The fuzz in the machine: ‘Live life... and go on tour’

Ahead of the launch of their debut album ‘Love Juice’, acclaimed two-piece Fuzzhoneys – with Caroline Spiteri on drums and Francesca Mercieca on vocals/guitar – tell us why two’s a charm

Fuzzhoneys' Francesca Mercieca. Photo by Marija Grech
Fuzzhoneys' Francesca Mercieca. Photo by Marija Grech

Now that you’re getting ready to launch your new album, could you tell us a little bit about the Fuzzhoneys sound, and what makes it such a distinctive part of the local indie music scene?

Caroline Spiteri: Our sound could be summarised as garage blues-rock, but we often also lean towards a mix of ‘riot grrrl’ and soulful groove. I believe that being just a guitar and drum duo is what makes us somewhat special within the local indie music scene. We amplify this by adding the fuzz which gives us a bit more of that raw and garage-rock approach.

Francesca Mercieca: Our root is definitely the blues, and making the message mean something to the audience as well as creating a memorable performance. I’d say the liberty of the punk and alternative dynamic mix helps us convey certain topics better, (such as in ‘Glitter’, ‘Circulation’, ‘Period’) - some would call it rock ’n’ roll, I guess? While the blues brews up a lot of soul, through emotion and angst.

When we first started out, I really wanted to make sure that we don’t sound the same from one song to another. Indie, rock and alternative music often runs the risk of repetition, and making an effort to craft a distinct sound from song to song would also help each track to match its lyrical content.

This is how our sound works out best at the moment, whether it’s in the attitude of the singing, the backing singing, the groovy bass or guitar riff solo. Now, I feel that our debut album has a good consistency between these garage rock and soul tones – a Fuzzhoneys’ signature!

What are some of the highs and lows of being a two-piece? Why have you opted for this kind of band set-up, and how has it been working out for you so far?

CS: Being a two-piece was not our main priority for the band and its image; we simply decided to start jamming together and it stayed that way. I do appreciate the ‘duo feeling’ but I must confess that being in one has made me realise how hard it can be to reach a compromise. It can also be challenging to maintain in the long run due to the increase in workload on just two people. However, we’re grateful to have the support that we do – a lot of people have helped us along on this fuzz journey! Then, the more tangible advantage comes with touring – it’s more affordable to book gigs as a two-piece, and it’s easier when it comes to travel and accommodation, for obvious reasons.

FM: I’ve always worked better with one brain to create any artistic work, but it helps the flow to share the process with someone; when it comes to discussion or learning and supporting ideas, it’s better than working solo. Musically, having lots of people around makes it more difficult to manage, I feel, as writing music needs its own communication, feeding off one another. It works better to schedule band practice with two people too.

It wasn’t intentional for our instrumentation to be limited by the realities of a two-piece; it just turned out this way. We do want to incorporate bass, keys and percussion; they do add something to the sound – but going without them for the most part also then gives us the excuse of having special guests with us on stage; it’s adds some more excitement to the experience. In fact, Samuel Attard is one of these amazing humans, and he will be joining us for the album launch on October 27!

Fuzzhoneys' Caroline Spiteri. Photo by Marija Grech
Fuzzhoneys' Caroline Spiteri. Photo by Marija Grech

The visual is certainly a bit part of what you do – both in terms of your distinctive (but unforced) look as well as your music videos. Why is this such an integral aspect of the Fuzzhoneys experience, and how would you say it bolsters your music?

FM: It’s an integral part because we see the characters and their journey when we’re writing. I like to hypothetically discuss who, what, how and why when I write with Caroline. Sometimes it becomes a bit more personal and character-driven when it’s closer to the soul/blues vibe as in ‘Amy’, ‘Malfunction’ and ‘Candy’, but we’ve also got the more plot-based songs based on ‘bigger’ characters like ‘Bonnie’, ‘Luna’, ‘Manage’, ‘Venus’ and ‘Glitter’.

All of our songs have rich imagery in our imagination, but we get to feed more of the references from all mediums: film, text and documentaries. The themes help to create the structure; whether it’s the shootout in Bonnie & Clyde, Full Metal Jacket’s angry soldier in ‘Manage’ or Boticelli’s Venus for the ‘Birth of Venus’. The visual serves as a back-and-forth reference point as we go from the pre-writing stage down to the actual production of a music video.

‘Candy’, as an aesthetic, being the first moving image to emerge from ‘Love Juice’, was based on elements of the album in painting texture, psychedelic narrative and contemporary movement. Keeping to our character and her consciousness as much as possible. The cinematographer Jack Hayter and myself have been working on this since March and it’s been such a beautiful journey.

The ‘mirror’ image that becomes central to the video came about by accident – we were inspired by a photoshoot we had just done with photographer Marija Grech – and then Jack and I started dreaming about constructing a mirror chamber. The props then even made their way into the lyrics and before we knew it, we were building a set the size of a theatre stage.

The video really does reflect the progression we’ve been through as a band, encompassing all of the various mediums we’ve been involved in. We really can’t thank all of the people involved enough for making ‘Candy’ the beautiful thing it blossomed into.

Like other local bands in recent years, you’ve taken to embarking on mini-tours abroad in recent years. Do you think this tendency marks an evolution in the local musical scene? What advice would you give to local musicians wanting to make the same leap, and do you have any upcoming international gigs planned in the near future?

CS: It might be more common for local bands to be touring because social media makes it slightly more achievable... by sending a simple Facebook message to a venue, one can book a show. Asking for help from the right people is a plus, especially if we all pool our contacts together, the local music scene would become stronger and everyone can benefit from the experience of performing abroad.

Our next tour will be taking place in the UK between the November 9 and 17. It was planned together with Thom, the lead from Abominable Soul, with whom we played a few shows in the beginning of the year in the UK.

We will be starting in London at D.I.Y. Space for London, then Hope and Ruin (Brighton), The Peer Hat (Manchester), The Washington (Sheffield), The Fulford Arms (York), Sound, Food and Drink (Liverpool), Hallcross (Doncaster) and CHUNK (Leeds).

FM: The leap is crazy for any dream you want to achieve, and the first step is not being shy to ask for help – pooling contacts, asking bars, giving out CDs to people who might spread the word. It’s a network like any other industry, and it shouldn’t be seen as something that’s so far out of reach because it isn’t.

Money shouldn’t be the main aim, and if you invest in it it will evolve. The life experiences and people you meet will be unforgettable. I seriously recommend this to everyone – live life, and go on tour with all that you love, with people who share the same passion.

‘Love Juice’ will be your first full-length album, following in the wake of a number of well-received EP releases, so it’s clearly an important step for you. What kind of step-up would you say this is in terms of the way your sound and approach has evolved, and how do you hope your fans – both old and new – will receive it?

CS: From the release of our debut EP ‘CD Tal-Ġenn’ in 2016, the Fuzzhoneys sound was mainly focused on showcasing a certain drums-and-guitar rawness, a garage-rock mixed with fuzz to express the Fuzzhoneys style. It was recorded in our previous garage at Birkirkara thanks to the production of Daniel Buttigieg, and this embodied the whole Fuzzhoneys feel at the time. ‘Femmetastic Zine’ followed in 2017, being a teaser to ‘Love Juice’ when it came to the music, combined with the art release of a collage/punk-inspired Zine that keeps the connection to our ‘CD Tal-Ġenn’ roots.

Recorded at Temple Studios with the help of producer David Vella, exposing the finer and more clean Fuzzhoneys but still keeping emphasis our drum and guitar duo dynamic. With the upcoming release of our debut album, we continue to strengthen this bond, and it is what will probably keep the listener’s interested in us. I hope.

FM: On the launch, and our performance I hope the fans will receive it well in the sense that they immerse themselves in the dimension we’ve gathered all the tracks into with ‘Love Juice’.

It’s meant to unify us all in a haunting, ironic, angry, powerful, raw attitude and sadness – so let’s go on this journey together where the performance will have special magic – including Errormantics, Princess Wonderful, Samuel Attard, Diane Caruana, Yasmin Kuymizakis, Michael and Angie Vella Zarb.

Old and new fans, keep growing younger and we hope the songs will make you feel strong, happy and powerful – however and whatever it is you’ll be doing we look forward to finding our music with new people, places and a fuzzier future.

Fuzzhoneys will be launching their debut album ‘Love Juice’ on October 27 at St Aloysius Theatre Hall, Birkirkara. They will be supported by Princess Wonderful and Errormantics. Tickets can be purchased at the door. The music video from ‘Candy’ can be seen on the band’s YouTube page