It has been nearly 20 years since local band House of Hoi Polloi released an album, but band co-founder Steve Fulton still gets asked what the name means—and he still doesn't have a satisfying answer.
"I just liked the way it sounded," Fulton said laughing, though like with most of his creative choices, the decision wasn't really uninformed: hoi polloi is Greek for "the masses" and House of Hoi Polloi was a band for everyone. It worked hard to make sure "the masses" who came out to dance the night away to its rock/funk/ska reggae sound had fun.
After HoHP, Fulton continued to perform and tour as a solo act, opening for the likes of John Hiatt, Jewell and Tori Amos. All the while, Fulton was recording and producing other musicians at his Garden City studio, Audio Lab, and it wasn't until 11 years after his last release, Said & Heard (self-released, 2005), he sat down on the other side of the glass. With help from a host of talented musicians, Fulton—a.k.a. Steve Fulton Music—recorded the two-disc Eponym (self-released; Oct. 6, 2016). It's a rich tapestry, weaving together Fulton's multi-faceted range of tastes and talents, pulling from rock, reggae, folk, country and more. From the deceptively simple "Nickels and Dimes" to the charming retro folk "Good Morning," it's like a sonic journal affording a glimpse into the facets of Fulton, with one disc containing uptempo, funkier tunes and the other revealing the more introspective storyteller side. Both somehow reflect a value at Fulton's core: Whether he's behind the soundboard or in front of it, the Golden Rule is a driving force in his life.
"I will never burn a bridge," said Fulton, who is approaching middle age. "I like to treat people with as much respect as I can and give them as many chances as I can." In an industry where inflated egos run rampant, adopting that attitude would be a sound business decision. That isn't Fulton's motivation.
"People deserve [second chances]," he said . "They might be having a shittty day, or they might have something going on that I don't know anything about."
He said when someone is being nasty, instead of dismissing them, he stops and thinks, "'Hmm. I wonder what's going on with them. I wonder why they're this way."
Along with his music, that approach to people is probably a factor in Fulton's continued popularity. He is active on social media, responding to comments and requests, so it's not surprising he would have a few thousand "likes" on his Facebook page as well as more than 4,000 friends/followers. What is surprising is Eponym, which was released with only two months remaining in 2016, was the bestselling album of the year at The Record Exchange.
"People still buy CDs," Fulton said. "But I think it's people who don't look at an age thing or a genre thing. They just listen to music."
Though Fulton has embraced the more straightforward Steve Fulton Music moniker, it took a little while to get there.
"With Hoi Polloi, I was forever explaining what the name of the band meant," he said smiling. "Forever. So, I thought and thought and thought about what I was going to name my new band, my new thing. My first solo record was called Chakra Mission [which] started when I got the opening spot for Tori Amos, and I made 150 four-song CDs for that show. I sold every one of them."
Great news, but it meant he was now answering questions about another band name. So he began really thinking about it.
"There are all of these musicians who go by ___ and so-and-so, like Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band. I didn't want to do that," Fulton said. "I thought, 'I'll just go by Steve Fulton,' but I realized that didn't make sense. I'm not just a solo artist. I work with a lot of really talented folks. So I went with Steve Fulton Music. Suddenly, it was so easy. I didn't have to explain anything."
He's right. Eponym says it all.