handsome dudes bringing the loud-ass psychedelic FUZZ to your ears! Maybe if we’re lucky and get a grant we can manage to put together a lightshow as well. There’s also a certain magic in our set when we play live, we feed off the energy of the crowd and it puts a little more razzmatazz into the way we play our music.

Before you go, do you have any words of wisdom for your new and potential fans out there?

Eat your vegetables and drink plenty of water. Fill the world with kindly words and actions. And may the FUZZ be with you.

Words by Steve Howe and John Spargo

Thanks to John for doing this interview.

Fuzz Lightyear's excellent debut full length album will be out on April 20th 2023.