Their lead singer talks about pop, the touring life, and the lessons of ''Behind the Music''

By Liane Bonin
Updated October 23, 2001 at 04:00 AM EDT
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Credit: Fuel: Chris Cuffaro

Fuel may have scored a hit with the single ”Bad Day,” but lately the Pennsylvania-based band has nothing to complain about. Their second album, ”Something Like Human,” has just been certified double-platinum, they’re kicking off a two-month headlining tour, and their album’s fourth single, ”Last Time,” is coming to a radio station near you. EW.com talked to lead singer Brett Scallions about waiting to make it big, and why his band is just as likely to have a sob story on ”Behind the Music” as anyone else.

You self-produced an EP before you were signed to a major label. Did having that track record give you a little more leverage with the record companies?
There are always people who sit in an office 9 to 5 with their corporate cards who feel like they know what this band is supposed to be like. And no one knows what this band is supposed to be like except for the band. I think the labels looked at how our EP performed on the charts and didn’t say, ”Great song, great music, we want to work with them,” but instead looked at us as a sure bet because we had a track record. It was to our advantage, but at the same time you want to sign with somebody who is into what you’re doing, which is why we signed with (Epic A&R exec) Ben Goldman. We had a good vibe with him and felt he genuinely loved the band. We didn’t think he looked at the band solely as something that could make money for him.

After the release of your debut album ”Sunburn,” you toured the world for two years straight. How hellish was that?
We were doing six nights a week, week after week, month after month, just pounded into the ground. That’s what we felt we had to do to get ourselves out there, knuckle to the pavement. Two years later, we walked off the road as vegetables. I came home and my friends said, ”Man, you look like shit.” They thought I’d been on a six-month drug binge. Now we know to lay back a little bit more and pace ourselves. These days we’ll go out for two or three months in a row, then take two or three weeks off and relax for a little bit to get our bearings back.

You’ve said ”Something Like Human” is less frustrating and depressing than your first album. Why were you happier campers this time around?
We had a little more stability and control, not only as a band but as individuals, too. During the first album, Carl was going back to school because he wasn’t sure the whole music thing was going to work out, and we were all looking around going, Man, is this just a waste of time? Are we going to be in Pennsylvania the rest of our lives playing these little clubs? I remember having $5 in my pocket, going, I can eat once today, and it’s going to be McDonald’s either way. Should I have lunch or dinner?

How are you adapting to your growing fan base of lovestruck women?
I’ve never thought of myself as any type of good-looking, sexy guy or a sex object for women to look at. I don’t prefer to use that as a source of selling records. I want someone to come up to me and say, ”I love your music” instead of ”Oh, you’re so cute.” The record labels prefer to sell sex over music sometimes. God knows we’re in a world full of that. But I’m not here to sell a nice hairstyle or any cute looks. I’m here to spread our music and give you the option of enjoying it or not enjoying it.

Fuel seems to be part of a movement toward a renewed interest in hard rock. Is pretty-boy pop waning a bit?
I don’t know. Music is so confusing these days. There are so many damn formats, and nobody knows what’s supposed to be in those formats in the first place. Even back in the day of New Kids on the Block and Menudo, people got sick of that stuff. And I think with the Backstreet Boys and 98 Degrees and all of that stuff, people are going to go, ”Okay, give me something of content now. Screw the fact you’ve got a pretty-boy face. Tell me something!” It’s a passing phase.

You certainly seem to have it together, but do you ever worry about ending up on your own ”Behind the Music” episode?
The tragedy channel! Even if you say you know more than those other bands you see on the show and learn from their mistakes, something’s always going to f— you up. Whether it’s the frustration of dealing with each other as a band, or drugs or alcoholism or financial despair, there’s always something to wring your neck or kick your ass. I don’t think anyone is ever truly safe from those frustrations as a musician.

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