Mike Szuter: vocals/guitar
C.J. Szuter: lead guitar
Rob Kley: bass
Charlie Smaldino: drums
When the Las Vegas-based quartet of hard and heavy alt-rockers known as Magna-Fi opened for Puddle Of Mudd at The Joint at The Hard Rock in late 2003, the Las Vegas Sun called them "the show's chief revelation." The paper added, "The band served up its brand of thunderous music with great energy, sounding more like the future of heavy rock than its past."
The not-so-long but adventurously winding road to that destiny-and the birth of Magna-Fi--can be traced back to a small but defining moment in a darkened living room on the outskirts of Cleveland-a city of course synonymous with rock music. Imagine the infectious melody line from Cheap Trick's classic "Surrender" pulsing through the late-night air. Budding guitarist C.J. Szuter (pronounced "zoo-ter"), and his lead singer and brother Mike listened spellbound to the bands impassioned performance. In a moment of epiphany, they saw their future in rock 'n' roll-"Holy shit," they exclaimed. "We can do that!" And that, my friend, they can indeed do…with the best of them.
That pivotal turning point led Mike and C.J.-now Magna Fi's front man and lead guitarist, respectively--to devote their lives to inspiring legions of other aspiring musicians to feel the same way. Their musical mission has already made just such an impact in cities across America, including Cleveland, Chicago, Atlanta, and their current home, Las Vegas. With their debut Aezra Records/EMI album release, Burn Out The Stars, the brothers Szuter and their bandmates are poised to continue their journey, and rock the whole wide world.
The game plan towards global domination commenced with the building of a significant local following across Ohio performing as the Szuters. Next, the intrepid brothers heard the call of "go west, young man" from their musician friend Paul Gilbert, who promoted the idea of settling in the not-so-promised land of Las Vegas. But, the move to Sin City would prove another critically important card dealt by the hand of fate. A large new fan base came along with a brand new band name at the start of the bold new millennium…out of the ashes of the Szuters rose something altogether different under the molten-hot moniker of Magna-Fi.
Not immune to the struggles facing any young band, Magna-Fi soon suffered the fallout from a record deal with Gold Circle that went south. The label's demise and the subsequent blow kicked off what Mike Szuter refers to as the worst year of his life. Ultimately, though, Mike-also the band's chief writer--says it proved to be a blessing in disguise. "It reminded me," he recalls, "of why I was doing this in the first place--to write, perform, and deliver songs that people can get into as much as the music I heard and got into when I was a kid."
"If Magna-Fi is one thing, it's determined," says drummer Charlie Smaldino, and the band forged on with renewed commitment. The band's new home, the EMI Music Marketing-distributed Aezra Records, is an innovative label with extraordinary distribution whose mission is centered on a traditional A&R-oriented, solidly artist development-centered philosophy. Signed to Aezra in 2003, Magna-Fi's creative partnership with the company has been a harmonious fit since day one. Smaldino adds, "It's exhilarating to know that Burn Out The Stars is finally getting its due. With our music, it's like we're raising our children. And now, it's like we're sending them off to college-it's great!"
Influenced by the Beatles and Cheap Trick to more contemporary rock heroes such as Foo Fighters, Nirvana and Alice in Chains, Burn Out the Stars also points to the band's interest in acclaimed alt-metal acts including Quicksand and Failure. It was actually Failure helmsman Paul Lani (Megadeth) whom the Magna-Fi hand-selected to produce their debut disc, which Mike Szuter calls "an album born out of frustration---be it with lovers, the music business or life in general." The 11-song CD contains character studies of several of the singer's former lovers, as well as lyrical self-portraits. There are stories of absolute love and abject desperation. One stand-out track, "Down In It," was inspired by Vietnam and WWII, and another, "Seconds, Minutes, Hours," by a mind-warping episode of the classic TV program The Twilight Zone.
Throughout, Szuter's anthemic lyrics and melodic vocals are woven into a backdrop of pounding drums and heavy guitars creating an emotional and powerful wall of sound. At their core, Mike feels the songs are about frustration, perseverance and dedication to a long-held dream. When the album play back, Szuter says he's reminded of having seen childhood friends climb the corporate ladder, build families and buy homes and cars, while he continues pursuing the brass ring he first was tantalized by while listening to those radio shows as a kid. "To me, it's about sticking with something simply because you believe in it. It's almost about looking for vindication in something you have valued for so long. Just like with relationships, in music you gotta stick with it to make it work."
If he wasn't sure beforehand, bassist Rob Kley says he knew he was involved in something special during the recording of the album project. He remembers thinking, "We're onto something here. This is it." That's something that live audiences far and wide have already discovered during the band's always revelatory stage shows. As music fans everywhere start to connect with Burn Out the Stars, the writing on the wall will be as clear as the neon lights on the Vegas Strip-this is it indeed…Magna-Fi have arrived.
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