In Advance Of Their Album Release, The Phuss Offers Us A Free Track.

It began with a phone call. Prior to a gig last year with Stella Rose, Josh Fleming, frontman of area rock outfit The Phuss, got a call from his drummer Trey Alfaro giving him the bad news. Alfaro, who was supposed to be driving back from Oklahoma where he had been visiting his sick father, was having car trouble. Instead of backing out of the gig, however, Fleming pressed on with a solo acoustic performance.

And some performance it must have been: After the show, Fleming was greeted with some choice words from one of his band's biggest influences.

“[Vaden Todd Lewis] came over and was like 'Hey, that was ballsy,'” Fleming says. “I was like 'You're the guy from The Toadies!' That was the first night we got in contact with each other face to face.”

The chance meeting later grew into something of a friendship, and ultimately led to Lewis' involvement with the band's upcoming record.

“I sent him a message to come see the band when it everybody was there, and he liked it,” Fleming says. “One night, we were drinking and I guess he got drunk and threw out the idea of producing our record. We started working with each other in October of last year. It was a really cool experience.”

The fuzzy, heavy, riff-laden songs in The Phuss' catalog have oft drawn comparisons to the Toadies over the years. Fleming himself even admits to being a pretty big fan since the age of 10. So, in a lot of ways, Lewis' helming of their new self-titled record makes a lot of sense. As does the news that Lewis helped co-write a few of the band's new tunes.

“We wrote three songs together,” Fleming says. “It was more of an arrangement-type thing. We had these songs that were pretty good, but they were maybe not all the way correct, and so we started going back and forth, pushing each idea and it ended up where the songs took a life of their own. 'The Romantic,' '21 Ain't What It Was' and 'Answer Me' are the three songs that we worked on with Vaden. He really helped us lay the foundation, and then it grew and he helped me with the lyrics and vocals and stuff. It was really rad.”

As one might guess, those three tunes wound up being some of the most unabashedly Toadies-influenced material the Phuss has released to date — but also some of the most focused. Other tracks on the disc, such as “Stupid Girl,” which the band has also been kind enough to pass along as a free download to Central Track readers prior to their album's release next week, sound somewhat more '80s-inspired.

Overall, the band comes across more mature on their latest effort, residing in a territory somewhere between the glam metal of Motley Crue and the garage punk of early Hives, and the resulting product that shows off a much wider dynamic range than prior releases. That's to say that the fuzzy parts are fuzzier, the clean parts are cleaner and, yeah, there even a few actual guitar solos.

Yes, it all began with a phone call. And it ended up with an unforgettable experience for Josh Fleming.

“In that realm, I was trying not to be starstruck,” Fleming says. “I was trying to play it cool. I think it's just because it's somebody that you admire a lot and they're putting their own fingerprint on something that you're doing. It's cool to have somebody that you love their music so much — but finding out that they also love your music enough to want to work with you is kind of mind-blowing.”

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