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Flash, Color, Style, Fun From England's Fuzzbox

June 12, 1987|CRAIG LEE

Will success spoil We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It?

Yes, you read it right. We've Got a Fuzzbox and We're Gonna Use It (now known simply as Fuzzbox) consists of four cheerful English lasses who have become the Cinderellas of the alternative music scene, thanks to their garish clothes, lively personalities and a sound that combines pop harmonies and punky minimalism. (The group makes its local debut tonight at the Roxy, then plays the Spirit on Saturday).

Influenced by everything from Phil Spector to Duran Duran, trading instruments from song to song, playing with more enthusiasm than skill, Fuzzbox seems more like a musical pajama party than a serious contender for international stardom. That's why it's surprising that Fuzzbox's first album, "We've Got a Fuzzbox . . . ," has been released by the big-league Geffen Records.

"I said let's have some fun," explained Michael Rosenblatt, the Geffen A&R representative in New York who signed Fuzzbox. "They have color, flash, style. Everything doesn't have to be so serious.

"They also have some good pop songs. They started out pretty much like the Go-Go's. They just picked up instruments and now they can actually play. . . . Every label has their fringe element. You can't gear everything toward the mainstream and you've got to have some diversity. I see them being able to work themselves up to a Go-Go type level."

Fuzzbox started as a joke two years ago when the four women, Magz, Tina, Jo and Vix (no last names, please), volunteered to open for a friend's group at a Birmingham club. None of the women had ever played an instrument before, but they found an old fuzzbox (a device that gives a guitar or bass a distorted sound), and when their inadequate playing prompted catcalls and heckling, Vix shouted, "We've got a fuzzbox and we're going to use it!"

Despite this less than auspicious beginning, the group went on to success in England: Its recent single "Love Is the Slug" even made it into the pop charts.

With the rising visibility, Fuzzbox has found itself fielding all kinds of criticism from the British press. First there were claims that they were "sell-outs" for signing with the WEA conglomerate (even though they're still connected with the independent label that first signed them, Vindaloo).

Then there's the feminist issue. The British music papers are often as concerned with a group's ideology as with its music. Since the members of Fuzzbox are young girls who often act like silly teen-agers, a lot of flak has been thrown their way regarding their lack of a "feminist" stance.

"We're all quite young," explains Magz, the oldest of the group at age 23 (the other three are 18). "We're becoming more politically aware. People want to know what we think. But I think it's very patronizing that we're always asked about feminist issues. It's very difficult if you're an all-girl band and you constantly get patronized this way or you just defy it.

"Why should we have to always be up on the latest feminist thinking?" she continued during a recent phone interview. "It may not be what we actually think--we're four individuals, after all, with individual viewpoints. We don't have one collective thought, we have different aspects on this issue and I think it's precarious to try to get a group to think the same way. Though we do have some common ground."

Part of that common ground is Fuzzbox's determination to prove itself a viable group. "We really can play now. And we've all become much more responsible," Magz insists. Still, the group hasn't lost its sense of humor.

"People in the pop business tend to be quite strange," Magz observes. "They seem to have abnormalities in their personalities. We certainly do! We're not like most people. We'll all fall out laughing at the strangest things. But we're good fun to be with.

"But it's not like any of us are stupid," she quickly adds. "I can hold my own in most conversations. I like poetry, literature, movies, art. It's not like I'm an idiot.

"It seems to me that people think that if you're intelligent, you can't go out and have a laugh. It's not like that at all in real life. My view is that you only have one life to live and you can't sit around being miserable. You have to worry about the world and everything else, but then there comes a point when that can be too miserable and you have to have fun. I'm glad I'm in a band with happy, smiling faces."

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