Formed in 1994 in Austin, Texas, Fastball combined a fondness for melodic, Beatles-inspired pop with the alternative aesthetic of late-'90s mainstream rock. Guitarist/vocalist Miles Zuniga, bassist/vocalist Tony Scalzo, and drummer Joe Shuffield -- all veterans of Austin's underground rock scene -- originally banded together under the name Magneto U.S.A. After signing with Hollywood Records, the musicians changed their name to Fastball (sharing the name with the title of their favorite baseball-themed pornographic film) and released their debut album, Make Your Mama Proud, in 1996. The album failed to yield much commercial success, but it did demonstrate the band's synthesis of modern flavor and bygone pop hooks, a combination that would later launch Fastball into the mainstream.
The follow-up effort All the Pain Money Can Buy appeared in early 1998, featuring a considerably tighter band and more pop flourishes. Although the bandmates were still working side jobs at the time of its release, leadoff single "The Way" proved to be a meteoric hit, topping the American rock charts for seven weeks while enjoying crossover success as a pop single. "Fire Escape" and the piano-fueled "Out of My Head" did similarly well, and All the Pain Money Can Buy went platinum within six months of its release, earning two Grammy nominations along the way. Fastball celebrated their success with a considerable amount of touring, including shows alongside Marcy Playground and Everclear.
The Harsh Light of Day arrived in fall 2000, featuring piano work by Billy Preston and an increasingly arty sound. Although "You're an Ocean" cracked the Top 40, the album's sales were extremely slow, and Fastball eventually left the Hollywood roster in favor of a new deal with Rykodisc. A retrospective compilation, Painting the Corners: The Best of Fastball, marked the band's final release for Hollywood Records in 2002. Two years later, they resurfaced with Keep Your Wig On, having fully embraced their power pop roots with the help of co-producer Adam Schlesinger. While the album didn't yield any successful singles, it still strengthened Fastball's work ethic, with frontmen Zuniga and Scalzo writing together for the first time. That collaborative spirit helped fuel another album, Little White Lies, which appeared in 2009 to warm reviews. After several years of focusing on live work, Fastball returned to the studio in 2015, recording in their hometown of Austin. The project emerged in May 2017, a self-released album titled Step into Light, and the band supported it with an extensive tour of the United States and Canada. ~ Andrew Leahey
- Austin, TX
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