This ain’t your big brother’s Phuss.
Drummer Trey Alfaro, bassist Forrest Barton, and frontman Josh Fleming have always managed to zig when everyone else zagged. Five years ago, when the North Texas band started out, Fleming said, “it was all butt-rock and nü-metal, indie-rock and Americana. There wasn’t really a rock ’n’ roll scene.”
By the time the tide had changed, slowly, The Phuss had already moved on, this time to pop-influenced hard rock. Produced by Toadies frontman Vaden Todd Lewis, 2013’s The Phuss is chock-full of easy-to-follow quick-hitting songs built around repetitively catchy choruses. Today, the trio seems to have finally arrived at what could be called its signature sound.
Coming out on Tuesday, the band’s third long-player, On the Prowl, is –– true to The Phuss’ nature –– propulsive and rowdy. However, with lots of inventive interplay among the musicians, imagistic lyrics, and, most significantly, hyper-melodic vocal lines, the Jeff Saenz-produced album is truly idiosyncratic. And brilliant.
Mixed by Jordan Richardson, a.k.a. Son of Stan, who recently produced Bummer Vacation’s exceptional debut album, the new Phuss record may –– just may –– make you think it’s what John, Paul, George, and Ringo would have done had they been born in North Texas in the last half of the 20th century and had a thing for fast cars, fast women, and fast times. There’s also a lot of turbo-charged ’70s glam going on.
So where’d all of this melody come from?
“Revolver,” Fleming said, referencing the seminal Beatles album. “I love The Sweet and Suede, too, and T-Rex is my favorite band, period.”
The Phuss’ newfound dynamism also comes from practice. Fleming said diving into his instrument opened him up to a whole new world of songwriting: “It just came down to these really odd chord progressions” as riffs instead of just chopping at the ax.
Going out for spins also helped: “While I was riding my motorcycle, I started humming to myself, coming up with these wild, spitfire kinds of cadences, where the melody has a little more room to breathe. It was more natural.”
The band first discussed recording about a year ago, Fleming said. Saenz’ studio, Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, was recommended by several of Fleming’s friends. “Jeff invited me over for some whiskey,” Fleming said. “I was really impressed by the studio and equipment and his ideas on how we think we should sound.”
Fleming sought out Richardson to help fully realize the sound the musicians had in mind. “In Dallas, everything’s pretty squeaky clean, and we’re a dirty band,” Fleming said. “Jordan saw us a few times and said, ‘Man, I just want to put some dirt on this.’ ”
The band finished tracking months ago but sat on the album to hash out the details of a record deal. The Phuss and Magnetic Eye Records came together via artist David Paul Seymour, who has worked for such marquee acts as Agnostic Front, The Sword, and Earthless and who designed The Phuss’ new album cover. The black-and-white drawing is of a sexy she-demon driving three ravenous-looking wolves from atop a vintage sedan. On the Prowl will be distributed –– on vinyl in addition to polycarbonate –– through Sony.
“We’re pretty stoked about it,” Fleming said. “It’s a real cool thing, when you finish a record, and somebody gets it … and want[s] to support it.”
The Phuss is about to embark on a tour through the South and East Coast, playing 22 shows in 26 days. The only thing the guys have left to discuss is when Alfaro, who was seriously injured in a hit-and-run early last month, will go in for oral surgery, his last step to full recovery. A Dallas fund-raiser late last month raised more than $12,000 to help him pay his medical bills. The tour starts on Thursday, Oct. 2, at Three Links in Dallas and may –– just may –– wind up in Fort Worth.
“We’re working on a welcome-home show now,” Fleming said.
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