A happy homecoming 

Matt Fazzi hasn’t slowed down since his brush with stardom.

Two and a half years after his former band — the now-dormant San Francisco alt-prog group Facing New York — announced his departure from the same stage, Fazzi brings his current project Happy Body Slow Brain to the Rickshaw Stop for its first Bay Area show.

In 2008, the San Jose-born multi-instrumentalist appeared in his final shows with Facing New York. A few months later, he was playing guitar with East Coast pop-punk legends Taking Back Sunday.

After a brief stint — which included touring and one album (2009’s “New Again”) — Fazzi and bassist Matt Rubano were let go to allow for the return of that band’s most well-known lineup.

The departure from the spotlight allowed Fazzi to focus on the long-under-wraps Happy Body Slow Brain, which had begun modestly as a handful of minimal GarageBand compositions.

He recruited longtime friend and fellow ex-TBS guitarist Isaac Bolivar and later Gavin Castleton Trio drummer Eduardo Torres, both from San Jose. The trio entered the studio with no pressure to perform for anyone but themselves.

“It’s great, not having some label guy peeking over my shoulder,” Fazzi says of the self-funded recording sessions. “It’s rewarding that we went and made a record exactly the way we wanted to make it, and no one could tell us ‘no.’”

The resulting album, “Dreams of Water,” strikes a balance between the layered bombast of Facing New York and the tunefulness of Taking Back Sunday.

The songs, anchored alternately by guitar and electric piano, feature obtuse chord changes and are punctuated by occasional moments of technical wizardry. (Torres’ frenetic, ceaseless drum-and-bass pattern in “Up Late” demands repeated listens.)

Yet strong pop hooks in songs such as “Move at Different Speeds” and “Never Loved” bear a resemblance to the honed songwriting on “New Again.”

Jokingly describing their sound as “prog-R&B,” the band is inspired by the unlikely combination of Steely Dan, influential indie band the Dismemberment Plan and new-wave pioneers Tears for Fears.

Even without label support, Fazzi says response has been overwhelming. Taking Back Sunday’s name recognition hasn’t hurt, but he doesn’t think it’s the sole factor behind the buzz over the new project.

“We took a big leap and it’s paying off,” he says. “I kinda assumed there’d be a slight crossover, but at the same time I knew their target audience is younger than ours, and some of the music is going to go straight over a 15-year-old’s head.”

Although he’s looking forward to his West Coast homecoming, Fazzi says it will provide challenges as a musician: “This is really the first time we finally get to bring the songs to life, to hash them out as a live band. ... [but] it’s a new mechanics thing. It’s been about three years since I’ve been doing keys and guitars and vocals all at once live. Taking Back Sunday was a walk in the park compared to that.”

jclerici@sfexaminer.com


IF YOU GO

Happy Body Slow Brain

With Please Do Not Fight, Bird By Bird, The Girlfriend Season

Where: Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell St., San Francisco

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Price: $10

Contact: (415) 861-2011, or visitwww.rickshawstop.com

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Joseph Clerici

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