By David Fletcher
Bruce Magnus had only been playing together for about six months when they decided to get into the studio and record their eight-song EP High on the Mountain in a break-neck, 11-hour session. After sitting on the recording for a few more months, the band decided to put it out there as a promotional device…and it worked.
“Everything is so singles driven now,” guitarist and vocalist Samuel Fatzinger says, “Spotify is the industry. If you can get something out there that you can share, we would have gone in there and recorded three songs, just to get something out there. Everything accelerated as soon as we could stream the material.”
What you hear on the EP is something a bit different than what you can expect from one of their dynamic live performances. What comes across as an attempt to reinvigorate the Southern Rock genre on the record plays out as an exercise in something more like swamp rock or psychobilly or even cowpunk.
“Southern rock is kind of an umbrella term at this point,” Richter says. “I think I have the heavier of the punk influences. That’s just what I was raised listening to. My father was a music head — lots of variety: Devo, Sex Pistols, X, Dickies.”
“We definitely bring some Texas flair to it,” Fatzinger adds, saying all of the other genre-specific musical elements they bring to their live set “is definitely not intentional, it just kind of happens.”
Of course, you certainly wouldn’t get any impression of these musical styles by looking at the cover for High on the Mountain. A true testament to not judging a book by its cover, the album features the band members in workout clothes complete with matching neo-colored shorts and headbands.
“When workshopping the idea for the album cover,” Richter says, “we wanted to do something fun and different, something with colors that popped.”
“People tend to take themselves too seriously,” lead guitarist Camillo Grisales says, “but we have a lot of fun with what we do, so we wanted that to be reflected on the album cover.”
Even the band’s name plays into the kind of fun this band of self-proclaimed D&D and video game nerds enjoys having in their shows and in their exchanges with fans and music journalists.
“In coming up with the name Bruce Magnus,” bass player Aaron Richter says, “We wanted something that represented an old, middle-aged 80s professional wrestler. We wanted something like Jake “The Snake” Roberts – something all-American (Bruce) and something otherworldly (Magnus).”
“We got carried away with that shit real quick,” he adds, laughing.
As much fun and as many games as the band likes to have, things are starting to get serious for the band. Recently nominated for Best New Artist by the Fort Worth Weekly, Bruce Magnus has undergone a kind of creative renaissance in their songwriting and live performance thanks to the recognition they have received.
“Everybody has a mountain they have to scale at some point,” Grisales says, “so we’re just trying to capture that. We’re all working people. None of us are special in any way.”
With a newfound sense of motivation and purpose, Bruce Magnus is planning on getting back in the recording studio soon to put a bit more time and effort into their next release.
“Our plan is to get back into the studio November-ish,” drummer Billy Hildreth says. “We’re going to spend some time with this one. We really want to make sure this one has the quality we want. The last one was just about getting a product out there. This next one we want to legitimately care about.”
“The songs have evolved, the music has evolved.”