The Prof. Fuzz 63 is a family band born out of Mike Farmer’s love of playing music heavy on the fuzz pedal.
But it didn’t start out with the intention of being a family band.
What began in 2013 as a band consisting of Farmer, who is an associate professor of Chinese studies at UT Dallas, on guitar, a drummer and a bassist came to a quick end when the bass player abruptly quit the band after his cat threw up and his girlfriend had to work (that's the story Farmer tells). That's when Farmer’s wife, Maren (aka “Sleepy Redhead”), took over rhythm duties with her fiery electric keyboard.
The band’s original drummer left the band after playing just six shows and recording their first full-length album Chinese Folk Songs in 2016. After six months with a fill-in drummer, the Farmers’ son, Brooks (aka “Mr. B”), took over.
Since then, the band has played 130 shows across Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and the Midwest, and they’re releasing their second family album, Kirvin Streetman's Sugar Bride Blues, this Friday on digital, CD and vinyl through Dreamy Life Records.
“Being a family band is super convenient,” Farmer says. “We live together, practice in our home, and confirming a show offer rarely entails more than yelling up the stairs or sending a text from the other side of the room.
“The biggest challenge is also, perhaps, the convenience of it all,” he continues. “Maren and I both have professional careers (she’s an elementary school art teacher in Richardson ISD), and Brooks is working on an online degree; his time is a bit more limited than ours at this stage of our careers. We try to be respectful of Brooks’ class obligations when booking shows and tours.”
Professional obligations aside, there is an upside to having a fun side project with your family.
“We get along really well,” Farmer says, “so spending lots of time together isn’t a bad thing. Though I’m sure the embarrassment of having to play in a punk rock band with his mom and dad will someday come back to haunt Brooks.”
For casual listeners of the punk rock genre, The Prof. Fuzz 63 is probably not what you would expect a punk band to sound like. Sounding somewhere between bands like X and The B-52’s, with the vocal style of an upbeat Lou Reed, The Prof. Fuzz creates static-y, psychedelic dance-punk built around tongue-in-cheek lyrics that you won’t be able to resist singing along to.
“I create characters based on composites of multiple folks — real and imagined,” Farmer says. “Interestingly enough, we’ve had a lot of women tell us they are the Nudist Buddhist Judas Priest Fan. She’s definitely real; I just don’t know her name.
“What a lot of these characters have in common is word-play,” Farmer says of his songwriting style. “I love doodling with words, playing with sounds and meanings. That’s the fun part of songwriting for me. I start with a word or phrase, and it grows into its own textual world, and then gets set to music and takes on another existence as an earworm.”
Even the album’s title has its origins in Farmer’s love of playing with words.
“The interstate sign south of Dallas that reads ‘Streetman Kirvin’ always looked, to me, like the name of someone on one of my class rolls,” Farmer says. “So I tried to imagine who this ‘Kirvin Streetman’ guy was. The ‘Sugar Bride’ came about when I misread a road sign that said ‘Sugar Ridge.’ And the rest of the story just sort of came rushing out.
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“When I started,” he explains, “I had no idea Kirvin was a killer, or that the Sugar Bride was a grade better than her husband when it came to taking the money and running.”
To celebrate their past and future, The Prof. Fuzz 63 will play two shows this weekend.
“We're gonna play some old stuff that we don't play that often anymore,” Farmer says of Friday’s performance. “We figured that since we'll be playing more of the Kirvin songs going forward, it would be fun to load up a set with some older stuff but with a couple of the new ones tossed in for good measure.”
The band’s official album release show is Saturday at Division Brewing.