“Who’s Bruce Magnus?” That’s a question I asked the four dudes sitting around the table at a local coffee shop recently, thinking perhaps he was a ’70s powerlifting champ or (most likely) someone’s notoriously awesome uncle.
“He’s probably the greatest pro wrestler who never existed,” said bassist Aaron Richter, and that comment fomented some brief cross-band discussion about the sort of qualities that might define that particular name. “There are lots of Bruce Magni out there,” Richter continued. “The name kind of worked because ‘Magnus’ is majestic and ‘Bruce’ is all-American.”
The suggestion of blue-collar grandeur intrinsic to the name Bruce Magnus also spills out of their music. They recently released their debut album. Engineered by Shawn Lunsford at Sessionworks Studios in Hurst, High on the Mountain is an eight-song record pumped full of tightly welded Southern-fried guitar swagger, and while it’s not reinventing the blues-rock wheel – singer/guitarist Sam Fatzinerger said the songs “are mostly about heartache and whiskey –– High on the Mountain gives the genre a good shine. The band tracked 10 songs in 11 hours, recording them live in no more than a couple of takes. The live-tracking approach was largely due to the limitations of their budget, but it also fits their aesthetic. Bruce Magnus’ riffage sounds like it came from the last months of Richard Nixon’s reign, a time when rock bands had to be tight, because tape and time weren’t cheap and endless chances were a luxury.
High on the Mountain is indeed tight, and its songs’ tasteful solos, precise percussion, and busily melodic basslines give the ears a lot to latch onto. Ironically, the band’s rhythm section – Fatziinger, Richter, and drummer Billy Hildreth – migrated from a previous outfit called Loose that folded after half its members chose to ignore the heavy lifting that comes with playing music as a unit.
“Our last project broke up because of people living the fantasy of being in a band without doing the work,” Fatzinger said.
You can infer from that statement that Bruce Magnus desires to be a serious band, though they’re not a bunch of stern-faced chart sticklers, a fact made hilariously obvious on their album cover, which depicts them in matching outfits of white sleeveless shirts and short shorts, color-coordinated with each member’s headband, sort of like if the Power Rangers ran a Jazzercize studio.
“The idea for the cover was sex appeal and athleticism,” Hildreth said. “Clearly, we exude both.”
Bruce Magnus has been around for a little more than a year, and though they do aspire to “serious band” endeavors such as touring, they are currently doing regular band things like playing dive bars, the kind of spots where you perform in a corner or on a short stage and sing through a P.A. that probably lives in a utility closet. And while that species of gig carries a “well, you gotta start somewhere” air about it, playing those spots is not without its charm. Hildreth relayed a tale about how a couple of months ago, while they set up for a show at the Peppermill Lounge on East Lancaster Avenue in Arlington, a Domino’s delivery driver popped in to drop off a pizza.
“He sat down at the bar and said, ‘I want to watch live music,’ ” Hildreth said. “And then the guy called the store right then and there and said, ‘I quit.’
“He was suddenly, like, our biggest fan and stayed the whole night, though we haven’t seen him since,” Hildreth continued.
While the pizza dude might have dropped off the face of the Earth, Bruce Magnus is building a following beyond the friends and family who come to watch bands when they’re just starting out, and they’re finally getting into more conventional venues, including playing a Dreamy Life Happy Hour show at MASS on Friday, as well as joining Josh & The Jet Noise, Red Admirals, and Signals and Alibis at the Tin Panther on Friday, April 19. In the meantime, they’re going to keep woodshedding and solidifying their sound. Guitarist Milo Grisales said they have some new material that’s “dancey,” so seeing what that word means in the parlance of their brand of classic rock is a compelling reason to check them out.
But whether they’re playing near a Golden Tee or setting foot upon the stage of American Airlines Center, Bruce Magnus is ultimately about having a blast when they unpack their performance the next day.
“When you can have a story from each gig,” Hildreth said, “that’s better than going over missing notes.”
5pm Fri at MASS, 1002 S Main St, FW. Free. 682-707-7774.