Fuzzy is an amazingly brilliant pop/rock band. After sifting through literally thousands of CDs in the past few years, I would have to say that Fuzzy and the Pooh Sticks are the two best pop groups around. This is probably because these bands' songs are so well-crafted, catchy, genuine, and sincere.
Fuzzy now have two full-length CDs out , and they're both incredible. The band is based in Boston and was formed in 1992. The name was chosen because it sounded sweet and dumb (one of the band members mentioned that "Fuzzy Bunny" was originally tossed around as the name). Here's the band lineup:
Hilken Mancini plays guitar and sings. Hilken is 26 years old and grew up in Syracuse, New York. She has a day job at a video company. Chris Toppin also plays guitar and sings. Chris is 33, and grew up in the small town of North Kingston, Rhode Island. She cleans houses for a living. Winston Braman, age 30, plays bass. Winston grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and is a welder and carpenter by day. Rounding out the band is David Ryan, drummer extraordinaire. David is 31 and grew up in the suburbs of Chicago. He does various odd jobs for a living, including copy editing.
What drew me into this band's music was the genuine and real nature of the words and melodies. After speaking with them, this certainly seems to be the case. The Fuzzy folks are some of the nicest people you're likely to meet, and they come across as anything but your typical rock musicians. I spoke with each band member individually by phone and recorded their answers to the following questions. This interview is divided into four segments.
A. HILKEN MANCINI (guitar/vocals)
What do you do for entertainment, Hilken?
I would say playing with my cats and reading, or hanging out with people and drinking beer.
Did you play with toys as a kid?
I think I played with mostly doll house type of miniature things. I was very fascinated by that. I had Barbies. My mom used to take me to this place where this old lady made clothes for Barbie dolls. We used to go there, me and my old girlfriend, and we'd pick out outfits for the Barbie dolls. And I remember really being into shopping for the clothes.
Do you feel that women and men basically think the same way or very differently?
I think that men and women are different. As far as thinking, I guess you'd have to ask me something more specific like about relationships or about a movie...do you know what I mean? A lot of my friends are men and I feel like I have a lot of similar ideas or opinions about things whether it's music or a film or something like that, but I think when it comes to relationships men are very different than women and their ideas when it comes to that seem a little screwball to me.
I know what you mean. Did you have pets when you were a kid?
Yeah, we had a big English sheep dog named Clea. Actually, Winston and I were watching this T.V. program last night about dogs...about how if you're a certain type of person you should buy a certain type of dog, like if you're a quiet person you shouldn't get this kind of dog. I dunno, it was sort of bizarre, one of those weird T.V. channels where you're supposed to learn about things. I never realized that really, but I guess nowadays people do more of that when they think about, "What type of personality am I? And what kind of dog should I get?" Just like, "What kind of color am I? Am I Winter, or Spring? Should I wear blue? Should I buy a German Shepherd?" I mean, it's fucked up. You should buy what you wanna buy.
Do you think things are getting better or worse?
I think things are getting worse, but only because I'm thinking of life in a tragic, stupid kind of way. I that if anyone wants to look at life for real I guess they could say that. "Oh, it's so tragic." But I mean, that's kind of ridiculous to do that. I think you should just go about your life and keep your shit together. I definitely think it's a hard time right now. A lot of my friends are struggling, trying to keep themselves together financially. I think it's hard to be artistic and live in this country, and I think that's a shitty thing. I think that's really what makes me think life is sort of tragic or whatever. You see so many people who can do so many things, but they're not allowed to do them because of money and because of those kind of things. I think if they grew up in an environment where they didn't have to worry so much about that kind of thing people would be making more films and doing things that they never realized they were capable of doing.
I think the thing that bothers me even more than that is friends who want to do something and they aren't even trying to do anything.
Yeah. It's hard to try. If you didn't start out trying, it's hard to suddenly try. But if you started out trying since you were a kid, like "I wanna do music or I wanna take pictures" or something, I mean...if you started out trying then I think you just keep on trying. But I think when you're 30 and you've been safe all your life, it's hard to turn around and say "Fuck it, I'm gonna make this film I've always wanted to make." People freak out. Like, "You don't have health insurance? You don't have a car?" And it's like, "Well, no." I'm trying to do what I want, I guess. I'm hoping there's going to be a payback someday. There probably won't be, but... I think we all as a band feel like we've grown musically together. It is hard right now because we're really struggling to make ends meet.
What is the most important thing you've learned in your life up to this point?
Not to take yourself too seriously, definitely, because when you do something like that you let go of the reason why you're doing things anyway. I mean, you have to remember why you like to read this book or walk around this pond every day or whatever. If you're thinking too much of why you wanna do it and why you are who you are, you're taking yourself way too seriously and you're forgetting why you began in the first place.
B. CHRIS TOPPIN (guitar/vocals)
You cut your hair so that we can see your face.
Now I understand why people do that. You actually look better and you can see people. In a way, I think I used to like the hair in my face. I'm still a little bit freaked out on stage. It's kind of scary. Sometimes I wonder...I feel like if I'm up there I actually look at it from, say, an alien's point of view, you know...all of a sudden, what is going on... I'm standing on a big piece of wood and I've got a piece of wood on me and there are strings on it and I'm playing it and four of us are facing these people and they're all looking at us. It's very odd to me. Imagine if you were an alien and you were dropped into a human's body and you were on stage. It's kind of bizarre.
That's how I think of most things in the world. I envision animals doing the things people do and it makes things seem even more ridiculous.
Oh definitely. Like sex seems really ridiculous when you think of it that way. Sometimes when you're just in the regular day kind of thing, it's like "God, why do we do that? That's so bizarre. What's going on?" But it's one of those unexplained things...
Were you popular in high school, Chris?
No, definitely not. But I wasn't a depressed loner either, like I sometimes fantasize about. You know...those people who are so cool and you read about them and they were like, the depressed loner that people made fun of and they turn out to be this great genius when they grow up. I wasn't that either. I was kind of goofy. I had friends, but they were all the goofy outcast kids. But we were totally happy with that. We didn't care, me and my friends the goofballs...
That's the category I was in.
I was kind of fine with that. How were you with that category?
I think I was just kind of unhappy as a teenager. But hey, at least it's over...
Well, everybody is unhappy slightly, or to different degrees I should say...because it's just too hard. Even people who seemingly have everything, it's just too hard to be a teenager.
I'd hate to be one now.
I can't believe what kids have to go through these days. With all that other stuff that we went through, plus fear of dying in so many different ways, and just feeling unsafe constantly. When we were in school, I was afraid of getting beat up. These kids have to be afraid they're gonna get shot...
What's the most expensive thing you've stolen?
When I was maybe 12 or 13 I tried to steal a pair of sunglasses and I almost got caught. I got so freaked out that I put them back. But on the way out, I got stopped by the security and they brought me in this room and they frisked me. It was the scariest thing in the world. I feared that I was too obvious and they were watching me and I was too freaked out, so I put them back, but they nabbed me anyway. But I didn't have them on me, so I actually didn't get in trouble. But it was such a scary thing. Being in a small town, that was the only store you could go to. And if I got kicked out of that store my life would have been over. There were no malls yet. I don't have a problem with people stealing. I'm in awe of some of my friends who are amazing thieves, but I was just afraid. I was always afraid of getting caught.
Do you collect anything?
Well, I do actually. I collect Fiesta Ware and different assorted colored dishware. Things that have a colored glaze, all different dishes. For Christmas I got this beautiful bowl from Winston and it was like this beautiful dark yellow. Some of my friends looked at me like I was crazy because I was so excited about it. It was in beautiful condition. It was a big bowl. That made me happy.
What is your worst habit?
Well, I'll tell you. I think I have a compulsive disorder. I used to call it a habit, but it's something that I do involuntarily. My lips are always chapped or dry, and without knowing it I take the dry skin off my lips. But then it makes them worse, so I'm forever doing it and I don't even know I'm doing it...sitting in the car or watching T.V. Hilken and Winston will be like, "What are you doing with your lips?"
You mean like peeling the skin off?
Yeah. It's almost like if you get a sunburn. My lips are always messed up, and it's really because I keep doing it. It's the truth. I think people should tell the truth about things like this because a lot of people may have things that they do that they think are weird, but it's like it's not your fault. Sometimes it's not. Like it seems really crazy and you know it's crazy and you don't want to do it. Like I know a girl who pulls her hair out. She doesn't know why she does it. But it actually is like a weird, compulsive disorder of some kind I think. And I don't do that to my lips all the time, but I know the fact that I'm not paying attention and I don't want to do it...but I do it anyway. It must fall into that category.
This is leading in perfectly to the next question. What do you like about yourself?
I'm pretty compassionate. I'm like that in a lot of situations where other people aren't. I notice that I feel more compassion and understanding towards people in situations. I'm always into seeing how the other person feels, like the other side of things...
I do the same thing.
Really? And I like that, and I like other people like that too. Don't you? Because there's not a lot of people who do that...
I think you're right. I think most people are so concerned with putting out their own ideas that they're not looking at things from the other person's viewpoint. That's part of why I started asking musicians questions about anything other than music. I'm a musician myself, and I get tired of talking about music.
C. WINSTON BRAMAN (bass)
What do you like about yourself?
My easy going manner.
What do you dislike about yourself?
Have you ever had a recurring dream?
Only when I was little. I was going down the drain, like in a sink when the disposal was on, but there was also a crocodile coming after me. So I was spinning around, the crocodile was behind me so I couldn't really try to stop and hold myself, and then the disposal was going...
And you dreamed this over and over again?
Yeah, I dreamt that quite a few times. It was a real bummer. It was a recurring nightmare.
Do you think organized religion is good or bad?
It's probably a bad idea I guess. Maybe for some people I guess it's okay. Why not? Everyone wants to feel like they belong. I guess it's just not for me, I take it too personally. If it could be like the Lion's Club, that's kind of cool. Everyone wants to feel like they belong and are a part of something. As long as it doesn't get too dogmatic, I don't have any problems with religion in a way...
What do you usually have for breakfast?
Coffee. I don't really eat until three in the afternoon. I'll wake up at eight or eight thirty and drink a bunch of coffee, go to work, and then probably eat around two...
And what do you do for a day job?
I've been a welder/carpenter for quite a few years. I make a lot of furniture out of steel because I can weld it and I do sets for commercials and movies and things like that.
What do you think about?
That's the end of the question? Uh...depends, I guess. I think about the books I read, I suppose, and how they apply to other people in my life I think. I read a lot of nineteenth-century literature. I think almost exclusively at this point I read Dickens and Thomas Hardy right now.
What is your worst habit?
What's my worst habit? You know that thing when people snort and then they try to spit up snots? You know what I mean? I don't like that I do that. It's gross. It grosses me out when I hear other people do it. Flossing my teeth in public is pretty gross. I try not to do it, but I'm a little compulsive about it. I have a place where a toothpick doesn't work, because I have some bad bridgework.
D. DAVID RYAN (drums)
Do you have a day job, David?
Different odd jobs. I have a freelancing/copy editing thing at this publishing firm. I also recently did some...I don't know what you'd call it..not spying, but sort of working for a private investigator, going around taking photos of places and pretending I'm someone I'm not. It was definitely a cool gig. I get lucky in that I can get some kind of interesting jobs when it finally comes down to needing them.
What would you prefer to be doing most of the time?
I guess generally what I get to do, which is just sit around New York and write. That's about it with me, I'm pretty easily pleased. I write films and short stores and stuff like that. That's my ultimate goal is to just do that.
What do you think is the biggest problem in the world?
The population? I don't know. There are so many problems and they generally stem from people. I'm not an entire misanthrope, but I can be accused of it occasionally...
If you had one hour left to live, how would you spend that hour?
I don't know, writing I guess. I might come up with a good story.
At this point, the tape ran out. I can't articulate how highly I regard this band's music. It's so good it gives me chills. Check out the debut CD simply entitled Fuzzy or, better yet, the new one entitled Electric Juices. They both contain some of the best pop music you'll find anywhere. And, because in the end it really DOES matter...these folks seem to have their hearts in exactly the right place.
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