Courtesy of .
Sure, you've heard of bands producing their own records in D.I.Y. attempts to get their music out on the street. But how many bands have not only self-released a record, but also crafted their own distribution and promotion plan, starting with one city and ultimately getting their CD into music stores and radio stations across the country?
"It was a big job," says Fuel guitarist/ songwriter Carl Bell of the success story behind Porcelain, a seven-song EP the band managed to sell over 10,000 copies of through word-of-mouth and a bit of strategic planning. A big job, sure, but apparently not as difficult as one might think, given Bell's description of the intense support Fuel was given in their adopted hometown of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "We had the record stores designing and hanging up displays for us!" he smiles. "They were so supportive. Some of the stores were part of [national] chains, so they'd distribute [our record] for us by sending it to other stores along with the shipments!
"Everyone laughs at us when we say we wanted to move to Harrisburg," Bell continues in a pleasant drawl courtesy of western Tennessee, where he and bandmates Brett Scallions (vocals) and Jeff Abercrombie (bass) spent their formative years. "But it was really beneficial. We had already developed a following there from playing shows in the area,"--drummer Kevin Miller is from nearby Allentown, Pennsylvania--"and it's close to a lot of other cities, like D.C., Philly, Baltimore and New York."
The move to Harrisburg proved to be a master stroke for Fuel, as the local scene's unwavering support of the band eventually led to a deal with Sony's 550 Records, a debut full-length record (Sunburn), and huge amounts of airplay for their first single, "Shimmer." The song, heavy-hitting yet seamlessly flowing, is representative of the entire album's style. Fuel, like rock format peers Quicksand, Days Of The New, Creed and Our Lady Peace, have managed to cross over into the playlists of the alternative radio stations across the country.
Whether this format-hopping is due to Sunburn's sophisticated attention to melody or simply the public's taste for something new, Fuel are fairly adamant about what genre they should be placed in. "We're a rock band. If you want to call it alternative, so be it, and we're glad of the alternative airplay. But we like to just think 'Rock,'" Bell confesses.
Simple tags seem to suit Fuel most accurately. Take Bell's songwriting roots: He grew up in a rural household without a television and claims he didn't know what he was missing. "My brother won this huge radio contest when we were growing up--he got 500 records, all genres--and I would come home from school every day and just sit around for hours listening to music. Everything from Richard Pryor to Joni Mitchell to Uriah Heep." Eventually, Bell picked up his brother's old acoustic guitar, and together with neighbor Abercrombie ("We've known each other since pre-diapers"), taught himself to play. Plain, simple, rock 'n' roll.
Still not convinced of Fuel's inherent rock-dom? When asked what songs the earliest incarnation of Fuel was messing around with, Bell grins. "[ Pat Benatar's] 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' was probably one of the first songs we ever played." He laughs. "I'm talking high school, when we were just starting to put together a group. Where Jeff and I come from, there weren't any bands. Playing music was this whole phenomenon to us...we'd never even seen other people play music. So 'Hit Me With Your Best Shot' was, like, the best little thing we could play!"