OUT OF THE GARAGE

If there was a time to recognize or discover the garage blasting of local giants The Fells, it would be now.

Their 1994 10" Amped, which has nearly sold out of its 1,000-plus pressing, has just been released on CD; the band has five tracks on the new local compilation Love in 5D; and they've just released one of the best 45s in recent memory, "The Visitor."

Fells guitarist and co-shouter Heath Heemsbergen founded the band in 1990, with Jeff Glave joining the band on drums a few months later. "I was barely able to play the drums," Glave said in an interview this week, "I lied." By December of 1990 Glave had switched to guitar, giving the band a three guitar lineup. By the Fall of 1991, the band had picked up Saylor Breckenridge on bass and drummer Bob Fanning ─ the lineup that would produce a handful of singles and the aforementioned releases. As the band's popularity increased, Fanning left the group to focus on academics, with local drummer Peter (Al Perry, Caitlin and the Stickponies, River Roses, etc.) Catalanotte replacing him.

The band's sound has grown shredded and raw over the years, as garage influences have subtly taken over. Amped is garage rock played through blown amplifiers and megaphones. Amped is rock 'n' roll.

The Wildcat spoke with the Fells this week (minus Catalanotte) about garage rock, vinyl records, and the Tucson scene.

Wildcat: How has the band evolved over the past few years? Obviously the band's sound has become more distinct.

Heath Heemsbergen: I don't know. We're just getting back on track. When we had three guitars we had more of a basic sound. None of (our earlier releases) sound like what we sounded like live. We we're just getting comfortable with the lineup and honing down what we were doing.

Jeff Glave: Over the years we've weeded out the bad influences in our music. We've boiled it down to what we really want to play ─loud, raw rock 'n' roll. Punk rock. Hey that sounded pretty good.

WC: That was a nice little soundbite...

Saylor Breckenridge: That'll be the big quote on the page.

WC: I'll tell them to make it big. That's the official terminology for that, "make it big." Anyway, obviously the '60s garage rock has had an influence on the band. What else, or what specifically has influenced the band?

Heath: '70s punk rock.

Jeff: Garage rock from the '60s to the late '70s, of all sorts ...

Heath: Velvet Underground, probably.

Jeff: They were a big influence, especially on the first lineup. We went through a new wave kind of period.

Saylor: New wave meets Sonic Youth.

Heath: I would prefer not to have any '80s influences. Most of what I like doesn't date as well as the older stuff.

WC: After being around for awhile, and being one of the few bands that's made it out of Tucson with success, do you feel you've achieved sort of a "legend" status, at least in the DPC scene?

Heath: I guess so.

WC: Well!

Heath: I mean, I guess we have that kind of success. Not really [on the rest of the question]. When we started it was just to have fun. Everyone was able to play at various levels. I had only learned to play guitar a few months before I started the band.

Jeff: I think a lot of our success has to do with being around a lot of years. Not burning out or breaking up. I think our success in Tucson is only by virtue of playing out for a few years. I guess we have been around for a while. It used to be Mondo Guano were our contemporaries, but they're not around anymore really. Or Earl's Family Bombers.

WC: You guys, or at least Heath, are pretty anti-CD.

Heath: I just prefer vinyl, just in terms of what I buy.

Jeff: I grew up in the age of records, so...

Saylor: I like CDs.

Jeff: Oh I like CDs ... Heath has more CDs than a lot of people do.

Heath: Yeah, people with only 18 CDs. If all the music I liked was available on vinyl, then I would have it all on vinyl. I used to have around 200 CDs, but now I'm down to about 20.

WC: So why release {Amped} on CD?

Heath: It was because of Bill [Sassenberger of Westworld Records].

Jeff: It was the record company's decision.

WC: The 10" is pretty much gone now, right?

Heath: Yeah, Zia has a couple, Zip's has one, but that's about it.

WC: I'm sure you heard that [the Fell's distribution company] had a couple copies of the 10" swiped from their table at South by Southwest (the annual music conference in Austin, Texas).

Heath: Yeah, well we've played Austin a couple of times.

Jeff: I think that's great. The Fells were the most stolen band in Austin.

WC: Are there plans to tour or record with the new lineup?

Saylor: We already have.

Heath: We have a single on Estrus coming out, a track on the upcoming Gearhead compilation. We should have

a 10" on Al-Fi coming out soon. We're recording again in the next few weeks for a compilation. We might be touring in September or something.

WC: With the success of Estrus and other such labels, do you think there's somewhat of a garage rock resurgence going on? Is garage the lounge craze of 1996?

Heath: I wouldn't say it's like that. It's just in the '80s neo-garage rockers were pretty much in a clique and no one bothered them. But in the '90s they fused with punk rock ─real punk rock - and have become more successful. They're getting supported by Maximum Rock 'n' Roll now. Most people doing it are doing it because they want to. They're not doing it to make money. I don't think anybody'll ever become rich playing garage.

Jeff: As an aside, I do think that what will be the big (retro craze) is surf music. There are a lot of surf bands popping up because of the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. That sold a lot of copies.

WC: Most of those bands suck though. Like, uh, let's say Laika and the Cosmonauts. Their album is really weak.

Jeff: They're great live though!

Saylor: Yeah, that was a great show.

WC: I missed that show. I was out of town.

Jeff: They're a lot better than Man or Astro-man.

Heath: They're not better than Man or Astro-man live though.

Jeff: Yeah they are.

Heath: I saw Man or Astro-man and they were incredible.

Jeff: It's just gimmickry.

Heath: I was in the back row. I couldn't even see the stage. They sounded great.

Jeff: It's still a gimmick. Laika and the Cosmonauts are much better.

WC: What about, say The Mermen. I missed that show too. But I heard their album and it's horrible!

Heath: Oh, they're the worst.

WC: It was like epic prog-surf or something.

Heath: With, like, ten minute songs.

WC: Exactly. I don't know, surf seems to always be having a resurgence.

Jeff: But not like it has with the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack.

WC: How did the Tammies show go?

Jeff: It was a really fun show. It came off a lot better than I thought it would. The Weird Lovemakers were great.

Heath: People should go out and see those bands all year though, not just one night for $10.

WC: What are the band's plans for the future at this point?

Heath: Tour.

Saylor: Yeah, tour.

Jeff: Tour and put out records. And play parties where we get free beers. It would be good to play parties where we get free mixed drinks. That hasn't happened in a long time.

Saylor: When did we get mixed drinks?

Jeff: You weren't in the band yet. It was when we played Time Market.

Saylor: Oh. I was at that show!

Jeff: Yeah. We drank whiskey sours all night. That needs to happen again.

Heath: We need to get on the road again.

Jeff: My goals are (in evil foreign type accent) TO HONE MY LICKS TO PERFECTION! Actually, uh, you don't have to print that.

Heath: Our goal is to destroy alternative music!

WC: With the Amped CD, you have 3 new releases out right now that are pretty different. Could you comment briefly on them individually?

Heath: Well, the songs from "Love in 5D" will come out on 7" so they'll be able on vinyl for our vinyl fans. We're trying to put out a six-song 7".

WC: Yeah, those six-song singles are always high quality!

Heath: (laughs) Let's see, the Amped CD ─I don't know if there's anything left to say.

Jeff: I still think it's a great album. My favorite song on the CD is the last song. Saylor sings on that. I think "The Visitor" single smokes both of those out of the water.

WC: That's a great song.

Saylor: I love playing that song, too. I think the songs on Love in 5D are great songs.

Jeff: I prefer the more recent stuff though. Because that's the way I hear the music in my head.

Saylor: The upcoming stuff with Splat (Peter) is really good.

Jeff: With Amped and "The Visitor," we had a lot of time to hone what we wanted. With Love in 5D we didn't really work those out as much. Those are pretty early songs. It's hard on compilations ─we tend to come off as pretty bizarre because we usually don't fit in with the rest of the bands. And the songs that get picked are usually kind of weird. They don't really fit in with what we sound like now.

WC: Who do you like, on a local level, musically?

Heath: Pork Torta, Weird Lovemakers.

Jeff: My favorites right now are The Midnights and The Hasselhoffs.

Saylor: I think Rocket #9 are great.

Jeff: I'm not too excited about the local scene right now. My favorite bands don't even get to play clubs.

Heath: I wish there were more bands that wanted to play rock and roll ...

Jeff: For fun.

Heath: Tucson really needs a club that's like a dive bar for small bands to play in. More people should start bands. The most interesting bands are bands that haven't played a lot or are just starting out. People need to know that if you play punk rock, you don't have to play really fast. There are all these kids walking around, wearing Germs or Sex Pistols T-shirts, but when they play their punk rock they always play hardcore. There needs to be more bands that are fun. That's what's great about Pork Torta. You go to one of their shows and people are really having fun and dancing. That's it.

The Fells play Club Congress on May 14 with the Drags and the Inhalants. Tickets are $3. For more information call 622-8848.

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