BY JOEY PANGILINAN
I first met Matt Fazzi while still attending Silver Creek High School in San Jose, CA. It’s amazing to think that was nearly ten years ago. In the years since, Fazzi has toured the United States and the world over as a guitarist and song-writer with Facing New York, Taking Back Sunday and now Happy Body Slow Brain. Fazzi and the rest of HBSB have been on the road for the last few weeks playing with the RX Bandits on the latter’s farewell tour stops through Texas. After those shows, Fazzi and company hit up the southwest and will finally end the stretch at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill on July 9th for the hometown show. The guys of HBSB have kindly hooked us up with a pair of tickets to the Bottom of the Hill show to give away. (Find out how you can get them, here!)
I got to hang out and catch up with Fazzi when he came back from New York to the Bay Area to rehearse with the rest of HBSB for a few days before actually hitting the road. I had gotten to the coffee shop pretty early to settle in and take in the nice, sunny San Jose, CA afternoon. Waiting outside for Fazzi, I see him park his car. Once he spots me, he gives me a wave. Sporting semi-long hair and aviator sunglasses, I think to myself: He definitely looks like a rock star. Before officially starting with my questions, we catch up on each others’ personal lives, and talk about our travels and popular music festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Glastonbury.
Other highlights of our talk included getting to tour with bands that influenced him while growing up, bands like RX Bandits, blink-182 and Weezer. “I’ve been so fortunate to meet a lot of these bands all along my journey from which I learned how to write music and play songs growing up. It’s such a trip-out. The blink-guys were so humble and nice, and the same thing with Weezer. If you can reach a level of success as those guys, that’s amazing to me.”
I also found out that one of my favorite HBSB songs, “Never Loved,” was an incomplete idea originally meant to be a Taking Back Sunday song. Fazzi retooled it to make it a little more rhythmic and dancy. We also discussed the challenges presented by the band essentially having two bases of operation: his band-mates live in Northern California, but Fazzi resides now in New York. By the end of the interview, it was pretty easy to see that after all this time, Fazzi’s youthful spirit still shines through and he still has a good head on his shoulders.
What’s it like getting to do something that you love for a living?
FAZZI: It’s the most awesome thing ever, but it’s also the scariest thing if it’s not stable. Playing music is my dream. It’s very hard to achieve to make a real living. I was lucky enough to have a fortunate experience with Taking Back Sunday for two or three years and saved a couple bucks, and build again from the ground up with Happy Body Slow Brain. Everything at the moment is basically do-it yourself. I book all the shows, I’m our manager. I write the music and pay for the recordings. It’s a lot of work but it’s the most reward, too.
The name Happy Body Slow Brain:
FAZZI: Rene Carranza, the keyboard player in my old band, Facing New York, he’s a hippie, and at one point talked about starting a band that was gonna be sleepy and dreamy electronic music. In passing, he was just being spacey and trippy, and came up with the idea that what we could make would be this “Happy. Body. Slow. Brain.” thing.
It serves a purpose to the music, all dreamy and mellow but it doesn’t sound like any specific genre of music, and I just like that phrase.
Describe your time with Facing New York and Taking Back Sunday:
FAZZI: They were different experiences to the extreme. As Facing New York, we were these young, idealistic musicians really trying to purposefully break the box open and purposefully do something that was weird and out there to challenge the listener. We were trying not to do the predictable thing, which among other things, included having no choruses in the songs.
It was a really great learning experience. We tried to push ourselves and tried to write something that was really interesting and unique, but at the same time, it was really hard to try to win people over because the music was so dense to the casual listener. It was a lot to take in. Most of the time while I was in the band, we had done some do it yourself tours, but we also toured with some really cool bands like Taking Back Sunday, RX Bandits, Cursive and Coheed & Cambria.”
Being a fan of Coheed & Cambria myself, I told Matt of a story from a couple years back when a mutual friend of ours had texted to tell me that Facing New York would be opening for Coheed, and just how blown away and excited we were for Fazzi. In turn, Fazzi noted that since Coheed’s music is in a lot of ways similar to Facing New York, those shows with them were especially fun because their fans were the type of fans that would be receptive to Facing New York.
The transition into Taking Back Sunday:
FAZZI: I felt like it was a little bit of a compromise going from challenging, weird music to playing really pop-oriented music. It was a bad way of looking at it until I just decided that was wrong. I had to readjust the way I was looking at it. I had been doing this really uppity thing for a while, and then it took me a while to bring myself down to doing something that was simple and that more people could enjoy.
I love bands that have simple ideas and simple songs and beautiful melodies. I grew up on the Beatles. They are the classic example. They weren’t doing weirdo prog stuff, they were just writing really great songs. That’s the stuff of my core musical life. He says this quite emphatically.
The cool thing about Radiohead is that they can do some weirdo, interesting music, but at the core of every song, they have a melody or idea, or something that you can grab onto.
I love challenging and interesting music, but I love good songs, too. In a way that’s the marriage of things with Happy Body Slow Brain. Trying to write interesting and unique music but still make great songs for the masses. It’s the best element of all the bands I’ve ever been in, Facing New York, Taking Back Sunday and even (Fazzi’s older band from further back) Tragedy Andy.
HBSB’s rehearsal space. Photo by Joey Pangilinan
The collaborative process between Matt and Isaac:
FAZZI: I like working with Isaac because his approach to things is production. He likes listening to albums for the little ear-candy treats in the way artists treat and record the vocals and all the things that make an album special and atmospheric with interesting synthesizer sounds or whatever. That’s the way I feel Isaac and I complement each other. We both like the same kinds of music and a lot of really diverse music. He’s very encouraging to me if I feel a little iffy on a part or melody or something. It really is a team effort.
The Rest of Happy Body Slow Brain:
FAZZI: We have a floating drummer position at the moment. Eduardo Torres, who drummed on the record, went to (nearby) Mount Pleasant high school. He grew up five minutes away from me, but I only met him because he drums with my friend Gavin Castleton. Fazzi, with a “go figure” expression on his face.
So I swooped Eduardo for the album, but he wasn’t looking to be in a band. He does have a younger brother named Javier and he’s got the long heavy metal hair all the way down to here. Matt points to his shoulders with wide grin on his face.
He’s just as good as his brother, and plays live with us. We have another friend, Douglas, who played in a band called Envy on the Coast from Long Island, and he’s played on a tour or two with us. Jason, my best friend from 7-8 grade plays bass in the band now, too. He, also has long heavy metal hair, so our rhythm section looks insane at the moment with so much freakin hair.
It’s hard to find someone who’s willing to start from the ground up, especially at the age we’re at, in our mid-20s. People aren’t as willing to be as risky with their choices. You get a little more settled and grounded. Everyone’s got a solid rent, or a job they may not want to give up, even though they might not like the job.
But I’m like “Fuck it. Let’s do this!”, because what else am I gonna do? I can try something that I like to do, or I can resign myself to the old 9-5 already, but I’m not interested in that yet.
Surprises for the tour:
Fazzi mentions that for the RX Bandits portion of the tour in Texas, Lex Land, a good friend of the band and Austin resident, will be covering “One Evening” by Feist. “She has a voice similar to Feist, which is that beautiful, classic, old style crooning voice.”
“It might just become a live staple from now on because I love the song so much. He put out a solo record in 2001, and has a big jungle and drum & bass vibe. When I got the record, I loved it, and I love this song, and it just totally fits the vibe of Happy Body Slow Brain. I’m gonna try to write a song like this for the next record. Fazzi creates some drum and bass sounds with a little beat boxing and simultaneously slapping his knees with his hands.
Toward the end of the afternoon, I went back with Fazzi to the band’s rehearsal space, which was also where the band shot music videos of their songs off their album, Dreams of Water, all in their entirety.
“We went super minimal, and filmed it all in my folks’ garage. I found a website that sold medical bed sheets by the dozen, and hung all those sheets on the walls of the garage. We found another website that sold Japanese lanterns of all sizes for pretty cheap, and bought them in bulk. So there are all these lanterns in this white room, and us playing our entire record live.”
HBSB’s rehearsal space. Photo by Joey Pangilinan.
FAZZI: Regardless of what happens with building our team like finding a booking agent or manager or perhaps finding a label, I’m gonna continue on our path we’re on right now, which is to tour as often as possible, but to tour as efficiently as possible. Most of my day to day is booking and running our online merch store too. It’s doing all the little things to keep our band always rolling forward. New merch designs, constantly touring, hopefully playing in front of new people because regardless of those other three things I mentioned earlier: label, manager, booking agent, that’s the only way we’re gonna grow. Play as much as we can, and getting in front of people. I’m confident in the music, and I’m very confident in us as a live band because we’re extremely tight, and have all the necessary tools to be a great live band. By touring a lot is how we’re gonna resonate the most with people at first, and simultaneously we’re working on the next record. I’ve been playing around with 8- really good ideas for it. So maybe in the winter when the weather gets really shitty, we’ll go make a record.
Let us know what you think! Follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook to give us a shout. You can also stay on top of exciting events from around the world by downloading the eventseeker app for iPhone, Android or Windows