Brett Scallions Vocals
Carl Bell Guitar
Jeff Abercrombie Bass
Kevin Miller Drums
What was the magic ingredient behind the multi-platinum success of Fuel’s first two albums-“Sunburn” (1998) and “Something Like Human” (2000)? Gimmick? Scandal? Hype? None of the above. The Pennsylvania quartet earned its success with a steadfast determination to succeed, a tenacious work ethic and, oh yeah, some memorable songs.
“We made our name by making good music,” explains Fuel’s guitarist and main songwriter, Carl Bell. “I’m extremely proud of what this band has been able to achieve without the help of some crazy image. People are drawn to the band based on the strength of the music, not because our moms sued us in court or our mug shots were on CNN.”
ALBUM INFO With the release of band’s third album for Epic Records, “Natural Selection,” Bell says he believes the new music will help people put a face to Fuel’s music.
“Natural Selection” features a dozen tracks produced by Michael Beinhorn (Ozzy Osbourne, Soundgarden and Marilyn Manson) and Carl Bell, and mixed by Andy Wallace (Foo Fighters, Korn and Nirvana). The new album captures a band that is mature enough to know its strengths, and ambitious enough to try new things.
“Coming into this record, our goals were to show how much this band has progressed and avoid repeating the past,” explains Bell. “We wanted to refine what we do best as a band and give ourselves room to branch out in different directions.”
“Natural Selection” does just that by combining Fuel’s knack for surging anthems-“Falls On Me” and “Million Miles”-and dark rockers-“Down Inside of You” and “Getting Through”-with more experimental tracks-“These Things” and “Most of All.”
While the albums’ first single, “Falls On Me” distills the best elements of Fuel’s music-shifting dynamics, huge choruses and tight arrangements-the quartet was eager to throw away the map and explore new sonic avenues on “Natural Selection.” That adventurous spirit is evident in the trippy textures of “These Things,” a song that Bell came up with while writing on the piano instead of guitar for the first time.
“I sat down and started experimenting with different ideas when I came up with that riff,” recalls Bell. “I didn’t plan for it to sound like a Pink Floyd song, but that’s the way it came together naturally so I decided to go with it.”
That attitude, serving the best interest of the song instead of serving your ego as an artist, became an important part of the recording process, explains vocalist Brett Scallions.
“From time to time, we’ve all been guilty of adding something to a song that makes us feel better artistically, but takes away from the song as a whole,” he says. “When we started recording this time, we made a serious effort to check our egos at the studio door and serve the song first.”
To write songs for “Natural Selection,” Bell sequestered himself at home. It was an adjustment for Bell, who wrote the previous album, “Something Like Human” while on tour. Determined to create an album that surpassed Fuel’s previous efforts, Bell stopped working only long enough to sleep.
“I was totally consumed with this album,” he says. “I wouldn’t leave the house for days at a time. I was a total mad scientist. I’d wake up, roll out of bed and over to my Pro Tools rig, work all day and night until exhaustion, roll back in to bed and then get up the next day to start all over again. It was insane.”
“I stopped by a few times, and Carl looked like hell,” says bassist Jeff Abercrombie. “Unshaven, same clothes, he was crazy! I made him leave the house once to go to a bar, but he went home after a couple of hours because he couldn’t stop thinking about the music. He was obsessed.”
“I think you can hear Carl’s fixation on these songs come through in different ways. It gives the whole album a really dark tone,” observes drummer Kevin Miller. “In terms of lyrics and chord structures, ‘Natural Selection’ isn’t as heavy as our other albums, but it’s just as dark, if not darker than anything we’ve done.”
“I’d say ‘Quarter’ is the darkest song on the album, and one of the darkest songs I’ve written,” adds Bell. “Lyrically, it’s a song about solitude, self-destruction and self-reliance. It’s about forsaking all support structures in a journey to discover your inner strength and fortitude.”
The dark cloud over Bell lifted when the band started rehearsing at his new house in Las Vegas. While converting his living room into a practice space didn’t help Bell’s relationship with his new neighbors, it gave the band a chance to reconnect as musicians and friends after a year off the road.
“By the end of the last tour, everyone was getting a little stir-crazy and needed some time away from the band to relax and think about other things,” explains Miller. “When we got back together in Vegas, we got a chance to hang out and be buddies again. It’s exactly what we needed before we headed into the studio.”
IN THE STUDIO
Once there, Bell says the band was excited to work with producer, Michael Beinhorn, who added a musical sensibility that complemented the band’s attention to detail.
“I tried to sneak a weak bridge past him once, but he called me on it right away, ‘Give that another try, it’s not happening,’” says Bell. “A lot of producers wouldn’t have known the difference, but Michael really knows what works sonically and musically. He was my bullshit detector.”
When it came time to record the vocal tracks, Scallions says Beinhorn’s patience was invaluable.
“I had a rocky start to this record,” recalls Scallions. “I was fighting through a lot of challenges: singing with finesse instead of raw power, getting my voice in shape after a year off and recovering from surgery on my nose for a deviated septum. It took some time to work through everything, but I came out of the studio a better singer.”
“Brett sings with such conviction on this record,” says Miller. “When I was listening to him sing in the studio, it gave me chills. We all worked really hard to take our game to the next level, especially Brett.”
Fuel earned its stripes playing the local bars in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the band’s hometown. In 1996, Fuel recorded “Porcelain,” a self-financed and produced EP. The album featured an early version of “Shimmer,” which became the most requested song on several local rock stations. The grassroots support for the band caught the attention of Epic Records, which signed Fuel a year later.
In 1998, Fuel released its debut, “Sunburn,” which included several songs that originally appeared on “Porcelain.” To support the album, Fuel launched a grueling tour that lasted two and a half years and included 450-plus shows; a surreal experience which began in obscurity and resulted in a certified platinum album.
After the tour, the band took a 22-day break before starting pre-production for Fuel’s second album, “Something Like Human.” During that time, Bell started writing what would become the band’s first number one single, “Hemorrhage (In My Hands).”
“I was sitting at home making sure all the songs I had written for the second album were ready to go when I started writing that song,” says Bell. “I finished it over Christmas and played it for Jeff before we started pre-production.”
“You didn’t want to play it for me because you weren’t sure yet if you liked the song or not,” adds Abercrombie. “When Carl finally played ‘Hemorrhage,’ it blew me away. I knew right then that it was going to be an important song for us.”
True to Abercrombie’s instinct, “Hemorrhage (In My Hands)” helped Fuel repeat the double-platinum success of its first album.
With Fuel’s third offering, “Natural Selection,” the band is building on the accomplishments of the past, exploring new musical horizons and is poised for even more success.