Sage of Aquarius
Before I met him, I was sitting in a certain hugely successful coffee chain, looking at the cover of Ben Fuller’s Aquarian Son and trying to figure out which customer had the best chance of replying when I said, “Hey Ben.” The photos on the CD case for his five song album had me confused. In one picture, huge dreadlocks topped off a look that screamed, “I live in a commune, drive a VW van and smoke weed by the kiloton.” In another, it was a surfer cut and stubble that made me think of slightly alternative offspring to the Santa Monica upper crust. The one on the back looks vaguely like a light-haired Johnny Cash.
When I finally met Fuller, he’d sort of split the difference between all three. And splitting the difference between hippy, folk and alternative makes for a pretty good description of Fuller’s sound. His sandy voice and upbeat rhythms combine with existential lyrics, some relatively dark subject matter and consistent easy listening to make a very pleasant album. And it’s polished, really polished.
Aquarian Son’s first song, “Ashes,” is probably the best of the five. An unsentimental and masterfully composed ditty, “Ashes” concerns the cycles of life and death. Fuller has written the type of song here that would slip perfectly into the quiet scenes of great cinema like Gone Baby Gone or Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
While not quite as good, track five, “California,” takes on a subject not normally seen in Nevada: the patriotic feelings of Californians. It runs through a long list of California cities followed with the chorus line, “We don’t want nobody, we’re California.” You can just picture the Los Angelinos: “I pledge allegiance to the world’s eighth largest economy/To the ballot initiatives for which it stands/One budget crisis under God/With actors and artichokes for all.”
Fuller, who lives in Incline Village, got seriously into music 12 years ago during high school.
“That’s when I really started focusing on it,” he says. “Growing up, I always loved music and always played hand drums, but it wasn’t until I was 18 that I really got into guitar.”
After high school, he began fronting for local bands and studying geography in college. If you don’t know what to do with a geography degree, don’t worry because neither does Fuller.
“I went to college to go to college,” he says. “I just happened to get a geography degree while I was there.”
Because he’d been lead singing and playing guitar for most of the bands he joined anyway, Fuller has gone solo. It’s worked. Aquarian Son has seen airplay on several commercial alt radio stations and more than a dozen college stations. He’s also hooked up with Los Angeles producer Scott Fisher to get some impressive sound mixing and studio work.
Fuller is currently playing three nights a week at the Lone Eagle Grill in Lake Tahoe, a gig he’s committed to until this May. He thinks of this as his day job because it pays well, it’s steady, and it will allow him to tour this summer. He’s looking into dates in Montana, Oregon, San Francisco and possibly LA. He also promises a new, full-length album out this summer. If it’s anything like the first, it’s definitely worth your 10 bucks.