PROLOGUEP erhaps the earliest significant event in the winding history of F-Units happened in the spring of 2003, when Scott Bellina responded to a craigslist ad for a mint-condition Gibson SG guitar posted by another talented singer and musician, Greg Hoy. Unbeknownst to each other, they would be working together along with bassist Tom Meehan on F-Units’ first album Reject on Impact in less than two year’s time.
Scott recalls, “The first time I ever met Greg was totally awkward. I saw his craigslist ad for a brand-spanking-new SG. Being a die-hard AC/DC fan in need of a second stage-guitar, I went over to his rehearsal studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn to rock it out. I was a terrible negotiator and, in my mind at the time, an even worse guitar player. We basically sized each other up. To close the deal, he offered to play the drums while I got a feel for the guitar. I low-balled the price, and he scoffed at the notion. The guitar was so new the plastic wrap was still on the pick guard. Little did we know we’d both use the shit out of that thing on Reject on Impact. We played so many shows with it strapped to my torso and Hoy behind the kit. It’s funny to look back on that chance meeting as a pre-cursor to what was to come.”
Out of the Ashes
Salute the fucking bastards just for survival
And pound your bleeding hearts in surround sound
Out of ashes to the masses across the horizon
Yeah there ain’t no looking back when you’re underground
“Out of the Ashes” by F-Units
“From the out-set Tim had been missing rehearsals for an endless variety of reasons… The constant threat of canceled shows always loomed. It fucking sucked.”
Scotty goes on, “We worked our asses off. Not only in rehearsals, but also through daily promotion and networking. The notion of canceling a rehearsal or show for “whatever-drama-of-the-day” rotted my insides. Forced to rehearse time and time again without our singer and lead guitarist got us really tight as a rhythm unit. Jonny and I would share vocal duties. If the situation ever presented itself where we were forced to play without Tim, we were ready. Well it did, we made the most of it, and it was fucking awesome — a tiny glimpse of our full-potential. Tom did a back bend on-stage with his bass. It was like the chains came off.”
In January of 2004, Scotty, Tommy, and Jonny Napalm stormed on without their lead singer and set the stage. What would become “F-Units” was born out of the ashes of the supernova that was Napalm Stars.
What’s in a Name?A s great as that show went, the band needed new songs and Jonny Napalm wanted to branch off to start his own punk outfit, The Choke. Sticking together, Tommy and Scotty convinced Jonny to beat on just long enough to record drum tracks for a demo EP called Alpha East Side. The EP included “Fat Lip”, a bouncy power-punk song written by Scotty during the Napalm months that recalls Lookout! Records bands Operation Ivy and early Green Day; “Solitude”, a turbo-frenzied punk anthem in the vein of Backyard Babies; “Alpha East Side”, a straight-up rock track embodying The Cult’s Electric album. A fourth song, “Useless”, an ambitiously rumbling track with an ironic title, was scrapped after only one live performance.
Around this time, new band names were bouncing around. After rehearsal one evening, the name “The Units” was jokingly mentioned while waiting for the F-train at the West 4th Street subway station. That suggestion got merged with the fast approaching train bearing the letter “F”. It was discovered shortly after that “F-units” were a line of Diesel-electric locomotives produced between November 1939 and November 1960 by General Motors Electro-Motive Division. The thought of a thundering, electro-motive freight train fit perfectly with the desired direction of the band… hard, fast, loud, and heavy. F-Units were now in motion.
This is… Spinal Tap?While Jonny turned his focus to The Choke, Scott and Tom kept things moving — feverishly writing enough new material to fill a live set. Their first gig came as as a power-trio for “On the Rocks: A Tsunami Disaster Relief Benefit” at Arlene’s Grocery on Feb 13th, 2004, with the likes of New Professionals, Bantam, Joker Five Speed, The Resistants, and Sex Slaves. They fired off with blaze of punk rock fervor. The setlist included “Fat Lip”, “Dying to Forget”, “Alpha East Side”, “Southern Girls” (Cheap Trick), “Solitude”, “Southside”, “On Monday Night”, “Useless”, and “Denim Demon” (Turbonegro). A second show would come months later, opening for The Methadones featuring Dan Vapid (of Screeching Weasel and The Riverdales). After two shows, Jonny left for good and was replaced by an 18-year-old NYU student named Sam who played drums like Chuck Biscuits.
“Sam beat the living shit out of the drums. Man, it was nuts. Tom and I dodged chunks of drumsticks while his hands streamed with blood almost every rehearsal,” Scott recollects, “Unfortunately he was gone in a flash”. Sam played two shows with the band — the annual CBGB Christmas Party and then a blistering set at Lit Lounge — before getting cherry-picked by another up-and-coming NYC act. That departure was the first of many more replacement speed bumps to come.
It was an odd adolescence for F-Units — a seemingly revolving door of drummers and lead guitarists — while the band trucked along increasing their catalog with songs like “Lost In Space”, “Nowhere Fast”, “Hypocrite”, “In the Dark”, and “Still Want You”. The latter two had been written by Scott in the summer of 2001 and shelved for further development.
“There was a lot of drama in those early days. One member trashed Tommy’s apartment while house-sitting. We mistakenly kept him on for a couple of shows only to get dicked-over again when he flaked on a gig at The Knitting Factory.”
Something had to be done, and the band reached out to Jonny Napalm again. Jonny suggested that Greg Hoy, a fantastic singer and guitarist in his own band, could fill in temporarily on drums in a pinch. The call was made, and a crisis averted. Greg was a “Jonny-on-the-spot” for the Knitting Factory show. The band really clicked that night, and Greg came on full-time to record drums and lead guitar for Reject on Impact, F-Units’ first studio album.
Bracing for ImpactIn August 2005, F-Units began recording sessions for Reject on Impact at Cook Street Sound in Bushwick, Brooklyn. From the outset, the experience would prove no less trying than the months leading up.
“I was so amped leading up to that first recording session that I couldn’t sleep a wink. I gasped when we walked in to the studio. It was covered in cat hair and the smell of kitty litter — I’m extremely allergic to cats. I wheezed through every vocal session itching with red, watery eyes. It was exhausting,” Scott recalls. “It took 9 hours to lay down lead vocals for ‘Lost in Space’, a song that I would normally nail in a few takes. Things worsened when I got robbed at knife-point leaving the studio on Flatbush Avenue… meanwhile my family was in the middle of evacuating New Orleans due to an epic hurricane disaster.”
After several weeks of crashed computers, shoddy mixes, and a failed attempt at mastering, F-Units shipped the raw tracks to Los Angeles-based producer Scott Gilman for a complete overhaul. The results were amazing. “Scott Gilman did a fantastic job… a true professional. We really didn’t give him much to work with tracking-wise… an experience we’d learn from for our next endeavor.”
On Reject on Impact, Scott Gilman managed to capture what F-Units had been building up to in their first year and a half as a band. This debut occupied a realm somewhere between their classic punk and traditional hard rock influences, but not fitting comfortably within either. The style was unique enough that music critics didn’t really know what to make of it — dubbing F-Units as a “rock punk” act as opposed to a “punk rock” act. Either way, the album was hailed as “tight, hard-hitting rock n roll you’ll have cranked to 11” in ‘the music issue’ of Playgirl magazine.
Psycho Urgency Rock Addiction
Strike up the ignition screeching halt don’t stop
Until we’re hanging off the edge of the road
Aggravations altercations fuck you and your complications
Everything’s under control I know we know
“Psycho Urgency Rock Addiction” by F-Units
“Greg really was the secret glue that kept things moving for us as a band for the early years. We’re forever indebted to his talent and counsel. Then he brought in Andy, his bandmate from Hoy, and then it all went to SHIT!” Scott jokes.
To suit the dual guitar threat of their distinct sound on ROI, F-Units desperately needed to become a permanent four-piece. Greg suggested that bassist Andy Rapoport, from his band “Hoy”, join F-Units on lead guitar. It was an experimental marriage of the two bands featuring seasoned veterans with a lust for old school rock ‘n roll. Songs such as “Screaming of the Sun”, “Psycho Urgency Rock Addiction”, “Closing In”, and “Rhythm Head” were written at this time. The F-Units-Hoy incarnation lasted for several alcohol-induced shows only to run its course. When Greg left to pursue an epic indie solo album, Andy lingered on for a few months. Meanwhile, Scott and Tom searched for yet another solution. Greg was replaced by Long Island pop-punk drummer Vinny Ruin — a true statesman of the Do-It-Yourself-and-Fuck-Everything-Else ideal of punk rock tradition.
“I loved having Vinny around. He was a snarky guy, with an even cockier attitude. But once Greg was gone and Andy was on his way out, that line-up was the oddest pairing of individuals the band may have had to-date. We were really good. The songs had never sounded better, but we had absolutely no chemistry live, and it showed. That all changed when Max entered the band,” Scott admits.
Enter the MayhemIn 2007, the band was a power-punk trio yet again with Scotty on vocals and guitar, Tom on bass, and Vinny Ruin on drums. Still needing a fourth fixture, F-Units placed a classified ad seeking a permanent monster of a lead guitarist, and for the first time ever, those prayers were answered by a 6’7 20-year-old virtuoso named Max Holland.
“I gotta say, when Max introduced himself to us after one of our shows, my initial reaction was ‘whoa’. My second reaction was that I automatically assumed he wasn’t a fit for the band’s image. I was completely and utterly wrong, and that was only the beginning of my education into F-Units,” Scott humbly admits. “We felt we owed him an audition, and he was only asked to learn 3 or 4 songs off of Reject on Impact. Not only did he come in knowing all 10 songs, he played them 10x’s better than we ever did… adding parts we couldn’t dream of. After awhile, everything we thought about how the band should look or sound went out the window to allow for the space of endless possibility.”
The addition of Max “Mayhem” brought with it new stability, and any internal insecurities about the band’s musicianship and attack began to fade… at least in the beginning. What wasn’t expected was his passionate sense of ownership in the band. Through all the years of rotating members, things had gotten jaded — with Scott bouncing all over the stage overcompensating for either the lack of a lead guitarist or the lack of contribution from Max’s predecessors. The idea of a third permanent contributor was completely foreign. It generated a brief power struggle along with a few bruised egos. But all great collaborations go through growing pains, and this was definitely the case for F-Units. In the long run, the band prevailed and would deliver it’s best material to-date through a complete and total collaborative effort.
At lastMax Holland’s initial contribution to F-Units’ existing material was immediately felt through a bigger guitar sound and bigger guitar solos. His sheer size alone gave new spectacle to the band’s live show. It was obvious the band was developing into something more profound than founding members Scott Bellina and Tom Meehan had spawned four years prior. Being the punk-purist that he is, Vinny Ruin became disenfranchised by the band’s evolution to an edgier more mainstream sound. As the band took on a more epic arena-approach it was clear F-Units needed some major bombast behind the drums to hold it all together. When Vinny decided to pursue his interests in the punk-rock touring circuit, Greg Hoy enthusiastically returned to fill the void while F-Units searched for that final missing piece.
Upon hearing the mighty F-Units were in search of a new drummer with a massive sound, left-handed skinsman Frank Coleman promptly contacted the band. An extremely experienced drummer with encyclopedia-like knowledge of musical-theory and rock-history, Frank came into his F-Units audition with every song off of Reject on Impact transcribed… on paper.
“I’ve never seen anything like that. We almost had to give him the job on that alone. I mean, to actually map out every song and sheet-read his audition?!? If that wasn’t enough, he came into his second rehearsal with it memorized. That’s fucking dedication. He still blows my mind,” Scotty adds.
The band seemed to be cemented, but one more hiccup would occur. With Max still establishing his firm position in the band, another drummer with an interest in F-Units came into the picture. Drummer Dave “Nutz” Budnetz joined the band after a perfectly smooth trial-period with Frankie ended. There was a bit of doubt all around, but the decision was made, and F-Units motioned forward with writing and demo-ing exciting new material for it’s much anticipated, epic-sounding sophomore effort.
Max brought in songs “Black California”, “Rebel Songs”, “Lipstick Traces”, “Mockstar”, and the epic ballad “When It Snows in April”. It should be noted that “When it Snows in April” bears astonishing similarity to another ballad Scott had written at age 19, in 1995, called “Compassion”. Scott penned the tracks “Desperation Road”, “Out of the Ashes”, “You’re Just a Tease”, “So Incognito”, and revised the previously written “Psycho Urgency Rock Addiction”. The two created “Come What Maybe” spontaneously together.
As the music came together, the rehearsal performances of the tracks began to unravel with inconsistent tempos due to several missed rehearsals by Nutz. It wasn’t much of a surprise to find Budnetz’s drum kit and personal effects completely removed from the rehearsal studio without notice as the band continued to prepare to work on the album.
Regarding Nutz’s sudden departure from the band, Scott states, “It was really weird, but we’d been there before with past members. I was disappointed because it felt like a big ‘fuck you’ at the time. The only problem I had with it was that I had no idea why. A simple heads up would have saved us a subway ride into the Brooklyn rehearsal studio that day.” He adds, “He’s a great guy, and he’s come through for us since with allowing us access to his studio kit for demo-recording.”
The band needed a solid ground to build the new record upon, and the bombastically-gifted Frank Coleman triumphantly made his return to the band for good.
Alone in BabylonF-Units began recording sessions for their second studio album titled Alone in Babylon in the summer of 2009. Starting with click-tracking at The Production Plant NYC, they moved on to The Cutting Room Studios to track the album.
Regarding the release of Alone in Babylon Scott states, “Creating an album of this magnitude by our own accord is more than an accomplishment, it’s a statement. As the title suggests, we’ve been doing the DIY-thing in New York for so long that we’ve become masters at it. This record embodies the raw emotions of a tremendously talented group of individuals that more than deserve their moment in the sun. It’s been long in coming, but our journey through Babylon might just be what gets us there.”
Without a doubt, the most massive F-Units song recorded to-date is the southern-stomp inspired “Alone in Babylon”. The song was so infectious the band decided the new album would carry the same title.
“The way that song came about was truly magical. When we write music, the songs come in a wide-variety of states. Sometimes it’s just a riff. Sometimes it’s already mapped out structurally. Sometimes it’s just a general theme or direction. ‘Alone in Babylon’ just spontaneously erupted,” Scott claims. “I was tuning my guitar as the guys were warming up, and made a lame attempt at surf rock ala the Pulp Fiction soundtrack. I turned to Nutz and asked him to play the intro drums to ‘Longview’ by Green Day. I then asked Max to play the intro to ‘Born on the Bayou’ by Creedence. The cool part was that we didn’t really know how those are supposed to be played. I kept playing those surf chords, and BOOM. The song quickly took shape. Max added some new parts a couple of months later after we had already tracked the song in the studio with Frankie doing his take on the drums. We sent it over to Scott Gilman in Los Angeles to mix as a trial-run. He fuckin’ crushed it.”
The track “Alone in Babylon” would later appear on NBC’s Parenthood, Episode 215 “Just Go Home”, on February 8th, 2011. A huge win for the band, and a firm acknowledgement of F-Units on-going effort.
Another song from AIB, “Lipstick Traces”, would appear in ABC Family’s “The Fosters” on July 8th, 2013. Yet another affirmation of the band’s viability.
2011 to the presentSince 2011, the band has been accumulating new songs for a third album release — leaking out ideas as they take shape, getting written, re-written, and re-written some more. A demo-EP titled “Black Heart Blacksmith Shop” was leaked containing the tracks “Rearview”, “Ain’t It Hard to Say”, “Paranormal”, and “Radio Creation”. It also contained an acoustic version of “Lost in Space” — an original track from Reject on Impact.
In 2012, they began recording rehearsals acoustically and “live” without overdubs — the results of which appears as the digital-release “Derailed”. This album features several favorite tracks along with a few covers.
In the winter of 2013, F-Units appeared at New York Fashion Week for fashion designer Diego Binetti’s show titled LOVE.
Currently the band is busy writing songs, refining the new material, and booking local shows in preparation for their third studio album. New work-in-progress song titles to-date include “T.M.I.”, “Electro Bomb”, “Snakebite”, “Chemicals” and “Made of You”.
Regarding an upcoming record, Scott Bellina states, “We’re very much in an early phase of development. Right now we’re just writing as much new material as possible. We are extremely excited and pleased with the new stuff coming out, but I feel like that the best stuff is yet to come. We can really sense it.” He goes on, “We’re at about 8 or 9 songs right now. I think we need about 8 or 9 more giving us options to narrow down from. That’ll really take our shit to the next level!”
Next level indeed, stay tuned while the rest of the F-Units’ story takes shape.