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Hard Hitting - An interview with Fastest Land Animal's John Cusimano

When you think of the fastest land animal, you may think of a cheetah or a jaguar, but you may be surprised to hear that Fastest Land Animal is a hard-hitting punk band from New York. Although they have gone by different names before, Fastest Land Animal is the name they have stuck with and hope to make waves under. Consisting of Screamin’ Jack Novak(John Cusimano) on guitar and vocals, Alfonse Castillo(Jonny Blaze) on bass, and Shark Samuels(Andrew Meskin) on the drums, FLA combines ferocious punk with old-school rock ‘n roll and some synth effects to create a unique sound belonging only to them. FLA Just released their second studio album East Coast/West Coast In Between, and it’s even grittier than their first album. Clean Capture Magazine sat down with John Cusimano to discuss the new album, Fastest Land Animal, and everything music. Cusimano is an actor, musician, scholar, and much more. He is one of the masterminds behind Fastest Land Animal. Read what he has to say down below.

Can you walk me through your guy’s process, how long it took, and the steps you took to get this done?

Yeah, we actually recorded this album remotely. This is now the second record in a row we have done this. We recorded the first one during the pandemic, like the early days of the pandemic. So we were all stuck at home and scattered all over the country. We couldn't tour, and we couldn't get together and record, so we're lucky enough that we all have home recording studios. We decided to get together with our producer Don Gilmore. We recorded everything remotely and then glued it together at the end. It was a pretty streamlined and easy process. So much so that eventually we were allowed to go out again, and we started doing some gigs, and then we started working on the second album the same way from our home studios all remotely, and it came out on January 20th.

Did you find any difficulties working remotely?

Scheduling-wise, it's a lot easier because everyone can work whatever time of day they want and work on their parts and just get it back to the other people. For me doing vocals remotely with Don, it's actually a really easy process because it's just the two of us. We work really quickly on vocals. I banged out all these vocals in less than a week. Ideally, you'd wanna all be together in a studio and get that feedback right away from just playing live with the other guys in the band, and you can workshop songs a little more easily that way. But it does give us more time to be at home and work at a pace we like.

Speaking of Don, what is it like working with him?

Don's awesome; we call him the Zen Master. He's really chill. He’ll work you hard cause he knows what's gonna work on the record and what's not gonna work. He's very encouraging, very behind the scenes. He doesn't want to be flashy, he doesn't have any social media presence or anything like that deliberately.

Were you guys worried about a sophomore slump at all?

Not necessarily with this album, because the way my writing process works is that I'm a part of this song game. It's called The Song Game. It was started by Bob Schneider, who is a singer-songwriter out of Austin, Texas.There are less than 20 of us that are in the game, and it's an email he sends out every week with a phrase or a word in the email, and within a week, you have to write and record a song using that phrase or that word in the song. Then you send it out to everyone else in the group, and that forces you to, whether they're good or bad, write 52 songs a year. So out of all those songs, you're gonna have at least eight, nine decent ones or ones that you can make decent ones or make good ones.

How many of those, uh, songs from the song game ended up on this new record?

All the songs are from the song game. I usually write with Fastest Landed Animal in mind. I want it to be a little punkier than just a singer-songwriter type song. I want it to be fast, but I still want it to be melodic. It's so funny because a lot of times, some of the other artists in the group or in the game will come out with albums, and we have like the same names of different songs, but they're completely different songs because it's the phrase of the week. There's a song in my prior band I wrote called Lake Michigan, and then Bob came out with a song called Lake Michigan on his album. Then someone else, I forget who it was, maybe Jason Maraz came out with a song called Lake Michigan on his album, and all the albums came out around the same time, but they were totally different songs.

What are the differences between Fastest Land Animal and The Cringe that made you shift gears?

Well, The Cringe is more like a mashup of classic rock meets grunge. I wanted Fastest Land Animal to be, first of all, faster, like all the songs had to be a minimum of 150 beats per minute, and I wanted it to be a little more punk rock leaning. The songs are all quick, fast, and get the hook right away. We didn't show our faces for a good year into the first album and because we wanted to see what people thought of us without bringing any preconceived notions to the band.

Do you have any specific influences?

Yeah, I always go back to Huskerdoo because they were the first band I heard where they wrote these beautiful songs and melodies. I'm like, what are these guys doing? But underneath all that, that razor edge, rough exterior, are these beautifully written pop songs.

That was the first time I had heard someone do that specifically, and I was like, wow, this is really cool; I want to do that.

What touring plans do you have that you can talk about?

We should be going out in about six weeks or so with our friends in Tesla. We have toured together a lot in the past. I'm buds with those guys. You know, Brian Weeds become a good friend of mine, and we like to meet up in Italy and hang out there together so it's fun touring with them. So we're gonna just go out and then tour through the summer and just play as many shows as we can because that's the most fun part for us is playing live in front of a crowd and getting the feedback from that crowd.

What has the reception been like for you guys?

We were really happy with it. We hadn't been on tour since before the pandemic and then we ended up going back out with the same band that we were touring with as a different band. Before the Pandemic, we went out with Tesla; we knew everyone there, we knew their crew, we knew the guys in the band, and we even knew their crowds. Their crowds were looking at us cause we had a different name, and we weren't too clear about who we were in the band, but you'd see people are like, hey, and pointing at me, I know who you are, you know, during the set. That’s the fun about doing that, when you go on a tour, especially if you're not the headliner, if you're the support act, the difference between the beginning of the tour and towards the end of the tour, word gets around. So we get a good crowd reaction and a nice size crowd and the whole thing.

Are there any other bands that you'd like to tour with or any younger bands that you'd love to bring out with you guys?

Yeah, I'd love to go with the Foo Fighters. Then there's this other person; she’s really a solo artist, she calls herself Snail Mail. Check her out, she's really good. She reminds me a little bit of an early PJ Harvey meets Phoebe Bridgers. She's really talented, I've been listening to a lot of her lately.

What changes have you noticed in the music industry lately?

Well, now anyone can make music. All you need is a laptop, and you have a recording studio in your bedroom. It makes accessibility to the album, the process of creating music so much easier than it was back when you'd have, you had to go to a studio, you had to use tape, I mean, there's something so organic and wonderful about that process, but it's also can be outta reach for a lot of people. Then you also don't even need a record label, I mean, you just put your stuff out there, you can self-distribute, granted there is a lot of content out there. You can break through, and some of the biggest artists out there today recording in their bedrooms and becoming social media sensations, and now they're selling out arenas and stadiums around the world.

Do you think that's positive, or has that diluted the talent pool?

No, I think it's a positive because more people will find good music. Now you can hear anything and everything. It does make it harder for the artist to break through, and it does make it harder for the consumer to find the artist, but the possibility exists. Whereas before, you need an agent or you needed an A&R guy to go see your gig. If you're playing live music in a band, you gotta go out and play anyway cause that's what it's the most important thing. That's what it's all about.

Have you guys hopped on any of the social media trends?

I do whatever our drummer Shark says; he is the social media guru and the digital guru of the band. So I just do whatever the hell he says to do.

What is your five-year goal of where you wanna be?

Obviously, we're gonna tour; we're gonna keep doing albums. I don't know if they're gonna be remote or getting together in the studio and doing them together. I think I want to go even heavier. The music that we've come out with so far is definitely fast, and I like that it's rocking and punchy, but I think I want to even go heavier guitars.



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