INTERVIEW WITH LAST BULLET FRONTMAN BRYAN FONTEZ
Date: August 24, 2017
AFTER GIVING LAST BULLET TWO SOLID ALBUM REVIEWS — FOR LAST BULLET (2011) AND LOVE.LUST.ILLUSION (2012) — I WAS DISAPPOINTED WITH THE GROUP’S RECENTLY RELEASED EP ’80-69-64′ GIVING IT A “NEGATIVE” REVIEW LARGELY DUE TO THE BIG CHANGE IN MUSICAL DIRECTION ON A LOT OF THE SONGS. TO THEIR CREDIT, LAST BULLET POSTED MY REVIEW FOR THEIR FANS TO READ AND AS I WAS SETTING UP THE INTERVIEW WITH THE GROUP’S FRONTMAN BRYAN FONTEZ, HE MADE IT CLEAR THAT HE WANTED TO DISCUSS MY “INTERESTING” COMMENTS. AS I SPOKE TO THE ALWAYS CANDID FONTEZ, WHO IS ONE HALF OF THE BAND’S SONGWRITING TANDEM, IT BECAME CLEAR TO ME THAT OUR FAVORITE BANDS DIFFERED SIGNIFICANTLY, WHICH I THINK EXPLAINS TO A LARGE EXTENT WHY I AM NOT REALLY LIKING LAST BULLET’S NEW MUSICAL DIRECTION.
Sleaze Roxx: Congratulations on your new EP 80-69-64. It has taken almost five years to get it out so what happened during those five years?
Bryan Fontez: It’s a combination of a lot of things but ultimately, it’s a combination of mostly money and timing. I mean — we’ve always wanted to do a full-length album but to do it at the standard that we do things would cost us at least $40,000 to do an album just to record it. And that’s a lot of money. Also, it’s a combination of the timing as well. We’ve been playing a lot as you have seen over the past three years. Not necessarily a lot of touring but just a lot of appearances and a lot of shows in general, which might as well be touring. We’ve been playing [the provinces of] Ontario and Quebec, and the east coast [of Canada] as well. So it’s pretty much the combination of finances and timing. We just never got around to doing it because it seemed that we were always busy and had a lot of things on our plate as it is. And also, our music, wherever we go, we’re at a point where if no one has heard of us before, our music is still brand new to them. I know that it might sound kind of weird — especially for the fans that know us — but there was really no rush to release anything new right away because there was no demand. Until there is a demand, we don’t feel that pressure you know what I mean? But we want to. I would want to release new music every year if we could but there’s no pressure to do so until you start attaining enough success that your fans are asking for it.
Sleaze Roxx: Now I know that at one point, you guys were concentrating on releasing singles before which you did in 2015 [“Sin”] and 2016 [“Southern Girls”]. Did you guys alter your plans with the new EP?
Bryan Fontez: Those singles were pretty much always meant to be on an EP. We just thought to ourselves at the time, “Let’s just record a few.” We originally recorded the three tracks. We recorded “Sin,” “Bright Lights” and “Southern Lips” — and those three were originally going to be a really mini three song EP. We then decided that we kind of wanted to release them as singles instead — at least with “Sin” and “Southern Lips.” I am leaving that out as a huge reason why it took so long to release this EP because we kind of straddled off the back of two campaigns — two radio campaigns — for those two singles. We just kind of rode them until they died out, which each of them took almost about a year to kind of fizzle out before we gave up on them. Yeah, it’s those tracks as well for the reason that it took us so long to release another record or album or EP in general. But those two were always meant to be on an EP of some kind. It just ended up being that we had these other three songs we’ve been playing for so long so we decided to record three more and make a six-song EP.
Last Bullet‘s “Sin” video:
Nominated for “Best Music Video” by the Toronto Independent Music Awards* Last Bullet’s new single “SIN” is now available on iTunes. Go to http://lastbulletmusic.com for more music, merch and tour dates.
Last Bullet’s “Southern Lips” song:
Southern Lips is now available on iTunes and all other streaming services worldwide. For more info visit us at www.lastbulletmusic.com!
Sleaze Roxx: I know that in a previous interview, you did not want to reveal the meaning of your new title for your EP (’80-69-64′) but I think if you would have released that three-song EP, it would have been called ‘Long Story Short.’ Is that correct?
Bryan Fontez: Yeah. That was the placeholder title that we had originally and we thought that it was a fitting EP name because the three songs are so drastically different. Like “Sin” is really heavy, moody and dark, and “Bright Lights” is a little bit more funky and more Aerosmithy if you will. And then “Southern Lips” is very very AC/DC four on the floor kind of straight ahead rock so it’s kind of like a summary of what we sound like or what we have to offer within three tracks. So that’s why we were going to call it that. It took on a whole different thing when we started adding the other three tracks.
Sleaze Roxx: I know that you guys seem to have placed a lot of emphasis on radio. Why is that?
Bryan Fontez: It’s because if you can get radio on your side, and if you can find a way to get played on the radio, you can slowly start to build a foundation where you can turn music into a career. There’s a lot of bands that you and I both know mutually that have been doing this circuit for over ten years — and it’s not like they don’t have nothing to show for it — but they still haven’t built enough of a foundation or achieve enough of a certain type of success to quit their jobs and do music full-time. In order to do that, you have to land some sort of mainstream wide raining success that kind of appeals to a larger audience. If you look at any band that went from our position to playing full-time — being a musician full-time where they can quit their job — most of the time, I think 90% of the time, it took radio or some sort of really good opportunity to get in front of a large audience for them to achieve that.
Monster Truck is an example. They have been around for eight years or so and then landed on the radio. Billy Talent was together for ten years. They really didn’t have a single on the radio at all over those ten years and then finally landed their first single and that’s what made them blow up. Radio isn’t everything but it’s definitely something. To be honest with you, and we’ve kind of said this publicly before and privately but Canadian radio hasn’t been all that nice to us so we’re going to make this our last try and if it doesn’t pan out, we will probably start putting our efforts in other demographics and other countries and move on.
Sleaze Roxx: So what you’re saying is that the band will continue but that you’ll be focusing on other countries?
Bryan Fontez: Yes. As far as playing shows, we’ll never stop playing shows in Canada. It’s not like we will be ignoring our fan base here or anything like that. It’s becoming apparent that there are fans outside of Canada, like in the US and the UK, that are growing faster and that seem much more interested and open to working with us.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of the new album, obviously it’s a big departure in the sound — at least for my ears. Before we did the interview, you said that I had some “interesting” comments in my review so I am going to give you the floor on that and you can tell me what you think.
Bryan Fontez: Sure. Some of it is different — definitely. Some of it is very different and some of its is pretty exactly the same. Some of it is exactly like “Southern Lips” could have been on any either of our last two albums. So yeah, there’s parts of us that will never change and there’s parts of us that are based on what is going in the world and around us. As we keep changing as people because we have been at it for eight years. We were really young and had completely different motivations and ideas. We’re different people than when we started. Apart from that, this EP has gotten rave reviews — like I would say 90-95 % of magazines and promoters and any sort of media that you can think of. There’s been a few that haven’t loved it but I have no problem at all with anyone who doesn’t like our music. Music, like anything that invokes creativity that comes out of another person’s brain. It’s completely subjective. Everybody loves what they love. I know you well. That’s exactly why I informed you that you weren’t going to like this one track [“Gimme Time”] and I was 100% correct because I know you [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Bryan Fontez: It’s one of those things that no matter how hard you try, it’s impossible to please everyone. All I ask from anyone ever is that they just give it an opportunity and if they don’t like it, they don’t like it. We honestly can’t please everyone and it’s going to be impossible to do that in the future but the truth is, at the end of the day, our fans can take this however they want but we don’t make music for them and we don’t make music for anyone else but ourselves. So it starts with us and it starts with us doing this because it’s fun. That’s why the band started to begin with — because we enjoyed it and we wanted to pursue it for ourselves. And then, when people start supporting you and they become part of the family, you want them to like it but you’re not necessarily making the music for them. You’re still trying to make music that you think is necessary in the world.
“Gimme Time” for example is a song that I actually wrote four years ago. I wrote it a long time ago. The band kept trying to make it work and it didn’t feel right at the time but we’ve changed enough that we feel like it works now. The reason why we released it to radio is because — and this wasn’t on purpose but — it sounds a lot like some of the top singles that are on rock radio right now like a song called “Human” by Rag N Bone Man. But it wasn’t done on purpose. It just happened to be that way. We figured if those are the songs that are number one right now on the radio and they have been number one for weeks, then we might have a shot at getting this song on the radio as well which is the reason why we chose this one to push.
[Interviewer’s note — This is part of what I wrote in my review of Last Bullet’s new EP ’80-69-64′ last month: “Rather than the catchy melodies and witty lyrics that were so prevalent on the first self-titled EP or the heavier AC/DC like (at times) rhythm filled tunes on the band’s sophomore EP Love.Lust.Illusion, Last Bullet have decided to channel more ’90s era slower styled music. Gone are the great melodies and mesmerizing but simple guitar riffs, and in are slower plodding type songs with melancholic modern sounding guitars and a real lack of melodies.” In addition, I wrote: “And what the hell happened to guitar hero Brendan Armstrong? It appears that he’s pretty much on hiatus on 80-69-64.”]
Bryan Fontez: To clarify, in your review in specific, I have zero animosity for anybody that doesn’t like our music ’cause I can’t control that. It’s completely up to them. The only time that I ever get annoyed as a musician is when people say things about the music that are not true. Like a really really big focus for this new EP and especially these newer songs that we have been going out of our way to make sure that these songs have, and has been made very clear in all the reviews that we have received and are being emphasized are the melodies. So a song like “Gimme Time” is purely melody. It’s a 100% focused on the melody and vocal forward.
And then also, this EP has some, in my opinion, Brendan’s [Armstrong] best guitar work and most interesting and colourful guitar work. The solos that he is playing on these songs are some of the most complicated, riffy-est, craziest driven solos he’s played before. The only song that does not have a full guitar solo is “Gimme Time” and that was just a choice that we made that it wasn’t the kind of song that needed one. And some of his riffs are fantastic. “Little Miss Filthy” has a great riff. That one always gets me really excited. I love Brendan’s guitar work on this album. He really cranked out a lot of the creativity on this one and myself too. Both of us worked on some of the guitar riffs together. I wrote the guitar riff for “Sin” for example. He wrote “Little Miss Filthy.” We kind of collaborated on everything together.
Last Bullet‘s “Gimme Time” lyric video:
Our new album “80-69-64” is available now on LastBulletMusic.com and all online streaming sites and platforms. “Gimme Time” written and performed by Last Bullet Produced by Brian Moncarz Mastered by Brian Lucey I don’t know what your mama said, But papa gon’ preach til the day that you’re dead I dunno what your mama’s done, But papa’s in the corner loadin his gun sayin…
Last Bullet‘s “Forget The Rest” video (from the Love.Lust.Illusion album released in 2012):
Want the album? Go to www.lastbulletmusic.com Special thanks to the Last Bullet video models Lauren Roy and Ivett Jaroc, as well as the Director Jon Lajoie, the entire crew and to Molson Canadian for providing the fuel that kept us going on shoot day. We hope you enjoy the video!
Sleaze Roxx: Alright, fair enough. In terms of the songwriting, has it changed at all within the band or have you all naturally evolved into where you are now?
Bryan Fontez: Yeah, it’s constantly changing. It’s always predominantly myself and Brendan bringing forth most of the ideas. I am aware that Last Bullet has a certain sound and it has kind of established that but my favorite bands in the world are bands that sound what their sound was which takes a lot of time. It takes a lot of time for most bands to figure out what they have to offer that no one else can offer. We don’t want to keep repeating ourselves. We don’t want to keep repeating the same rock and roll formula that’s being done over and over. We want to take that foundation of rock and roll, and twist it — “Bullet-ize” it if you will into our own version of it and make something that is completely uniquely us that no one else can replicate. That’s what I think a good artist does, which is why some of my favorite bands are so unique that no one sounds like them — absolutely nobody sounds like them.
I don’t know if you’re a fan but I like Queens Of The Stone Age for example. Nobody in the world sounds like Queens Of The Stone Age. System Of A Down is one of my favorite metal bands. There’s no band in the world that sounds like System Of A Down. Things like that really interest me when they find a niche and they really attack it and they really take off in an interesting direction. Songs like “Gimme Time” and even “Smoke & Ashes” — they’re songs where we are trying something different because we don’t want to be a cliché and we don’t want to be repetitive. It’s us trying to find out what the boundaries are, what we are capable of doing and ultimately, who are we. What is our sound and what is it that we do best? Those are examples of the songs where we are taking some risks. To be honest with you, I personally feel that they have paid off. In many ways, they are some of our most interesting work.
Sleaze Roxx: Do you feel that the band has found its sound or are you still looking? Because obviously the new EP has a lot of variety on it.
Bryan Fontez: Yeah. I think the EP still shows signs of the problems that we’ve always had [laughs] which is we’re trying to figure out what our sound is. But I think that we are getting closer and I don’t think we know 100% what it is. I am just being honest with you. I don’t want to show a lack of confidence but I honestly believe that we haven’t found our sound yet but I think that we’re starting to hone it on it. We’re getting closer and closer with every song that we write and every recording that we have. At the same time, I really love dynamics and I love diversity, especially in rock and roll. I come from a background of all types of music — jazz, opera, classical, everything — and I hate rules and I hate parameters. Part of the reason why I love rock and roll so much is because it’s so dynamic. You can take it from a really jazzy smoky whisper style rock to a huge bombastic extremely sinister heavy riff with crashing drums. You can do anything with it. As long as we stay within that feeling of rock and roll, I am not concerned with what we have been trying. I like so many things that I don’t ever want us to put limitations on what we write or how we write. I have to warn the people who love our sound that it is probably going to change and we are going to try new things because I am the kind of person who loves everything. I am one of the primary songwriters in the band so I am always going to want the band to be a reflection of myself and vice-versa because Last Bullet and myself are intertwined forever. So the music is always going to be a reflection of my interests as well as everybody else.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for you — what are your plans now? You have the EP out now. What are your plans for the rest of the year?
Bryan Fontez: The rest of the year is going to be… Brendan, our guitarist, is away on an awesome vacation with his fiancé right now in Italy and they are enjoying themselves. We have a bunch of content that we have sort of been sitting on that we have decided to schedule to release while he is away so it doesn’t feel like we’re gone or anything. While we are not playing shows, we just released that lyric video for “Gimme Time.” I also edited a really really cool live highlight reel that is about a minute long of our CD release show at the Phoenix and it looks really really cool! It’s one of the best little snippets of video that I think that we ever produced. If it doesn’t get people excited to work with or come see Last Bullet, then they don’t have a pulse!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Bryan Fontez: It’ll be exciting. We’ll be releasing that probably very soon after the lyric video dies down. Right now, the lyric video for “Gimme Time” is trending to be the most successful and most prominent thing we ever released on the internet ever. We’re looking forward to that. As soon as Brendan gets back which will be at the end of this month, we have a show at Voodoo Rockfest in Napanee [Ontario, Canada]. We will be playing Napanee for the very first time alongside a whole bunch of bands that we know very well. Right now, what we are looking to do is fill up pretty much all of our weekends with Ontario and Quebec shows — as many as possible. We just want to start playing as much as possible because that’s something that we neglected a little bit this year. So the 100% focus right now is playing shows as soon as Brendan gets back. We’re also working on an US tour, which we are hoping to do in November. Right now, we are talking to a whole bunch of venues and trying to get something together so that we can our feet wet to go to the US for about a week. The US is a huge target of ours. Depending on how well “Gimme Time” does here, we might end up kind of shifting our energy to the US and pursuing that a little bit harder ’cause people have been telling us to go to the US since we darted the band. A lot of people have been yelling at us to get the hell out of here and calling us ‘stupid’ [laughs] for staying here so long. But yeah, the US is definitely something that is on top of our list and we are now doing it. We’re going 100%. We’ve said it a million times but it’s not a question anymore, it’s just a matter of time before we go. So hopefully, it’s in November. The plan is to go before the end of the year is over and about three months later, go back again a little bit longer and start to build a foundation there playing shows in major cities from the east coast and then maybe, we”ll branch off from there and see how we do.