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Fuel: (From left to right) Kevin Miller, Brett Scallions, Carl Bell, Jeff Abercrombie

Fuel singes charts with controlled burn

Web posted on: Thursday, September 24, 1998 1:28:42 PM

From Donna Freydkin
Special to CNN Interactive

(CNN) -- Call it the one-hit-wonder curse: A band makes it big on modern rock radio with one catchy breakout single, only to disappear into has-been purgatory after failing to back it up with more hits from a powerful album.

Fuel, the latest freshman band to hit it big on so-called alternative radio stations across the country, is careful to sidestep the pitfalls of its defunct predecessors (remember the band Eleven? Neither do we). With the release of the smart, introspective and vigorous major-label album "Sunburn," the four guys from their adopted home in central Pennsylvania are staging a full assault on FM dials across the country.

Fuel's major-label release, "Sunburn," is a raucous, resonant maiden release from a band that has spent the past few years making a name for itself in the northeast. Produced by Steven Haigler (the Pixies, Quicksand, Local H) and mixed by Tom Lord-Alge (Wallflowers, Dave Matthews Band), "Sunburn" simmers.

Its hit single "Shimmer," about the precarious, tenuous nature of relationships, perhaps best sums up the uncertainties of its own future: We're here and now, but will we ever be again/ 'Cause I have found all that shimmers in this world is sure to fade.

Listen to a sliver of "Shimmer"

Audio clip: 240k MPEG-3
Audio clip: 390k WAV

"We always want to have a new single on the radio, so we'll just keep hashing them out," says Fuel lead singer Brett Scallions. "We're releasing a new single called 'Bittersweet' to keep Fuel in the minds of listeners, and hopefully they will be able to connect to it and relate it to 'Shimmer.'"

Given the short attention spans of fickle audiences, Fuel is making sure to release singles that keep the band top of mind. And with Scallions doing lead vocals and guitar, Carl Bell on guitar, Jeff Abercrombie on bass and Kevin Miller on drums, Fuel seems to be well on its way. "Shimmer" has secured the band critical praise, with Billboard calling the it "vibrant, aggressive rock 'n' roll for adults."

"Every musician wants to be known as one of the superior bands, and that would be nice for us as well," he adds. "But we try to sit back and take every day with a grain of salt."

'We love performing'

Hitting the music big-time has changed those days for the band. The four guys now live on the road, dashing from interview to performance to record signing. Nevertheless, Scallions says that everything the band does "is so we can go on stage."

"We love performing for audiences, because we shine on stage," he explains.

Refreshingly enough, the guys in Fuel appreciate both their listeners and their success. So far, there's no whining about the excruciating pressures of churning out records and dealing with fans and media. After a recent performance in Atlanta at a packed music festival, the band went online to chat with their fans, something they try to do when time permits. Unfortunately, says Scallions, "they didn't believe it was us and kept asking these personal questions to verify our identity."

Scallions himself isn't afraid to admit being blown away by certain celebrities. "The coolest thing that's happened to me recently was meeting Jimmy Page at a Godzilla premiere party," he exclaims. "I was so nervous -- it's the first time I've ever been star-struck."

Big fish in Harrisburg's small pond

That the band chose Harrisburg, better known for the Pennsylvania Chili Cookoff than a raucous hotbed of music, is an example of its theory of controlled success. Rather than trying to be a "an itty-bitty fish in a big pond like New York," according to Scallions, "The band built up a fan-base in Harrisburg and then began playing larger surrounding cities to get exposure."

The Tennessee natives eventually found themselves playing in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington, Baltimore, and New York.

The band's early independent release, "Porcelain," allowed the guys to get their guitar picks and vocals wet before hitting the big time. The self-produced, self-financed 1996 EP sold more than 10,000 copies regionally and garnered respectable airtime for the modern-rock favorite "Shimmer," a song destined to become the first single from "Sunburn," part of a record deal with Sony 550 Music.

"Our older stuff was pretty much the demos that we did on our own," recalls Scallions. "We produced, recorded and mixed them by ourselves, and they were explorations that let us find ourselves."

"'Sunburn' established to the nation who we were. It is our ground to sit on," Scallions adds.

With its pensive, thoughtful lyrics and solid hooks, Sunburn has both depth and substance. In "Jesus or a Gun," for example, Scallions sings: But now everything's trying to drag me down, but I'll rip the sky from the ground, but tell me now, who's my saving one, Jesus or a gun.

Tour with Aerosmith ahead

The band traces its influences to some of music's biggest names. Scallions, who grew up on such rock staples as KISS, Van Halen, Led Zeppelin and the Cult, describes his own band's style as closest to straight rock and roll.

"I say we're a rock and roll band, but it's up to the listeners to decide what our music sounds like," he comments. "I'm on the opposite side of it, so it's hard for me to judge, but I will say that any cool spot in any good song will end up having some influence on your music."

Next for Fuel is an October tour opening for the legendary rockers Aerosmith. Needless to say, the newcomers are ecstatic to be touring with the renowned rockers.

"The exposure will be great and plus -- it's Aerosmith!" exclaims Scallions. "They're legends. It's going to be really cool. I mean, how cool would it be to be on a first-name basis with Steven Tyler?"

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