Written and Photographed by Garrett Smith // Album Artwork by Spike Martinez (Front Cover), Garrett Smith (Inside Artwork) and Max Feroze (Back Cover)
Although released digitally last week, Denton’s homegrown heroes Fun Button are releasing their latest EP “DERP” in all its polycarbonate, compact disk glory this upcoming weekend – and, as usual, Austere is here to give you the run-down on the come-up with this DFW trio’s new endeavor. Ringing in at four tracks, Fun Button’s offering presents a delightfully succinct morsel to munch on – nothing too rich or overbearing on the palette, but never presenting a dull moment or a desire to reach the end. It’s really a playful tease that promises more – and what more could you want, when pushing that button?
So let’s dive in deep with DERP
The album kicks off with “Honey Truck” – a staccato rock n’ roller that starts with a hard hitting, chucking riff that shows you this: Fun Button ain’t here to mince words or play games. With only four tracks on the EP, these three Denton boys had a lot to pack in, and it shows. Gerald Holt’s drums play a tug of war with Robbie Husband’s guitar and Zach Walker’s bass – everyone is battling to keep up with each other, in a way that drives the frantic beat forward and keeps listeners on the edge of their seat.
Suddenly, the tension breaks – sweet relief in the form of tenderly played fuzz rock riffs – Zach’s bass gets a chance to shine in the rhythmic breakdown of this song, but it truly comes through when the next movement of this symphonic song begins. The fat, funky bass lick gives way to an ever-crescendoing outro where each added instrument compounds upon the next; the drums remain subtle, hidden in the background, a simple light kick and snare combo that allows the guitar to edge its way in, with bright plucky notes that lead into a classic, hard rocking solo that feeds the tension slowly, doling out the fuel as if trying to keep a fire alive throughout a long night – and oh, how this fire burns. What begins humbly enough becomes an Explosions in the Sky style outro – a dance-worthy jam beaming with shining positivity.
“That’s always been Fun Button’s style when performing live – playing fast, loud, and nearly out of control”
“Vice Grip” begins with a reverbed lick that would find fitting home as an anthem performed to a sold-out stadium; Husband’s vocals seem to confirm this notion, sounding spacious, atmospheric, and above all, big. Because that’s always been Fun Button’s style when performing live – playing fast, loud, and nearly out of control – it would only make sense that their latest release reflects their barside arena vibe. The solo is a deliberately held scream, a series of wailing that provides counterpoint to the often dreamy, drony guitar parts that expand and contract like a writhing river. In similar fashion to the song previous, we finish with slick bravado on the part of our frontman, and manic drumming that, alas, really shines through in live performance – but to capture even the essence of Holt’s rhythmic chops or his Keith Moon-esque freneticism is impressive for this seasoned listener.
“Smoking Loon” is the perfect showcase for all three musicians
We finally get a sense of the endearing goofiness underlying this band and their work at the start of “Smoking Loon” – which opens with a silly “Oh fuck” before kicking off the electrifying, effects-heavy gallop of guitar and bass that the band has made so iconic to their many live audiences. You’ve really got to give it to Zach, here – in a band of three huge musical personalities – with a guitarist-slash-vocalist who demands the forefront, and a drummer who, like a middle-of-the-night bed-hog, fights to drive the drumming into taking all of the metaphorical cover – he still manages to find a niche for the bass that gives it a prominent voice between these two larger-than-life instrumental expressions.
“Smoking Loon” is the perfect showcase for all three musicians, and acts as an unspoken “introduction” to the capabilities of each instrumentalist. Robbie shines through in his range of playstyles and abilities with constantly changing movements of melodies and lead playing; Gerald picks up the beat and runs with it, as if playing a game of chicken with his bandmates’ speed; and Zach elevates his bass playing beyond simply laying down a groove, maintaining both a solid groundwork for the others to follow and showcasing his own well-seasoned abilities via intricately woven and quickly-fingered bass licks.
“Bide your time, hold your breath, and count to ten”
Sadly, even the most frantic and fiercest of things must end, and this often gut-punching, stadium-rocking EP decides to end on a slight change of pace, with a more melodic anthem that features a morsel of something new – a tease, almost: Zach Walker on lead vocals. His voice is more tender, deliberate – balladic almost in its raw emotional output. The guitar starts out shyly enough – unusual as it may seem for this machismo-fueld trio – but slowly gains confidence with the introduction of our other two beloved players. This song, it’s always seemed, has something to say. That’s why, for this frequent audience member, it’s both surreal and sublime to finally see “Steve French The Defense Cat” – or just “Steve French”, if brevity’s not your thing (and as the album’s tracklisting shortens it) – recorded and available on a hard copy.
“You never lack the confidence, you lack the spine to take yourself out and try again / the time to make yourself a new place in the world”
The title alone is enough to intrigue; it suggests some unspoken anecdote – a story, if you will, which we are privileged enough to hear between every note, in every musical choice this song makes. The opening lyrics speak to this narrative, as well as the deliberation in this song – “Bide your time, hold your breath, and count to ten”. It’s sweetly spoken, but followed by a bit of fire in the slightly changing refrain: “You never lack the confidence, you lack the spine to take yourself out and try again / the time to make yourself a new place in the world”. There’s a subtext here, a dialogue walking softly, but with a big stick; it’s a track, we think, about tough love, and the difficulty in treading a line between
There’s a melancholy tone here, too, which isn’t often seen in the other upbeat, jamtastic tunes that comprise Fun Button’s ouevre. Perhaps it’s melacholy only by comparison, and rather, it is more pensive than anything. The guitar is moody and wailing, reminiscent of the emotional alt-rock days of hair-metal inspired grunge – the guitars could easily find home in Pearl Jam’s “Black” as much as they do here.
This is truly a standout track live or in the studio –
it’s as if, for just a brief moment, the band has allowed itself to break open that shell just long enough for a glimpse of vulnerability to be held. Make no mistake – there remains plenty of heaviness in both the overdriven guitar and the reserved but punchy drums. The raw emotion found in the wordlessness of Walker’s “Oh-oh-oh-oh’s” delivered in every chorus speaks to the real heaviness in the song – a heaviness that can’t be fully expressed in lyrics or poeticism.
And just like that, it’s over with a quick send-off riff, and silence. It’s a tease, more than anything – a quick tickling of the eardrums that leaves everyone wanting a little more.
“Well I will have none of your goodbyes”
this last song says – and we won’t have any of yours, either.
Here’s to more buttons to push in the scene, and having all the fun you can as you do. With music so painstakingly, methodically crafted, and performances so meticulously perfected, we cannot wait for more shows, and more releases.
Long live Fun Button, and long may they dig deep into our ear canals, and any other orifice they so choose.
Can’t press your Fun Button enough? Head here for more, where you can check out DERP and other releases by the Denton trio, and check out their release party at Andy’s in Denton, where you can pick up the freshly-minted Derp CD.