Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Interview: Bryan Fontez of LAST BULLET

Last BulletToronto hard rockers LAST BULLET will be unleashing their new EP “80-69-64” on July 14th to follow their two EPs 2012’s “Love.Lust.Illusion” and 2010 self-titled debut.

Influenced by Velvet Revolver, Stone Temple Pilots, Led Zeppelin, AC/DC and many more, this award-winning, self-made quintet has been part of Canadian hockey history (Video here) in addition to the multiple national tours and festivals they’ve played over the last eight years. Sharing the stage with countless bands such as Aerosmith, Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, Bryan Adams, Buckcherry, Monster Truck, One Bad Son, Bleeker, The Wild and more, it can be strongly stated that LAST BULLET can hold their heads high in any company!

Here’s what they have to say about the release.

“We expect this new EP to get an even better reception than anything we’ve done previously. Last Bullet has a sound that is filthy, powerful, dynamic, sexy and intense!” says vocalist Bryan Fontez. “We use our passion and charisma to put on a live show that creates a sense of urgency to get up and move. We give people an unfiltered piece of our souls on stage though the use of our relentless energy, power, aggression and sexuality! Last Bullet is a band that truly goes out of their way to earn every dollar you spent on your ticket night after night without fail!”

ANTIHERO: Okay, you are about to bring out a third EP, I just wondered why the band have decided to go with a series of EPs rather than an album?

Bryan Fontez: That’s a good question. Ultimately, it’s because… I would typically say for financial reasons. You know, it’s really expensive if you want to pursue music at the highest level. You have to almost… you have to pay to play. We are, in a lot of ways, in a lot of debt, as far as what we have spent to make sure that the quality of everything we do is really high, like music videos and recording. So, at the end of the day, it’s really financials that have kept us from doing full albums because just the EPs alone… just to give you an idea, this last EP cost us about $9000 just to record the music itself. So, when you add in radio tracking and promotion, marketing, things like that, it’s very easy to run away with a budget or end up with a budget of $40,000 over a span of a couple of months, so ultimately that’s the answer. It’s money. But as we keep doing better and finding success, I am sure we will get closer to recording a full album, because that’s on our bucket list and we would love to do that.

ANTIHERO: It’s been 5 years since the last release, I just wondered again is it purely down to finances? Why it’s been so long between releases?

Bryan Fontez: Yeah, that was finances but it was also a little more than that, as well. It was a matter of us playing a lot, we were going on tour quite a bit, and just playing as many shows as possible. It’s one of those things where, you know, when a lot of people know you globally, it kind of makes more sense to just keep playing and growing your fan base as much as possible as opposed to releasing more and more music because if we came up with 3 full albums… So… like, just say that we went to the UK right now. Even if we only sold and played our first album, it’s still brand new to you. You’ve never heard it before, you know what I mean?

ANTIHERO: I know exactly what you mean.

Bryan Fontez: So, that’s probably the reason. We didn’t feel a rush, but the songs that we recorded for this new EP, we’ve been playing for the past 2 years or so and… 2 or 3 years, actually. So, it was just about time. But we do have more new songs and we plan on making sure that the gap between EPs and albums is not as long this time. I think the goal is to go back into the studio next year after a couple of tours.

ANTIHERO: Are you guys all still working full time jobs, as well, outside the band?

Bryan Fontez: We are, yeah. That’s one of the biggest problems that we have as musicians because in order to afford the ability to do this professionally, we have to work full time hours, we have to work our 40+ hours a week in order to finance it. But, at the same time, it’s almost a double-edged sword because you basically have a situation where you want to be a better musician, and you want to have lots of free time to hone your craft and be better at song writing and writing more songs and practice, but that time is eaten up by working full time to finance everything. So, it’s a catch 22 where you’re going back and forth and trying your best to balance being able to afford everything but also putting on a good performance and being a good musician. So, we look forward to the day when we don’t have to work full time anymore, and when that comes I honest to God, without sounding conceited, I honest to God feel like we would become unstoppable. I feel like we will become the best musicians we can possibly be.

ANTIHERO: What about the EP title? What does it mean?

Bryan Fontez: That’s a good question. Unfortunately, we are not willing to divulge that information as of yet. What I can tell you is the numbers do have a significance, they mean something to us, and it is something that motivates us. We definitely will tell our fans, we will tell the world eventually, but it will probably be when we’re in a position where we don’t have to work full time anymore.

Yeah, so it’s nothing crazy or super complicated, it’s just something that motivates us to keep moving forward. We’ve had some fans come up with some pretty good guesses like… is it our favourite albums are from those years? Which is not a bad guess, but it’s definitely not correct, yes, so when somebody figures it out we will confirm it.

ANTIHERO: What about the song writing process? I mean, you indicated that you are all working full time. Do you get much time to rehearse, to write together?

Bryan Fontez: We try to rehearse as much as possible, given our schedules, so I would say we rehearse and/or write, I would say in between 1 and 3 times per week, depending on our schedules, but typically 1 or 2 times is when we will practice and get together, again it’s not often enough for my liking. Our standards are really high so, if it was up to me, we would get together every day, but we do what we can with the time that we have. I tend to find that when we have a lot of shows going on, we don’t write, we practice and get ready and prepare for those shows. But then when we kind of have a down swing after a tour or something like that where we’re not so busy, we don’t have many shows booked, that’s typically the time where we have a lot more time to write and stuff, but writing is kind of always happening. It’s kind of always going on. We always develop ideas and then we bank them and share them when it’s time to start putting stuff together.

ANTIHERO: Do you guys live near each other? Did you grow up together? How did you get the band established with the current lineup?

Bryan Fontez: Yeah, well that’s a good question, we didn’t grow up together at all. The furthest back that two of the members have known each other are the two guitarists, they’ve known each other since high school, like high school years so above the age of 16/17. The rest of them, we all kind of live around Toronto, I live downtown in Toronto, and then the rest of them either live just a little bit north, like maybe half an hour or 20 minutes’ drive north, or 20 minutes’ drive east or west. So we’re all kind of close, we all meet in the spot that’s pretty central to all of us in Toronto. And then, yeah, as far as knowing each other, we got to know each other through the band, pretty much. Four of the guys had started the band, they were writing songs, they had been together for 8 or 9 months, they hadn’t played a single show yet, so they ended up finding me and it just worked out perfectly with us being the same age, liking the same type of music, and yeah, it worked out and those are the members since. We’ve been together for 8 years, 2009, about October 2009 is when we first got together.

ANTIHERO: Okay, the press release compares you with quite a few big bands in terms of influence. I just wondered how you yourselves see your sound and what you do?

Bryan Fontez: I don’t know, I think most of the comparisons are pretty accurate, I would say that if you listen to any of our music long enough, any single song, if you listen to it long enough, you’ll hear over 10 or 15 different bands. You’ll hear a lot of different influences. We wear those influences on our sleeve, we make it very obvious, and we’re kind of all over the place. You know, we’re passionate about rock music in general and we don’t, what’s the word I’m looking for… we don’t judge, we don’t… I can’t find the word that I’m looking for… but we don’t cut out any type of music. We keep all types of music and we are influenced by everything so we love everything from AC/DC to Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, and grunge bands from the 90s and even metal, so…

ANTIHERO: Linkin Park? (I have just noticed that Bryan is wearing a Linkin Park T-shirt)

Bryan Fontez: We kind of… yeah, we like Linkin Park…Yeah, I don’t mind Linkin Park as well, I like Linkin Park, I’ve been to a few shows so, they’re definitely changing up their sound a lot more from what they used to be, but yeah, we like everything. We’re just fans of music. We’re no different from the fans of music that come to see us and we know what we want to see as a fan. I know that I want to go see a band just lose their minds on stage and really give and be sweating by the end of their set and give me their soul and everything that they have. We try to do the same thing because we are fans ourselves, so…

ANTIHERO: Do you feel that the band’s sound has evolved over the 3 EPs? Are you happy now in what you have created as Last Bullet, what your sound is?

Bryan Fontez: Definitely. Our sound has changed a lot in my opinion, I think it’s gotten a little bit more complex, a little bit more artistic, and a little bit… in my opinion, it’s subjective opinion, but in my opinion, it’s gotten better. The songs have gotten stronger, the melodies have gotten stronger. We’ve added more harmonies and the parts have gotten, you know, catchier and riffier and more fun to listen to. We’ve gotten heavier in some ways and lighter in other ways, so yeah, I’m really happy with the direction that we’ve sort of gone towards. We started out being a very kind of meat and potatoes, four to the floor, very simple rock band, and with like, kind of party rock hair metal style influences like Guns n’ Roses and Bon Jovi and things like that, now we’re kind of delving into, you know, some darker territory and more complex territory, more political and mature themes, we kind of go all over the place. You know, at the core of it, we’re still a hard rock band that loves to have fun and, you know, having a good time and making music that’s really passionate is really important to us. And I think that’s always going to be there.

ANTIHERO: Over your short career, you’ve already played, supported and done festivals with quite a few big bands. I just wondered, as a relatively small band, how you were able to secure those high-profile support slots?

Bryan Fontez: A lot of them were through competitions, like band competitions through radio stations and things like that. We’ve been in a lot of competitions throughout the 8 years we’ve been together but we haven’t happened to win any of them yet, so… a win would be nice but we always manage to come in the top… out of 100, sometimes thousands of bands, we always manage to come in the top 5 or so, so… usually when you get to the top 5 of a competition there’s some sort of benefit to it, whether it’s opening for a big act or whatnot so. I don’t know, some of it is competitions, in other ways it’s connections that we’ve made through the music industry. We know some really great people, some of the bigger venues in Toronto, so when bigger bands come through sometimes we get a first crack, especially if our music is similar and it lines up really nicely. Yeah, and also, I think it’s a testament to our music as well, we’ve been asked by bigger bands a few times if they could have us open for them because they like our music, so. Yeah, it’s a combination of things but I think, at the end of the day, the short answer is hard work.

ANTIHERO: Have you had the opportunity to meet any of your musical heroes yet?

Bryan Fontez: I have. Quite a few of them. Not necessarily from playing with them, but sometimes just going to shows and concerts and backstage and whatnot. There’s a whole bunch that I haven’t met that I’d love to, but a few of them I’ve met – I’ve met Ozzy Osbourne two or three times, which was awesome, and I’m such a big fan that I even got a name autographed on my arm, you can see that…

And yeah, there’s quite a few that I’ve met but, you know, the way I’m looking at it, I haven’t met enough yet. I’d like there to be a point and a stage where we can open for bigger bands and be on a first name basis with some of the best artists in the world, because I think we deserve to be there and if we keep working hard enough, maybe we can.

ANTIHERO: This interview was set up by Asher Media, I just wondered what direct input Asher have had to help the band since you connected?

Bryan Fontez: Yeah, Asher’s been great. John is a mutual friend of ours through a whole bunch of other bands that we know personally and that we played with, some really great bands from Toronto that have used him, and he came… one of our friends suggested him so he came to us with a great resume and they have been doing a really great job for us. He’s basically just getting us as many interviews as possible and getting our name out anywhere in any region of any country by any means necessary, so… we don’t like limiting our interviews or our promotion or our marketing or our music just to Canada…

We know that there’s markets out there, especially with the internet, that, you know, would love our music and I think the UK is one of them. In fact, we were supposed to play in the UK this year, we were booked for Wildfire Festival…

…out in Scotland, we just couldn’t make it happen because we had to release this album and basically the choice came down to releasing this EP or going on tour in the UK, so we wanted to release the EP but we have every intention of coming to the UK very soon and touring there, but John’s been doing a great job at getting our name out there and Asher Media has been great for us.

ANTIHERO: You mentioned earlier about how expensive it is both to record, I assume following on from what you said it’s also expensive to tour?

Bryan Fontez: Very, very. Just as, if not more. We toured Canada, our first big international like, sorry, national Canadian tour, we played 26 shows in 30 days, so that’s… in a month, that’s only 4 days off, and Canada is one of the biggest countries in the world, it’s huge. So, it was really long drives between cities, and just literally, not even exaggerating a little bit, just the gas to drive… we live in Toronto, on the east side of Canada, and we drove to Vancouver on the west side. So, from coast to coast, pretty much. And just the gas for that tour was $5,000.

Just the gas alone. So, when you count hotels and food and all those other expenses, I would have to say, accumulatively, between all the members, we probably spent about $20,000…

On a tour that we probably didn’t make much more, as far as merch and guarantees go, we probably didn’t make much more than $4,000 or $5,000 so, yeah, it’s a huge loss but that was a long time ago, we’re doing better now, we have a bigger fan base and we have better merch, more things to sell, better looking things to sell, so I have a feeling that if we went on tour again, whether it be Canada or the US or the UK, I think we would do better. And the hope is always to, at the very least, break even.

ANTIHERO: I just said because there’s no record company backing, it’s all down to you guys to raise that money for touring…How do you guys expect, then, to raise the money to go, say, to the UK for example?

Bryan Fontez: You mean the finances themselves?

You just do it. You just bite the bullet and you go for it. You have to save up and try to do it the right way, you know, it is hard sometimes not having help from anyone. We have no record label, we have no booking, we have no management, we have nothing. We do everything ourselves. We always have. We’re open to help, but it hasn’t come yet. So, we’re not going to wait around for it to come. A lot of bands do that and they end up going nowhere so… at the same time, doing everything ourselves has taught us a lot. We have had to learn how to do many things out of necessity, so when we do end up finding someone who wants to work for us, we know what the standards are and we know what we expect of them, but as far as touring goes we just have to save up the money and do it, book the right shows at the right venues with the right guarantees, and the right crowd, and hope that… it’s literally just hope, hope that when we get there, there will be people there. Hope that the people with enjoy us, hope that when they do enjoy us they’ll have money and will buy some merch and support the band, and hope that the venues will keep their word and, you know, give us a good guarantee and that we’ll be able to get by. At the end of the day, like I said, as long as we can break even, I’ll be happy.

ANTIHERO: What are your views on fan-funded schemes? Are you for or against those sorts of things?

Bryan Fontez: I’m not against them at all, we’ve never done one. We kind of… we were close to doing them a couple of times but we felt a little bit cheap to ask our fans for money, because it was a new idea so we weren’t sure how much…

We’re becoming a little bit more open to it, I think we might be doing something like that soon. We’ve talked about it three or four times, but it’s just never come to fruition so… I’m not necessarily against it, I just think that if you are going to ask your fans for money, you have to make sure that you give them something in return.

Make sure that they’re actually kind of buying something as opposed to just supporting. So, you know, I am in support of the funding schemes that have like a pyramid of… when you donate this $10 you get a signed CD or something. When you donate $20, you get a signed CD, a poster and something else, and so on and so on. You know, with packages that go to $500 for a private acoustic performance at your house or something. You know what I mean? So, yeah, I’m not against that at all. We just haven’t done it yet and I think we’re just waiting for the right time and maybe now is the right time.

ANTIHERO: They do seem to be increasingly popular.

Bryan Fontez: Yeah, definitely. I see a lot of bands doing it. Again, I’m not against it, I just haven’t… we haven’t pulled the trigger on that yet.

ANTIHERO: Where do you see your band in, say, 6 months to a year?

Bryan Fontez: In 6 months, we have intentions of touring in the US, which we’ve never done before. It’s about time we go. We have a really big, solid US fan base and I would even argue that our music sounds very American.

We confuse a lot of Canadians when we tell them we’re from Toronto. They’re like, “wow, you sound like you’re from LA or Seattle!” or something. And then I agree with them, so I honestly have heard from so many people in the music industry in Canada like, “what the hell are you doing here? Get out of here, go to the US”. So, we’re going to basically do that. We’re going to go to the US and, probably for 3 or 4 months, tour and get our feet wet, see how it feels, how it goes, which I feel very optimistic about. And then keep going from there, 3 months after that we’ll probably go back to the US, we’ve talked about that. And then I would really like to go to the UK next year, as well.

And then hopefully after two US tours and a UK tour, maybe go back to the studio and record some more music, who knows?

ANTIHERO: That’s great, thank you very much.

Bryan Fontez: Thank you. I appreciate it, Mark. Thank you for your time and support.

ANTIHERO: Thanks very much. Bye. Cheers.

Last Bullet

About Mark Dean

I'm a 40+ music fan. Fond mostly of rock and metal - my staple musical food delights. Originally from Northern Ireland, I am now based in the UK-Manchester. I have a hectic musical existence with regular shows and interviews. Been writing freelance for five years now with several international websites. Passionate about what I do, I have been fortunate already to interview many of my all-time musical heroes. My music passion was first created by seeing Status Quo at the tender age of 15. While I still am passionate about my rock and metal, I have found that with age my taste has diversified so that now I am actually dipping into different musical genres and styles for the first time. Photo: Mark Dean with Jeff Kendrick of Devildriver - Photography by Olga Kuzmenko

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