Sometimes recognition of past service comes during the most unexpected times and circumstances.
Take the evening when Tony Scalzo of the veteran alternative-pop band Fastball found himself playing a solo gig, but working in a few of his band’s hits, including the signature 1998 radio single “The Way.”
“Almost 20 years down the line, people don’t know I actually wrote some of those songs when I play them,” he said. “People will say, ‘We heard you do a cover of a song we really love.’”
Well, here’s a news update for any fan of “The Way” or of Fastball, and especially for those who realize that the former is the musical creation of the latter: the Austin, Texas, band has not gone away. Furthermore, it exists with the same three members — Scalzo, Miles Zuniga and Joey Shuffield — who started Fastball in 1994. A relatively new band that seemed to come out of nowhere when “The Way” hit radio, the trio was made up of veterans of a fruitful Austin scene when Fastball released its debut album, “Make Your Mama Proud,” in 1996.
“When we started in ’94 here in Austin, we were just trying to get a $500 gig,” Scalzo said. “That was a big goal, I remember. Basically, we were playing here in town with our other bands. There was a lot going on during ’94 and ’95 in Austin, with people starting to tour and getting signed. We got signed in ’95 to Hollywood Records, which put out ‘Make Your Mama Proud.’ That was kind of a Green Day-esque affair: loud, fast pop. Actually, I shouldn’t even call it pop. Basically, it was loud and fast, but we started to mature, musically, pretty quickly.”
As it turned out, maturation and commercial success came right on the heels of the band’s sophomore album, “All the Pain Money Can Buy,” in 1998. The album’s abundant and efficient pop construction helped catapult the Scalzo-penned, rhumba-flavored “The Way” to the top of many pop charts that spring. The album became a platinum seller by the fall. Zuniga’s “Fire Escape” and another Scalzo single, “Out of My Head,” maintained Fastball’s high radio profile well into 1999.
“‘All the Pain Money Can Buy’ was all about slowing down a little bit, being a little more melodic, using a bit more experimentation with different instruments, arranging, looking at our influences and trying to utilize those more, like The Beatles and The Beach Boys,” Scalzo said. “It seemed to happen pretty fast because no one was noticing us when we had the first album out. I don’t know if we sold more than 500 copies of ‘Make Your Mama Proud’ nationwide. We would literally throw cassette tapes out into the audiences and scrape together a few fans here and there all across the country.
We’re just hoping to accelerate things and just keep playing regularly for the next few years while we still have a sliver of youth left.
Tony Sclazo, Fastball
“We tried to keep it going. We released a few more singles, and they were moderately successful, so we were able to transcend the sort of one-hit-wonder stigma that might have occurred, and I’m grateful for that to this day.”
Fastball’s commercial fortunes never again matched the success of “The Way,” but the band also never dissolved and never stopped recording new music. These days, Scalzo, Zuniga and Shuffield juggle other gigs in the Austin area with Fastball performances and have recorded as an indie act for the past decade. Fastball’s already-completed sixth studio album, “Step Into Light,” is being planned for release in 2017 along with more frequent touring.
“We’re just hoping to accelerate things and just keep playing regularly for the next few years while we still have a sliver of youth left,” Scalzo said. “Because this is hard. It’s a hard job. But we’re as ready for it as we ever were and want to get out there before we just look ridiculous doing it.”
If you go
Christ the King Oktoberfest
When: 4 p.m. Fri., 1 p.m. Sat. Headline acts perform approximately 9:30 each evening.
Fri.: Gin Blossoms, Rebel Without a Cause, The Landers, Johnny Conqueroo
Sat.: Fastball, Thumper and the Plaid Rabbits, Wookie Machine, Donny Brook, Olivia Faye
Where: Cathedral of Christ the King grounds, 299 Colony Blvd.