BRYAN FONTEZ INTERVIEW:
January 23, 2015
One of the most interesting, charismatic and ‘tell it like it is’ people has to be Last Bullet frontman Bryan Fontez. With the Canadian rockers entering 2015 in their strongest position ever, Sleaze Roxx met up with Fontez to discuss everything from Last Bullet’s character building experiences to what is around the corner for the band this year.
Sleaze Roxx: You are a man of your word. Back when we did our first interview in April of 2013 (click here to read that interview), you indicated that Last Bullet would be doing a cross-country tour of Canada that summer and the band did — although I think it was in September and October. What were the highlights from that tour?
Bryan Fontez: I’d say the number one highlight would be figuring out what to do and what not to do the next time we go on tour. We had a lot of good experiences, we met a lot of cool people, and there was some networking. It was one of our first tours and we kind of just jumped on it at the last second because another band had booked the shows and they needed an additional support — so that’s what ended up happening. Without going into too much detail and complicating it, things got a little bit — what’s the word I’m looking for — complicated on tour. One of the other bands that we were playing with lost a member during the tour so we had to improvise and find ways around it. It wasn’t originally our tour but it did become ours — we took it by the horns and led the rest of the tour. It happened very early on so it pretty much ended up being our tour and we had to make and salvage what we could of it. We just figured we took the time off and we were already out there so we played, I think, 26 shows in 30 days which is pretty hefty — but it was a lot of fun.
Hard nights, easy nights, fun nights, depressing nights… but there’s a few moments where it got really, really tough. The thing that I think was the biggest highlight was getting to see this country because I don’t think any of us had been west of Ontario. We didn’t realize how gorgeous Canada was, especially when we hit Alberta and British Columbia. I would say experience was a highlight — definitely learning from our mistakes, from things we should and shouldn’t do, and building character overall because there were so many times where we were sitting here looking at the situation we were in and laughing. We were just telling each other this is going to be really funny in 10 years — this is going to be a story, so there you go.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve touched on the highlights. What were the low points of the tour?
Bryan Fontez: I don’t like dwelling in the negative (laughs) but you know what, these are the things that bands go through. It was our very first tour so there were some shows where there was nobody there — there were literally no human beings at the show except for the staff. But the one low point of the tour I would say that really built the most character for us — and we really tried to look at it as being a positive because we think to ourselves if we can go through this then we can deal with anything — was driving between the city of Jasper in Alberta and Whistler in B.C. I believe it was something crazy, like a 10 or 14 hour drive through the mountains, and we chose to just drive it straight with pretty much no breaks. We drove and got there at about 7:00 pm and we had just enough time to get set up. We set up all of our own stuff and we had to set up our own P.A. system that we have on the trailer with us and do all of our own sound. That took hours and then literally there was nobody there. There was a bartender, and so we played a show for ourselves and the other bartender and I told the guys, “Guys, you have to make the best out of it.”
So we got there and we didn’t even get to see what Whistler was like because it was all foggy and dark. We got there at 7:00 or 8:00 pm and it was off-season so there was nobody. It wasn’t snowy yet, it was September so there wasn’t anybody there enjoying the chalets or any of the hills or anything — so we played for nobody. I told the band, “This is a glorified practice so let’s just pretend this is the Air Canada Centre and it’s sold out and let’s just give this bartender the best show they’ve ever seen in their life.” So we did the best job that we could — we put on a good show and the other band played, we cheered them on, drank as much alcohol as we could, and enjoyed the set. Then we got about three or four hours of sleep and had to leave in the morning because the drive was so far, since we had to go back to Calgary which is an additional 10 to 14 hours — so we left at four in the morning after playing a show. So to be honest with you, the reason why it was so depressing is (a) the drive there and back was very tedious, long and draining; (b) we did all of that work and played for literally no one; and, (c) we never even got to see Whistler. I literally couldn’t tell you what it looks like. I can tell you what our hotel looks like — it was beautiful — but I can’t tell you whatsoever what Whistler looked like — we didn’t see anything. It was foggy and pitch black and that was pretty depressing. So yeah, that’s about it.
Sleaze Roxx: Let’s touch on something a little bit more positive. Last Bullet just released its first video last year for “Forget The Rest”. How was filming that video and what did you learn from that experience?
Bryan Fontez: We did that video and it was a lot of fun. Jon Lajoie, a really good friend of ours, directed the video. We basically took Brendan’s car — he is our lead guitarist and he has a ’69 Chevelle — and we found two models online to wash his car and then we filmed it on a farm just north of Canada’s Wonderland, which was pretty cool. So that was a lot of fun and then after we did our interview with you, we released another video that I directed for the song “Running Out Of Time”. Directing is something I kind of always wanted to do and I didn’t really know how, but once I saw my friend Jon and a few other people direct videos I realized that aside from the technical aspect, I can do it. I have the creative vision for it so I started researching and looking into it and I asked Jon to help me out, so he came. I visualized our video just with a really basic concept and he came and we used his equipment. He filmed it for me but I directed each of the members. I told everybody what I was looking for and what I wanted and then I took all the footage. I edited the video myself as well — which was a very long process — very long, but I’m OCD when it comes to that stuff and my standards are very high. So I knew that if I didn’t like the video, I would never have released it. I like to think that my standards are higher, especially for my own projects, than they would be for someone else, so I liked it. I thought I did a pretty good job and all of us performed very well. We ended up releasing it and people seemed to like it, so that’s something that I think I’ll keep doing in the future — directing videos and we’ll see how it goes.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes. The video turned out really well. Before the cross country Canadian tour last year, Last Bullet and founding member and original drummer, Leo Dafina, parted ways. What happened there to cause Leo and the band to go their separate ways?
Bryan Fontez: When you’re in a band there are a lot of strains on each you as individuals. There are different types of stress that you deal with. In this band, money is always an issue so there’s financial stress — there’s the stress of having to take time off work, pissing work off and being away from your family and stuff like that. We love Leo, he’s like a brother to us — we hang out with him all the time and he has come to shows since Chris is in the band. He’s done sound for us, he’s done lighting for us and he even talked about being a part of the group still in some way as far as our stage show and helping out. We love him to death and he’s like a brother to us — but at the end of the day, we had different visions and we just parted ways. I think maybe it might have gotten to him a little bit and maybe he wanted to spend more time with family. He has a little sister that he loves very much and maybe he just needed to be at home more often. As well as the financial strain — this costs a lot of money. We’ve thrown over $40,000 at this band — at the very least — since we started and the next year it looks like it’s going to be another $40,000 (laughs). So that’s pretty much the answer.
Sleaze Roxx: So Chris Galaz has joined the group. How is he fitting in and what has he brought that you didn’t expect from him?
Bryan Fontez: Chris has been an amazing addition to the group. In many ways, he couldn’t be more perfect for Last Bullet. He’s got a great look, a great vibe, plays the drums very well, and he hits very hard. These are all things that, as a drummer, I have always wanted to have in my band — what to hear from our drum kit. Leo had many of those things and had a great groove, but Chris brings this kind of lion ferocity behind the drum kit — which is really cool. We’re really happy with him. Overall, the biggest thing with Chris — the defining feature of his personality — is basically his attitude. He’s super positive and he’s the one who jumped on our tour with one month’s notice — one month advance to learn all our songs and just start participating, so his attitude is great. He’ll leave tomorrow to go anywhere if we asked him to, he’s that invested and he’s that all in and that’s the kind of people that we need in this band. That’s the kind of people that the rest of us are, so in many ways he couldn’t have been a more perfect fit for us.
Sleaze Roxx: In 2014, Last Bullet played a lot of shows close to or near the greater Toronto area. The band played some very big bills in Kitchener, such as Big Music Fest (with Aerosmith headlining the last day) and the Rock And Rumble Bike Rally. What were the highlights from this summer?
Bryan Fontez: Both of those shows were great. The highlight from the summer was making that Big Music Fest — that was really cool, especially because there were 25 bands who made it to open that three-day festival. The first day was all 25 indie bands and we were the very first so we played the first note of the festival which I think is pretty cool. And in a way, we indirectly opened for Aerosmith. We opened two days before Aerosmith (laughs), or a day or whatever it was, but being on the same stage as bands that we look up to like that, that’s huge — that’s really cool! I got really nervous and anxious when I was on stage just thinking Steven Tyler is going to be on this stage, in this spot, where I’m singing and that kind of blew my mind. But at the same time, it feels right. It feels like that’s where we were supposed to be. We are supposed to be sharing the stage with bands like that so it felt very natural to us. We would have liked to have made it to the top five, which were the bands that played the next day at night. And then, they ended up choosing one and who I think ended up opening directly for Slash’s band and then Aerosmith! But we had a great time nonetheless. We met a lot of fans, there were a lot of people there, and it was a great experience.
The Motorcycle Rock And Rumble festival was in downtown Kitchener. They hired us to play right in their city hall, which was really cool — right in the middle of their downtown core. There were a lot of people there as well. We met a lot of fans and they treated us really, really well. We actually had a “green room”, which was one of their boardrooms in city hall, so it was pretty funny but they supplied us with it — we felt like rock stars. They supplied us with food and water and everything so it was really cool of them.
Overall, this summer, the biggest highlight for me is that our crowds have been growing. Our fan base has been growing. We’ve been noticing it and there’s a couple of venues that are very well known on Queen Street that we played a million times but for the first time we’ve consecutively been selling them out and that’s never happened for us before — I’m really proud of that personally. We played the Bovine Sex Club and it was pretty much sold out. We played The Hideout and there was a line of people down the street and there were people who were rejected that couldn’t get in — that sucks, but at the same time it means we’re doing something right. We played Lee’s Palace [Interviewer’s note: Lee’s Palace has a capacity of about 550 people] and almost had it sold out. We played the Phoenix recently with One Bad Son and we did fairly well on that too. We drew quite a few people and that was a great show. So those are the highlights this year — it’s been a great year for us!
Sleaze Roxx: You recently collaborated with The Unchained to release a song called “Dirty Walls”. How did that come about and is that something that you’ll be doing in the future?
Bryan Fontez: The Unchained — in case anybody doesn’t know — is a Toronto instrumental hard rock band and they’ve been around for a long time. They used to be a band called Easy Sleazy back in the day and they had a very bright future. They can tell you the story, but things got complicated for them and they lost a few members. They have been together as The Unchained for the last three or four years. They are very talented musicians, great guitarists, they make really good music, and I have always been a fan of them. We’ve played with them, shared the stage with them, and have played venues many times with them. I’m great friends with them — we’ve partied and had many a drunken night.
They wanted to work with a singer and recently expressed interest in wanting to work with me. They had a list of singers they wanted to work with and I was one of the ones on the top of their list — at least that’s what they told me. And I was interested because I respect them a lot as musicians and I’m really good friends with them. So they asked me and I said, “Sure!” So I went over to their jam space and they showed me a few songs that they had never recorded before that they thought would work with vocals on them and the chemistry clicked right away. I wrote about four or five songs with them, some of them aren’t completed yet, but the one that spoke to us was that song “Dirty Walls” which originally had a different theme, a different title and different lyrics to an extent. And then it just kind of evolved and we changed the idea of it more and more to the point where we were really inspired about what we were doing. You know, appreciating the fact that bands were coming together and then making music together because one of their guitarists is actually the lead guitarist of Fallen Heirs — Jay Sayne. Their bassist, Rick Paolucci, is actually the bassist of a band called The Joy Arson. So there’s kind of four different bands coming together into one — what I like to call a Toronto super-group of rock bands to make music. That’s pretty much it. It was a great experience. We ended up recording the song and then we wanted to direct a video for it so I took it upon myself to do this video as well. For the most part, Ryan, their drummer, had a vision of what he wanted and we collaborated on it. Then I took the entire footage home and again, edited it myself. So that was my second music video and I think it turned out pretty well for the budget that we were on, which was pretty much zero dollars (laughs). As far as working with other artists in the future, that’s something I’ve been looking to do for the past five to ten years — since before I joined Last Bullet.
To appease any concerns, Last Bullet are my family — they are my brothers. They are my number one priority and always will be — especially for the near future. But if I can find a way to make time to work with other artists regardless of genre, whether it be electronic or hip hop or other genres that I grew up with that I like as well — any chance to make good music that I can pursue without taking away from Last Bullet, I will always pursue. I feel like it’s very important. In fact, if you ask the Last Bullet guys, I always encourage them to play with other musicians too because you really learn a lot about yourself. If you play with just your band, you kind of stagnate. Everybody only has so many influences. The Unchained do things entirely backwards to how Last Bullet does it and it was refreshing. I’ve also worked with other bands that do it backwards to what The Unchained does so I feel that’s the only way to grow as a musician is to see what other musicians do and kind of secretly steal their mojo (laughs). That’s basically what I’m trying to do, is be a mojo thief (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of genres, Last Bullet has the ability to play with different genres on the bill. You can play with ’80s type metal bands, alternative bands, and could even play with grunge groups if you really wanted to. Do you think that’s an advantage for the band?
Bryan Fontez: I think it’s 100% an advantage. Anytime you can appeal to more than one type of genre or person, I think you’re winning. I think that’s part of the reason why the biggest bands in the world do as well as they do, because they appeal to so many people. At the end of the day, the reason why we’re able to do that more than anything is two reasons. First, we don’t believe in genres and the type of music necessarily — it’s more we believe in good music. We believe that a good performance, an honest performance, and a good solid and honest song will always surpass whatever genre it is. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve played a show in front of hip hop fans after a hip hop group, or in front of people who came to hear a cover band, and didn’t expect to hear rock music or don’t listen to rock music at all and said, “That was awesome. I really loved that and I don’t even listen to one note of rock music ever.” I would like to think it’s because how much energy and effort we put in — how much conviction we put in.
It’s hard to look at someone who’s giving everything they have on a stage and not respect it or not think, “Damn, that person’s really giving it and I can appreciate that.” And then the other aspect of it is, I think we’re all kind of influenced by so many different things. I even kind of hear it in our music — it’s very dynamic, it’s anything but one dimensional. We have a lot of different styles in our music. We have songs that are very AC/DC sounding, we have ones that sound very Aerosmith or Guns N’ Roses/Slash, but then we also have some newer music that’s a little heavier that sounds almost metal — a little bit more Stone Temple Pilots, alternative, or grunge. We can also get really, really funky and lighthearted and positive and fun too. I really like the fact that there’s kind of no rules with this band, and to be honest with you, on our next album you can expect to hear some new sounds that you’ve never heard from us before. We are even experimenting with different things, a few new sounds we’ve never experimented with — electronic sounds, and I wouldn’t say hip hop, but a little bit more urban beats and things like that. But at our core, we will always be rock — we will always be rock and roll. But then again, rock and roll was influenced by a lot of those things too — as well as influencing those things.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of new material, for about the last six months, you guys have been previewing some of your new songs live. When can we expect to get a new record from Last Bullet and how many songs are you going to have?
Bryan Fontez: Unless somebody forks over a large amount of money, we probably won’t be doing anything more than another EP — another four to six songs. A new record is our number one priority right now — it’s at the top of our list because we are well overdue. Our last album was in 2012 and it was just an EP technically. So between EPs, two years is way too long. But again, it’s a money and timing thing — it didn’t feel right to do an album before. We have the songs now, so as far as when we’re recording, we would like to record early next year. The date or the time that’s being thrown around is March or April.
We have five or six songs that we’ve been playing live that we really, really like. We love them and we think they are an evolved version of us — they are more mature. It’s funny, because we didn’t intend to do this but there’s less swearing and more mature subject matter — darker themes, more love and loss and things like that. But things that people can relate to so we’re never going to lose our party edge — we still have songs like that. We have a new song called “Southern Lips”. There was a time where I wrote 15 to 20 songs just by myself when I was bored at work at my old job. We have a lot of those songs that we still haven’t flushed out yet, so our next few months we’re taking time to write new music on top of the five or six songs that we already have. We’ll get about 12 or 15 songs together — solid songs — and then just choose the very best for the album and then release those. We will end up playing the other ones live more than likely, but when you have a lot more options the quality of the product ends up being better. We’re currently talking to a producer about recording in April and we’re excited for it.
Sleaze Roxx: If you were recording in April, when would the release be?
Bryan Fontez: If we record in April — it’s hard to say. We could sit on it for a bit, but ideally we’d probably like to get things moving right away because the summer is busy time for bands in general with festivals and that kind of stuff. To be honest with you, I’d probably say we’d try to release it before the summer sometime. May might be a little early considering we record in April, so I would say in between June and August. But again, you can’t take my word for it because I’m not 100% sure how that will go.
Sleaze Roxx: You’ve been very vocal that it takes hard work to make it and you’ve actually indicated that Last Bullet is one of, or if not, the hardest working band out there. What makes Last Bullet such a hard working band?
Bryan Fontez: You have to be careful with these questions in the music community because it can go the wrong way fast! I don’t like to toot our own horn per say but we do work hard. I’m not going to beat around the bush about it and I’m not going to pretend that we don’t. I’m one of those people that doesn’t believe in someone being conceited, but I believe in pure confidence when it’s honest. With that said, I’ll never tell you that I’m better than anyone else at something where I know I’m not — but if I do know that I can do something, I’ll also let you know.
As far as working hard, the reason why Last Bullet is one of the hardest working bands in the country — or one of the hardest working bands that I’ve ever seen — is because we’re willing to do all the things that most bands aren’t, to be completely honest with you. There are a lot of bands that want success, fame and things like that. Some of them think it’s enough to just write good music and play a few shows and promote a little bit and that’s it. Some of them feel like it’s enough to go on tour once across the country and if they don’t make it, then that means they don’t have what it takes and they get down on themselves. Some of them feel like if a label doesn’t notice them, they’re not going to be successful and they think that’s the end of the road for them. The music industry is changing so much that I can’t tell you where it’s going. I can just tell you that through every generation, it had its pros and cons, its obstacles and the constant is that no matter what issues you have to deal with to become successful, if you want to become successful you’ll find a way. No one is going to show you how to do it. No one is going to give you a tutorial or a formula. You just have to figure it out and you have to want it — and we just want it more than most people. I don’t know if you can see that, but I would like to think that you can see it in our stage shows. In our networking, how we’re always supporting other bands and things like that because we genuinely love the music scene in Toronto too. We have a lot of really good talented friends and we support the hell out of them but that’s how we’ve accomplished what we’ve accomplished. We’ve come very far in the five years that we’ve been together. I like to think it’s because our eye is always on the prize. We don’t hesitate. We don’t stop. We push really hard and we do it smartly, intelligently, efficiently and strategically.
Sleaze Roxx: Last Bullet’s song “State Of Confusion” was recently played just before the gold medal hockey game between the Canada and Russia juniors, which was broadcast via television throughout Canada. How did you manage that and how did it feel to have your song played at that moment?
Bryan Fontez: (Laughs) Well, it was easier than you may think. TSN [The Sports Network] had made a post on their website and social media asking for indie bands across Canada to submit tracks via email, so we sent them “Runnin’ Out Of Time” and “State Of Confusion”. They ended up using “Runnin’ Out Of Tine” for the Canada versus Denmark game I believe, which was very cool, and then the morning of the gold medal game we received an email from them stating that they chose to use our song “State Of Confusion” for the opening broadcast/montage/intro just before the finals. As a band we freaked out obviously, and somewhat couldn’t believe what we just read. And then as the day went on, it took a bit of time for the truth to really sink in — which was the fact that we basically had our music broadcasted live to the entire country from coast to coast. The excitement really hit me when I was working at Real Sports and watching the intro as our song blasted over the speakers pumping everyone up just before the game was about to start. I was screaming the lyrics at the top of my lungs in excitement to be honest. People in the crowd were looking at me like an idiot, not knowing that the guy singing along beside them is actually the frontman of the band they’re listening to (laughs).
But it was definitely a huge moment for us. Famous and successful bands would pay a lot of money to get a slot like that. For Canada, it’s akin to ad space for the Super Bowl — only we lucked out because we didn’t have to pay a thing. As a group of five Canadian boys, being a part of Canadian hockey history is something we’ll never forget. And on a side note, I’d also like to add that because I work for Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment as a DJ, I was asked to spin for the Hockey Canada player after party! Not only did I get to meet all the players, but I got to kiss and hold the World Junior Cup while wearing the gold medal around my neck. I still don’t believe that it happened — it was completely surreal. The open bar and buffet was also a bonus (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — you’ve talked about the new record coming out, or just going to be recorded. What else is on tap for Last Bullet in 2015?
Bryan Fontez: As far as making noise and spreading our name through the city and through Canada, I’d say 2014 has been out best year so far. A lot of people know who we are. Myself, moving downtown has been one of the best things for the band because I’ve been going out and supporting a lot of artists and getting to know people and making friends. Networking is one of the most important things and I’ve realized that being here — it’s worked wonders for us. A lot of people know our name that didn’t know our name before we started networking as hard as we have been.
As far as 2015, to be completely honest with you, it looks like it’s going to be the best year ever. We’re starting off the year in a position that we’ve been dying to be in since we started this. I can’t tell you who or what, but I can tell you a situation. We started off 2015 with record label interest. We did a private showcase for a record label that asked us to come and I don’t know what will come of it. It could potentially be nothing but it could be a lot more. We’ll see how it goes. We went in there, talked business and did our best. As far as our album goes, I can’t name names until its official but we’re currently talking to someone who can be considered the most lucrative or sought after producer in Canada right now. He came to our last show and he’s very interested in working with us from what I understand. If the two of those things go well, this will be the biggest year ever in the history of this band.