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The Warm Fuzzies and the Power-Pop Revival

Are we in the midst of a full-blown Weezer revival? From coffee shops around town blaring the Blue Album to the punchy power-chording of bands here and around the country, it would seem that the legacy of Rivers Cuomo and company is in fine shape.

When I bring this to the attention of singer/guitarist Jason Harwell and drummer Davey Staton of local power-pop band The Warm Fuzzies, the two agree that Weezer’s early records were “hugely impactful” on the band’s sound. Indeed, along with keyboardist Laura Cropp and Davey’s brother Jonathan on bass guitar, Harwell and Staton remain torchbearers for an aural aesthetic that evokes images of dudes wearing boxy black glasses and geeking out in someone’s basement.

“I guess I do see a bunch of women around town dressing up like Bridget Fonda in Singles,” Harwell says with a chuckle. 

Staton credits the renewed interest in ’90s-style power pop to the cyclical nature of trends. But ultimately, whatever caused the Weezer resurrection seems irrelevant. The Fuzzies just want to rock—and rock they have. Since 2007, the band has stayed busy, releasing a stream of independently recorded and released records that stay true to the sounds the band’s members have loved since high school.

The Fuzzies have taken some unorthodox approaches to releasing their songs. For the band’s first release, Harwell enlisted a scratch-and-sniff company out of California to make the CD smell like bubblegum. The appropriately titled Bubblegum EP was an experiment for the band to see what would come of such an ambitious project. “Because this isn’t our job, we get to have the freedom to roll the dice and try new things,” says Harwell.

Still, he continues, “Novelty for novelty’s sake isn’t going to get you very far. You might cash in, but if there isn’t any substance, it doesn’t really matter. If your music is good, you have to start there. As [music fans] become increasingly format-independent, there is room to do things that haven’t been done before. When it adds to the art that you’re making, that’s really great.”

The band’s most recent release, Fuzz of the Month, found it aiming to release one song each month of 2011 until a complete collection of songs was finished. While the Fuzzies ended up a few songs behind schedule, they had a blast with the project and are finally preparing a proper follow-up, titled Extinction.

For Harwell and Staton, their previous protocol of recording an album by themselves on their own equipment wasn’t going to cut it for the new batch of songs. For Extinction, the group enlisted the help of engineer Jesse Mangum, recording at his Glow Recording Studio just outside of town. The Fuzzies say they definitely notice the resulting increase in production quality, and also that they managed to remain relaxed with Mangum, who encouraged their input throughout, at the board.

“It wasn’t like there was a Rick Rubin in the studio, so it still felt like we were doing it ourselves,” Staton says of the recording sessions.

While Extinction still displays a Weezer-worshiping sound in terms of guitar arrangements and production, Harwell points out that the lyrical content has moved in new directions. 

“Thematically, the first [recordings] we did were playful or silly. But it felt disingenuous to keep writing that way. That’s just not where I found myself, circumstantially, in life. I think there is a lot about divorce and death and sadness and distance [on Extinction].”

In a town as musically active as Athens, The Warm Fuzzies remain something of an anomaly. The group manages to stay active in the studio despite not playing that frequently around town. But while constantly playing live might be a source of energy for many local bands, the Fuzzies take a quieter approach. “We want to [play live] when it is fun for us, and not feel like we have to play all of the time,” says Staton.

“We really care about what we do as a unit,” adds Harwell of the Fuzzies’ limited live schedule. “But none of us are leaning on this thing to be a vehicle as anything else except for what it is.”

You’ll have a rare chance to catch the band this Thursday, when it is slated to perform at the Caledonia’s annual “Squidmas” concert on Dec. 5. Although the band looks forward to showcasing its new material for a potential new audience at the holiday-themed show, fun has been (and always will be) the bottom line.

“We all feel like dinosaurs, and we’re probably too old to rock, but we still want to anyway,” says Harwell. The singer points to a few lines from Extinction’s title track that describe this sentiment a bit more poetically: “We’re aging in the age of here and now/ Fossils in the making, making sounds.”

WHO: Doctor Squid, The Warm Fuzzies, The Skipperdees
WHERE: Caledonia Lounge
WHEN: Thursday, Dec. 5, 9 p.m.
HOW MUCH: $5 (21+), $7 (18–20)