It’s been several years since encore spoke with The Fustics in 2013. Lead singer Brad Heller (guitar, harmonica) told encore the road is more of a lifestyle than experience. It’s a lasting relationship, as we found him and The Fustics once again in the middle of a leg through Kentucky last week.
“The road can be fascinating and brutal at the same time,” he tells. “The rewards and challenges are constantly at odds, but it seems to be the [best] way to get my songs out to a wider audience.”
Nevertheless, Heller and company are more thoughtful about their destinations these days. They make it a point to play venues where enthusiasm is palpable for live music, especially theirs. Rather than play a random town, The Fustics prefer welcoming crowds like the one they’ll likely find this Friday night at Waterline Brewing.
After picking up Everett Dimenna on bass and Ted Crenshaw on electric guitar earlier this year, The Fustics are rounded out with Bobby Frith (lead guitar, vocals) and Robert Dillenbeck (drums). They just released a new record, “The Sentence,” on February 20. While it’s available on all digital platforms, The Fustics also will have CDs at Waterline this week.
“The new album is by far my most focused, sonically and musically,” Heller notes. “I really tried to utilize space as another instrument. I wanted to make a full, rich, in-depth record without employing an overabundance of instruments. I wanted to economize the sound the way [Creedence Clearwater Revival] used to.”
Heller was inspired by notes of “The Ghost of Tom Joad” by Bruce Springsteen and “Southeastern” by Jason Isbell. He also evokes a bit of Roy Orbison and Chris Isaak in songs like “Thousand Days,” in which he purposefully shot for a 1950’s vibe.
Recorded with Patrick Ogelvie over at Flux Audio/Video in Wilmington, “The Sentence” makes the third album they have collaborated on. “Patrick is fantastic,” Heller praises. “He always gives me the space, freedom and time when building songs that are most important to me. . . . We have a synergy.”
Though the album’s title track refers to constant constraints of the American experience—emotionally, personally, socially, financially and politically—according to Heller, this record is not as socially or politically charged as previous songwriting.
Listeners meet a human smuggler on the southwest border in “The Runner,” which evolved from an acoustic tune to more of a Spanish waltz. The full band’s production uses myriad of auxiliary percussion. “I also thought the journey ‘Eucharist’ took was fascinating,” Heller says. “It was a rarely played road song that we built into a full production indie-rock statement on pharmaceutical overindulgence, and the loss of faith.
“The songs are more about an individual character/narrator and his reactions to loss,” he continues. “I also really tried to let go and trust the same core group of musicians I have known for years. Giving up that need for absolute control is extremely liberating.”