Before we go any further, The Phuss has not broken up. The trio of guitarist/frontman Joshua Fleming, bassist Forrest Barton, and drummer Trey Alfaro is still together, just on hiatus, according to Fleming: “There are absolutely no personal reasons, other than [Alfaro is] having another baby. We’re just not in a position as a band to do anything right now. And how the fuck are you supposed to replace him?”
The Phuss actually has a show booked. In Denver, Colo., at the Higher Ground Music Festival in late August. “We’ll see how that goes,” Fleming said. “Then after that, we’ll figure things out. Everybody’s fine. It’s just time for a break. We’ve been going for eight years straight. I think we can take a couple months off. The brand is still there. Next time I book a [Phuss] show, it won’t be a problem.”
But as Alfaro has been procreating and Barton has been jamming with his other band, desert-rockers Duell, Fleming has been writing. A lot. And what he’s been writing has been very un-Phuss-like. In fact, it’s been very un-rock-like.
The Vandoliers are a sort of hopped-up blend of a crack C&W studio band circa 1974 with bluegrass, Tejano, and, yes, rock elements. The band started, as many great bands do, sort of by accident. Last December, The Phuss returned from a long tour playing alongside other metallic-punk bands, which sent Fleming off in an entirely different songwriting direction.
“I was really burned out,” he said. “I found country,” though he said he has always loved Buck Owens, Graham Parsons, Hank Williams, and Dwight Yoakam. “It chills me out. I can smoke a bowl and chill and listen to something where you hear all the lyrics. It’s really refreshing. I wanted to write songs like that.”
Fleming hooked up with John Pedigo, co-frontman of the popular Americana duo The O’s and a fellow Dallasite –– Fleming is from the Fort but lives in Big D now, working as a hair stylist for a living. The two entered Pedigo’s home studio for Fleming to lay down some demo tracks. But as Fleming began locking down backing instrumentation, he realized he might have a band-band on his hands. In addition to Pedigo, drummer Guyton Sanders and two Whiskey Folk Ramblers, trumpeter Cory Graves and bassist Jack Russell, were on board.
“I said, ‘You want to make a band?’” Fleming recalled. “Everyone was stoked.”
Fleming, who walked into Pedigo’s studio with nearly two dozen songs, doesn’t expect to finish recording until next month, hoping to release his yet-untitled 10-track album in July.
The Vandoliers’ first show was last month at the Deep Ellum Big Folkin’ Festival. “It was really great,” Fleming said. “We brought people. People were digging it. I felt secure in booking more shows after that. You try it out. If people hate it, ‘We’ll let this record be what it was, and we’ll move on.’ People loved it.”
The band’s second show will be Thursday at Lola’s Saloon with Whiskey Shivers and The Last Knifefighter.
“I miss Fort Worth real bad,” Fleming said. “I’m excited about Thursday.”
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