In 2008, I packed my Toyota Matrix and moved across the country and into Toast's home. I had no job, but Mike assured me, Toast was good people and that my word (which was vetted by his word) was good. I lived not only with my boyfriend and Toast but pretty much the entire band as well as other friends who rented out some of the other rooms for shorter periods of time. Toast's home was and is an open door, as long as you're good peeps. The house is filled with mismatched furniture, almost all donated or left behind by former housemates. The walls in each room are painted bright colors that change with each new roommate, and until recently due to Hurricane Irene, the band room (the basement) was filled with sketches (looking at you Sam Romero) and art work (you, too, Joe Valentine) from other friends/fans. The garage is filled with instruments and recording equipment and the walls graffitied with the band's logo. As a roommate, I learned quickly that at anytime, someone could just walk in the front door and head down to the basement to play music or the computer room to work on the band's website or just sit down in the living room to hang out. For years, the house hosted an annual retreat for political activists at Rutgers University involved with Tent State. There is always music, or cooking or conversation happening and when there's not, you can watch TV if you get the remote first or light up the fire pit in the back yard and crack a beer. During the summers, you can sit on the dock (if you can dodge the geese poop) and watch the summer sun sparkle along the Rairitan River. The house was and is a refuge for artists, people of all ages, all types, but mostly the young, and especially the broke, the homeless, and the witty.
On Sunday afternoons, around 2:00, I could set my watch to the moment the house began to vibrate with the beats and bass thumping from below. I often miss these Sundays when I would write to the sound of Fuse creating beneath my feet. But despite living in that home for a year and a half, I knew very little about how the band came to be, and since I've left, the band has organically evolved into a living, breathing, performing, NYC underground-music being. I talked with Toast who told me a little about the history, originally starting with him and his brother, X (the charismatic guitarist) and an MC, no longer with the band. Bands are like relationships with mistresses. There's the life of the band and then all the other separate lives outside of the band connected to each member. People have kids, people move, people get good job opportunities. The band has had a few different faces, but because of their collaborative convictions, the changing of members also changes the music, most always in a positive direction. In short, Fuse isn't just a bunch of pretty boys with mics. On the contrary, they are a very diverse eclectic group (members influences run the gambit from Jazz to metal, James Brown to Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions to Mahalia Jackson) who each have their own individual voice within the band. Fuse is a collaborative project where everybody gets a voice and decisions are made as a group. Toast admitted that type of process, "can be more difficult" but it is a one of their defining characteristics as a band. "Everyone contributes, everybody writes," he said. I suggested that Fuse might just be the perfect microcosm of how democracy can work. He laughed, "I like the sound of that." There you have it, Fuse for President.
The Band Called Fuse has evolved into an incredible live band which has created an incredible collaboration with the sick rhymes of Lead MC Silent Knight who was listed by Rawkus Records (the record company that launched Talib Kweli's and Mos Def's careers) as part of the Rawkus 50. (Just click all these awesome links!) Toast and X ran in the same music circles as Silent Knight (who also just launched a solo album with HOT song Busy Is My Best Friend) and when the band was looking for a new MC, the band and Silent Knight did a few collaborations. Naturally, both sides began to make a perfect fit because they all had the same common and firm belief in positive art or as Toast coined it, "positive consciousness." "We don't like the whole kind of in-your-face, egotistical, putting down rhymes that are prevalent in a lot music," Toast said. "We promote positive scenes, positive artists which is one of the reasons we gravitated towards Silent Knight...There are a lot of people with a lot of skill, but they're talking about nothing." Toast also added, "But we also try not to take ourselves too seriously because that can kill art, too."
Not to be ignored on the lyrical side of things are the positive vibes of Soul Qloc and the powerful backup vocals of K. Desiree. Did I mention Mr. Pokkett on the drums? If I could get a tenth of his energy, I'd be good for a month. Since the group is a collaboration, they often play with guest keyboard players, guest MCs, and guest back ups. But no matter what, going to a Fuse show always promises a good time. And WHERE? And WHEN? might you may be able to see this kick-ass band. For you North Easterners, you're in luck, Fuse is opening for Talib Kweli's new project Idle Warship THIS FRIDAY at Southpaw in Brooklyn. If you like fun, buy these tickets. And for you west coasters, stay tuned for a line up in LA, San Francisco, and Oakland come this January!
Or if you are one of the victims of flu season right now, you can also check out their new album, Sucker Punch Gospel. Or check out their other two albums, Soul Rebels, Vol I and 9 Cuts.
What I also love about Fuse, in addition to their mission to produce positive art, is that they are not afraid to tackle some of the more important political topics of our time and they also refuse to mold to what is "marketable" according to a record company, which also proves challenging at times. If I were to go into a record store, I could not find any of their albums under any of the genre titled aisles. Toast said, "We're soul rock" if they have to give it a name, but more importantly they are not "like" anything else which is what makes this band so exciting live. A Fuse show is not your typical music show journey. Because there are so many different influences and so many different voices, there really is a song for everyone and because of this the energy continually feels like it is popping. Toast argued, "You can't really be an artist, until you put your songs out there." I talked about this blog, and how I was writing in secret for so long and though I'm not paid often for writing, the blog lets my writing connect with people and when they respond, that's what makes me feel like a writer, not a paycheck. Toast added, "Music gets as close to magic as you can get. When you feel that energy coming from the crowd and then you give it right back to them and they give it back....when you get into that zone and when the feeling is right and the crowd is with you, you feel like you can't go wrong."
Have I convinced you yet? How about this?
"Art can change people. We can be a positive force in the world." -Toast
Yes, we can. Many thanks to my friend and fellow artist, Toast, for his time with this interview and for letting me live in his home for free until I got a job. FUSE FOR PRESIDENT!
Go see these guys this Friday at Southpaw and at their Thursday weekly gig in Manhattan at the Grisly Pear.
And get all things Fuse, here: