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INTERVIEW: BRETT PETRUSEK from FUZZRD – May 2022

According to a recent press release: “Today, FuZZrd present a live video for “Monster Carnival.” To screen the clip, click here: .  The recording will be on all streaming platforms as of tomorrow.  Singer and guitarist Brett Petrusek shares, “It was such a great feeling to release Near Life Experience and play our first handful of shows to close 2021. I’ve always visualized 2022 as the beginning for us and felt fortunate that we were afforded a really nice head start to craft our sound, our vibe and our content.   We’re fired up to bring it live in the year ahead as we continue to build on the foundation we’ve created as a group.” Guitarist Eric Fairchild offers, “It has been thrilling to finally be in a room playing music for people again. To feel that energy, and reignite that fire in all of us. As the 2022 show schedule takes shape, I can’t wait to raise the bar and show people what FuZZrd is all about.” We get singer / guitarist Brett on the phone to discuss new music, the process, the industry, and much more…

Toddstar: Brett, thank you for taking time out. I can’t say I’ve been a fan of Fuzzrd for a long time, because well, it’s a relatively newer band. I’ve dug you and your stuff since I first saw Downtread on the stage at Rocklahoma, I think in 2008 or 2009.

Brett: Oh, hell yes. All right. Well, much obliged.

Toddstar: So following you and your projects and bands, the one thing I’ve always thought and dug was the fact that you didn’t lose who you were as a musician or who your idols and influences were and are. I always thought you had an 80’s vibe with a modern groove. How important is it to you to kind of swirl your influences without losing that sound and that feel, but also putting your own modern stamp on it?

Brett: I don’t overthink it too much, but the more that time goes by, I just realize just being true to who you are and what you do is kind of a good thing. I guess I don’t make a conscious effort to go, “Oh, I need to sound like this, or I sound like that.” When you start trying to hide things or bury things or be more like this or more like that, things come up a bit contrived. I just kind of let it buck and I let it do what it does, and I just try to keep it real. I play rock. I remember going to a local music store here. It was years ago, maybe late 90’s or something, and it was kind of when big rock really wasn’t the thing and it was more singer songwriter. The dude who I worked with there said, “You know what I like about you, man? You’re just rock and roll. Like, no matter what happens, you always just come in with a hundred-watt head and a 412 cabinet and do your thing and you keep doing it.” I don’t want to sound dated by any means. I try to stay really current on keeping things relevant, but yeah, let the influences out. I mean, that’s what they’re there for, right?

Toddstar: Absolutely. I had that conversation with another guitar player, a friend of mine, yesterday. He’s the same way. He’s like, “Why try and reinvent the wheel? This works.”

Brett: I love guitar, so I want to play it.

Toddstar: I was going to get in this later, but we’ll just dive in now. Music’s not your only thing. You work in the industry – advertising and you work for Premier Guitar. You’re one of those guitar players that knows not only the guitar, but the background, the business side of it as well. How has that either improved your approach to music and the music industry? Or, on the other side, how has it kind of hindered you or made you double check everything?

Brett: I don’t know. I suppose I work in the industry as well as play music and for me, it’s just about keeping everything sort of in the same sandbox. I’m just fortunate to be able to wake up every day and eat, sleep, and breathe music and guitars. I’ve had a guitar in my hand since I was a little kid and kind of just always knew this is what I want to do and where I want to be. Background in art and design as well, but my life just kind of worked out that I was fortunate, I guess, to be immersed in the things that I love. I got to imagine a little bit of this and that all help each other, right? But I’m more or less like not overthinking that as well, and just living in the moment and trying to do a good job with everything that I do.

Toddstar: That’s all any of us can do. You dropped Near Life Experience and now you’ve got a new video for “Monster Carnival” from the disc. The song is great – it’s hooky and grabbed me from the first listen. What is it about these songs that, after a first or second listen through, some of the fans might not grab? What are some of the hidden nuances that you layered in there? What might the fans not pick up on when they listen through the album?

Brett: Well, my hope is that they pick up on everything on the first listen, right? So really, I guess the first thing that comes to mind is Fuzzrd has kind of a straightforward, pretty raw sound. I think that’s maybe where it differs a little bit from Downtread. Maybe it sounds a little leaner and a little more straightforward and that’s probably due in part to just more space overall in the songs like with the way the drum groups are and things, that allow a vocal and a guitar hook to poke through. But I would say, if you do some critical listening, not just let the song blow by, maybe grab headphones, and listen to some of the production that’s happening from Jeremy Tappero. The layers we’ve created with those guitars, I think that within its simplicity, it gets very complex, but if you listen deeply. On a musical standpoint, that would be my answer.

Toddstar: The reason I ask is I have a process when listening to a new album. Before I review anything, I actually take everything for a regular spin. I actually will put it on in the background while I’m working. The second one, I crank it up a bit so I can hear the pings, the squeals, those little hidden gems. The third spin, I just sit back and digest. That’s when I wrap my head around the lyrics and things like that. The days of liner notes and all the information they contain, for the most part, has gone by the wayside. Nobody knows what brand guitar you’re playing, what the lyrics are, who did you thank, and so on. A lot of times those little things that were so important in the process are lost now. What’s your thought on that? Back in the day, you couldn’t wait to get your hands on the vinyl. You couldn’t wait to go down the store, buy the album, slip the vinyl onto a player, and play it while digging into the details of the liner notes.

Brett: I loved that aspect of it, of course, because I grew up with it. When we were kids waiting to go to a record store and getting an album, it was an experience. You would open it up and you would be able to dig in, it was something tangible you could touch, you could read, you could do. Now everything’s streaming, everything’s different, quality of sound can be a little aggravating with the way things get compressed and crushed online. At the same time, I think that it’s awesome that there’s immediate access. The entry point for people to get their music out there and reach places quickly is fantastic. The fact that we can still make a record or an album, I still call it a record, like Near Life Experience is awesome, but we can also release singles along the way. It creates inclusion for a developing fan base that lets them be a part of your journey as you’re on your way. They become part of the process. So I think that’s really cool. I just look at it as now there’re more opportunities, but you can still be true to the things that you’re discussing or the things that you mentioned, like liner notes, lyrics, things like that. We wanted to create vinyl when we put this album out, but there was a really long waiting period due to the pandemic. And it would’ve literally been like this coming October rather than December of 2021, just at the end of the year here. So what we did was we created a physical CD, but we really tried to take the approach of making that little CD a work of art. A package that did give you the feeling of opening a cool LP with liner notes. There is a booklet inside with lyrics and there’re photos and cool artwork. We handled it with care. Because I think that the whole package is important, right? It’s not just the songs and the song is king, always. It’s the whole thing. I mean, it’s the vibe the band creates. So, I completely agree with you that I think it’s important, to me at least, even going back to your last question about the layers and the little things. That’s what’s so fun. All the different guitars, the different amps we use, the different tracks, the way we approach vocal production. Even on this record, here I’m kind of all over the place in my true ADD form, but we tried to avoid auto tune on this album. I didn’t want to go back to this and listen to it years later and go, “Oh, it sounds like an album we made in 2021 where everything was copy, pasted, auto tuned, perfect, whatever.” We tried to take the approach using modern technology, but approach it, like we were making an old school record. Yeah, there’s over dubs and I might have tracked rhythm guitar separately, not at the same time with Rob and Scott, but really going for performances and cool takes and not tuning vocals, unless it was absolutely necessary because there was just something that was a little too off or something. But that, to me, might be what I bring along with the influence so that you listen to it, and it just sounds real. Doesn’t sound too processed.

Toddstar: You mentioned this seems a little leaner, as far as being able to pick up nuances of maybe some vocals or some riffs in between. In the overall picture, when you were in doing the pre-production, the writing, the production, recording, everything on this album, how did the whole process with Fuzzrd turn out as what you expected from the onset? Did this all come across and work through the way you thought it would, easier, harder? Were there different hiccups that you hit along the way in a good or bad way that made this a lot different from previous experiences and your expectation?

Brett: It was different. There are no expectations. The experience was just 100% awesome, because again, we were afforded an opportunity. This band was created during the pandemic. Those songs were all written and recorded when that was happening. So, people had choices to either take a break and check out for a while, which is totally fine, or realize that they’ve got all this time on their hands. Let’s hit the reset button, restart, and get creative and reinvent and do something new. That’s really what we did. So the expectations weren’t really there. It was just all enthusiasm and excitement. So the process, of course, was a little bit different maybe than previous bands. I got into demoing songs a lot more, just on my own, but that’s not to say that’s how that whole record shook out. It’s a mix. There’s the band as a whole worked on songs together. Some songs are songs that I write entirely on my own and maybe hand off to the guys and everybody kind of digests it and puts their stamp on it. There’re songs where I had a great musical track, and the vocal came second. Then enter Eric Fairchild kind of midway through it. I never thought I’d have such a great writing partner. I’m so pleased. For me, it was always kind of hard to find somebody that I could collaborate with that I felt like wasn’t stepping on my shit. He is a complete musical technician. He’s a whiz kid. He’s really studied songs, production. Understands the anatomy of a pop song really well. Understands the RPMs are the rhythm and the tempo changes of vocals and how to craft hooks. There’s one song in particular, “Witchcraft Singalong,” where I had this great track and he wrote the lyrics, which was the first time that’s ever happened for me, and I love it. We just seem to work really well together. “Pins & Needles” was another collab between he and I, where I kind of had all the music together, I had the basics of the vocals, but he got in and rewrote a pre chorus, helped me refine those vocal melodies and things like that. I’m super stoked about the band in general. It’s a brand new thing and I’m pleased with the way the chemistry is in the lineup with everybody, but it’s also just an amazing thing to finally have a writing partner I’m super stoked to be working with. “Out On A Limb” was another one that he and I co-wrote on as well.

Toddstar: We have discussed Near Life Experience, the CD experience – it is on your website if people want to grab it. The interesting thing to me is you’re offering the standard and autographed at the same price. How many people have bought the standard? Why wouldn’t you get the autograph for the same price? Does anybody actually just order the standard?

Brett: I think it’s a mix. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know. We just want to be accessible to people, but we don’t want to shove ourselves on people and be over assuming and presumptuous that everybody wants our autograph. Maybe people don’t. So what do we do? Sign every single CD and tell them, you’re getting the autographed CD. No, it’s like here, you can have it either way you want it. We are just inviting people to get the goods the way they want to get them.

Toddstar: It was just funny to me because normally that’s always got that upcharge, you know what I mean? So it’s kind of funny to me.

Brett: Well I’m happy to sign anything for anybody.

Toddstar: Getting back to Near Life Experience really quick, you have mentioned “Pins & Needles” and “Witchcraft Singalong.” What song(s) on the disc that came out so much different from your original concept, that to even look back, you think it’s not the same song, it’s not even close?

Brett: I think they all kind of came out within the realm of what the vision was, so to speak, but songs that took turns, maybe that were unexpected, “Life Turned Black” was an interesting song. When we were finished with that song, it didn’t originally start with the vocal and there’s a heavy riff that comes in after chorus one. It only comes in one time in the song. The song actually started on that big, heavy guitar riff and I was thinking about it, and I was talking to Pero, Jeremy Tappero, our producer, and I was like what if we chopped all that off? What’s the point? I mean, we got enough guitar everywhere. We have enough songs where every song seems to start with this big blazing guitar riff. I can’t help myself. That’s kind of how I was brought up, but you don’t want everything to repeat itself. That one was interesting because I think just coming in right out of the gate with the vocal and guitar and no band was pretty cool and when it hits, it hits, and it gets to the chorus a little bit quicker. So that was maybe a little bit of a curve ball, but the song didn’t come out completely different from the vision. We usually have a pretty strong roadmap before we go record. We’re always taken back after we get to working with Jeremy. He’s a big part of helping us craft this sound and bring influences from 70’s guitars, 80’s guitars, 90’s guitars, all the way up to modern day and just celebrate the whole thing. If you’re a rock fan, I think that’s one of the things we try to do is span the whole universe of it. So there’s a little bit of something for everybody there, from the cool fuzz out tones that sound much older to the guitar solo trademark thing. I mean, hey, I grew up on that. I would also say songs that I wrote with Eric were the biggest changes. I might be singing lyrics that I wrote where he shaped the melody of something I was singing and that was unexpected to me. I love it, because it’s something new for me and it gives me a different place to go and hear myself doing something that I wouldn’t normally do. That’s really, to me, what that whole creative process is about when you’re working with other players, is to be able to learn from each other and expand your palette and expand your toolbox and grow and get better at what you do rather than kind of do the same thing over and over again. It’s about development.

Toddstar: Brett, I know Gibson is your go to guitar brand. If you had to choose, is there a specific guitar in your arsenal that stands out if you could only take one on the road or one into a studio?

Brett: Well, that’s easy because they’re all Les Paul. I would say I have a lot of Gibson’s and I have a couple of S.G.’s that I really love, and I have a vintage B.C. Rich that I like quite a bit and a Kelly that we use a lot for recording. And then my nice little pile of trusty Les Paul’s. So I guess you’re asking me which one of my guitars is the one? Oh shit, that is tough, man. That’s like looking at your kids going, “Who’s your favorite child?” Well, Black ’57 reissue that I guess I would call my trusty steed. That’s the one that’s kind of been there the longest and I can always fall back on it, but there’re other times where other guitars take its spot for a while and it goes away, but that would probably be the one. It’s a ’57 reissue standard with a black top. So basically a gold top with a black top.

Toddstar: Brett, I’ve got one more for you before we cut loose. I’m going to make you dig deep on this one. If you could go back and talk to young Brett, when he decided he wanted to pick up a guitar and be a musician and walk this road, what’s the one piece of advice you know now that you didn’t know then, that you would tell yourself about?

Brett: Don’t worry about it. Just keep doing what you do. I guess I’m going to have to unpack that a little bit. When you’re younger and you’re trying to make your way in rock and roll, you’re always concerned with the concept of making it, getting your band signed, becoming famous, all those things. And really, at the end of the day, it’s about the journey more than it is the destination. And to realize that your success is all around you all the time and that you should really strive for just happiness and harmony in the process. And when you focus on the music itself and why you’re really doing it, not all the other bullshit extraneous stuff, but the thing that made you want to pick it up. The way the music strikes a chord or strikes a nerve and makes your soul resonate. That’s what you need to focus on because once you do that, then the music gets good. Once the music gets good, then the songs get better. That’s when everything starts falling into place and that would be it. Just chill and stay focused on the passion of it. That’s the most important thing.

Toddstar: That’s good life advice. I appreciate the time and opportunity to speak with you. Can’t wait to see what’s next for Fuzzrd… you have a couple tour dates coming up in Minnesota.

Brett: Correct. We’re kind of filling out the calendar now and we’re busy at working on the new album. So keep watching socials for more info on that. We’re going to keep doing what we do and try to keep it exciting for everybody.

Toddstar: I’ll be sure to reach out and we’ll talk once you get that new album ready to drop.

Brett: Sounds great Todd. Thank you.

FUZZRD LINKS:

OFFICIAL SITE

FACEBOOK

INSTAGRAM

Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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