The Small Stars
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The Small Stars

Band Rock Cabaret


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"The Small Stars put on a big show"

Spin magazine recently reported that The Small Stars were from Reno, Nevada. Not true. But who could blame them? Until recently the Small Stars did indeed present themselves as a casino and cabaret inspired band from Reno - a biographical white lie that bandleader Miles Zuniga (aka Guy Fantasy) said eventually got old and confusing.

"We actually went to Reno to play. It was like in the comic books and when someone meets their doppelganger and they clash and disappear into each other. It wasn't a very good gig. And everywhere we'd play and open with "Keno in Reno' it would always go over. Not in Reno. People didn't think it was funny. I thought this is a good place to leave this behind," Zuniga said.

The Small Stars' new record, Tijuana Dreams, presents a surprisingly straightforward set of pop songs - particularly for a band with a reputation for putting on anything-goes, make-em'-laugh live shows. Zuniga said it wasn't until the record was complete that he recognized these were tunes headed in a new direction.

Tijuana Dreams is earning critical acclaim for presenting straightforward songwriting.

"For some reason there's a lot of songs about break-ups, infidelity and divorce. There's still a theme, it's just not Vegas and Reno and all that. Maybe it's Vegas after you lose all your money and get caught in a whorehouse. That's kind of where this record's coming from," Zuniga said.

The Small Stars is Zuniga's brainchild. Their shticky live shows - which have featured comedians, magicians and dancers - were designed to be decidedly different than Fastball, a band with a far more traditional approach to playing live.

"We had a hit song on the radio but weren't drawing anything near the amount of records we were selling. But there were plenty of bands that didn't sell any records but had something. They were knockouts live. I didn't want to be in another band that just came out and played. There's a million of them. And I was in one of those. I've done it. I want to put on a show," Zuniga said.

Between knowing what works and what doesn't onstage and a more mature record, Zuniga thinks this is the moment where The Small Stars stand out as more than just a clever concept. If not, there's always Plan B – going back to Reno.

-Andy Langer - News 8 Austin

"MINI Takes the States with the Small Stars"

August 23, 2006
3,300 MINI owners will listen to the Small Stars as they cruise through Las Vegas.

The Small Stars

3,300 MINI owners have embarked on a cross-country journey that finds them making 17 stops along the way, and is rolling out all the tunes from their trek's companion album, Soundtrack to a Drive. Every song on the compilation is by a band local to each stop along the trek, which begins in Monterey before heading down the Pacific Coast to Santa Barbara. Southwestern cities Las Vegas, Flagstaff, and Albuquerque are the next destinations on the drive, and then the MINI crew heads to Texas, where they'll pull up in Amarillo and Dallas. From there, the drivers swerve over to St. Louis, Indianapolis, and Charleston, WV. Charlottesville, VA, Richmond, VA and Washington, D.C. are the trek's next stops before the roadsters steer up the Eastern seaboard to hit Jersey City and, finally, Lakeville, CT.

TODAY'S BAND: The Small Stars

The Small Stars hail from Reno, which doesn't share much more with its glitzier counterpart, Las Vegas, than casinos. But Nevada's not all that big of a place, and driving through the state listening to the Small Stars, dreamers who sing about mojitos and monkeys, is far from a gamble. - SPIN Magazine

"The Small Stars"

The Small Stars' roster includes "Guy Fantasy," "Buddy Llamas" and "Richard Steele" (think about it), the alter egos of Fastball's Miles Zuniga, Jeff Groves and friends, who all remain in costumed character on stage. Surprisingly, their second record, Tijuana Dreams, brings not jokey lounge-lizard shtick but great pop-rock with dashes of Tex-Mex. In the first half, songs like "Let's Hit the Town," "Day Job" and "Girl Trouble" address the sort of post-graduation Austinite ennui all too real to thousands who grab a diploma but never leave town, disappearing into jobs at offices, coffeehouses and used CD stores. It's all covered in a coat of shimmering pop.

The CD's second half takes a turn toward Mexico with tales of drug busts, grain alcohol-soaked nights and rolling dice. Highlights here are "That's What God Made Whiskey For" (with guest vocalist Joe Ely) and "Carnival," in which an illicit affair takes on a fun, magical tone amidst cotton candy and rides, set to a melody straight from the Drifters. "Carnival," in fact, is the finest track on Tijuana Dreams. At this point, the Small Stars' self-described mixture of "Frank Sinatra meets Mott the Hoople" is still a humorous side project, but their recorded effort hints at something that will outlive the ruffled-shirt-and-sunglasses stage look.

-Bob Ruggiero - the Houston Press

"Small Stars Shine at Continental"

Can a lounge act be seriously hip?

Can Billy Crystal say "You look mah-velous!"?

Even if you're pouring on thick-as-syrup Vegas shtick and schmaltzing up the room with titles that sound awfully close to "Volare," if you're in the Small Stars, you're definitely in the hippest, cleverest "lounge" act to hit the Austin area in, oh, possibly ever. This shamefully talented collective of characters, fronted by vocalist/guitarist Guy Fantasy (Fastball's Miles Zuniga), had a Continental Club audience more or less rolling in the aisles and rocking on the dance floor during a Friday night set that spanned everything from the Doug Sahm Tex-Mex ditty "Nitty-Gritty" to a brilliant ska rave-up of "The Boys Are Back in Town." There were no small doses of originals, either, including the Kinks-meet-"Rocky Horror" rock-opera-ish confessional "True Hollywood Story" ("It's sad but true, daddy loved you mo-wo-wo-wo-re than me"); the tune that hit No. 1 in Corpus Christi, "Otra Vez"; a gently funky-reggae tune with a disco break that became "You Spin Me 'Round (Like a Record)" with Fantasy rolling each "r" till it spun out of control.

Saxophonist/vocalist Buddy Llamas (Fastball's Jeff Groves), who managed to look both ridiculous and cool with his pencil mustache and mariachi suit, delivered priceless expressions and gestures as "manager"/singer/carnival barker Vic Odin (get it?) belted out the vaudevillian "I Turn Music into Money." Fantasy spouted running commentaries of nihilistic sarcasm that segued perfectly into his equally sarcastic songs (many co-written with Groves). The only thing serious about the Small Stars is their musical chops, contributed by keyboard/trombone player Max Dolby (Matt Hubbard, a Willie Nelson sideman); drummer Brick Masterson (New Bohemians' John Bush); bassist Godfrey McCambridge (Lil Cap'n Travis' Jeff Johnston); guitarist Richard Steele (Landis Armstrong of McLemore Avenue and the El Orbits); and Odin (aka Nakia).

They may be Small Stars now, but with all that talent, maybe one day they'll hit . . . Vegas?

— Lynne Margolis - Austin American Statesman

"Threads, back story help Small Stars put on the glitz"


Through eras of grunge, nu metal and teen crooning, Miles Zuniga made hooky, no-frills power pop with Austin's Fastball. Now he wants to put on a show, a big production, something that sparkles like sequins.

Enter Guy Fantasy.

Fantasy is Zuniga's lounge-rat alter ego, and he fronts Small Stars, a near indescribable glam lounge pop troupe that recently released a self-titled album.

The album is a fine spin, but to capture the full carnivalesque sparkle of the Small Stars happens at night, onstage, plied with alcohol and who knows what else. The Small Stars experience can be caught tonight at an in-store performance at Cactus Records, followed by a gig at the Mucky Duck.

Zuniga's troupe includes a gaggle of Austin musicians, as well as a magician, a comedian who works deep into the blue, and other sundry performers that create a 21st-century cabaret.

This is the Small Stars.

But there's more. The group has gleefully fabricated an entire backstory. The Small Stars is a soused, washed-up lounge act from Reno. "Vegas might have the brighter lights, bigger stars out at night," Fantasy sings, "but I love the easy life and that's in Reno."

When its van broke down in Austin, the group's bassist/pharmacist determined that the city met its chemical criteria and the Small Stars put down roots.

"I really like having this opportunity to investigate this ridiculous other side of myself," Zuniga says. "This wasted, burned-out jerk."

There also were stylistic reasons for the Small Stars beginnings: Zuniga is something of a vintage clotheshorse. "It's a great excuse to wear frilly shirts and tuxedo jackets," he says.

Zuniga started the band with few expectations, and he seems genuinely pleased with the way it has snowballed into a nightlife phenomenon in Austin. Revue-style performance bands like New York's Gogol Bordello and Boston's Dresden Dolls have found fringe vogue-status audiences by putting on high-energy shows that don't rely strictly on the music.

Small Stars has gradually expanded its route (presumably its van is back up and running) to include San Antonio and Houston, though a homecoming gig in Reno remains the ultimate goal.

"It just seemed to me that there's gloomy, introspective music out there," Zuniga says. "There are plenty of opportunities to stand there and play and sing and have that be the performance. Where did the rock 'n' roll showmanship go? C'mon, just put on a show!" - The Houston Chronicle

"Small Stars CD Review"

I must warn those unfamiliar with the Small Stars that their back story hokum is so much smoke and mirrors. The whole "band on the run from Reno" thing is an amusing deceit, but it belies the fact that the Stars are not some "ha ha, we're so clever" psuedo-lounge band, or a tribute band to all things Rat Pack. They are first and foremost a rock 'n' roll band that has brazenly melded lounge shtick and rock opera to (as lead singer Guy Fantasy puts it on "We Love You") "boldly go where no band has gone before."
On 8 Stereo 8, the Stars have ripped open the scab of a huge gaping wound on their personal psyches and the collective consciousness of show business. The band revels in every minute of watching the blood flow all over themselves, the audience, and an industry they simultaneously love and hate, and would most likely die for.
In the world of Guy Fantasy, Buddy Llamas, et. al., the frustration of middle age is rearing its ugly head, and all the demons collected along the road to stardom are starting to weigh down the bandwagon with the destination nowhere in sight. Fantasy laments "Let me tell you a story; Let me sing you a song about my rotten luck; I've been paying my dues and I've been singing my songs, and no one gives a (saxophone honk)."
Though the tone of the CD teeters on the brink of tragicomedy throughout, before it falls into a Beyond the Valley of the Dolls chasm, it manages a reassuring landing on the cynical side of an MGM Musical. Fantasy realizes that though he may never be a big star, there's nothing he loves more than singing his songs, and he's gonna keep on doing what he's doing. For all those artists out there who toil in obscurity, and may always do so, the Small Stars are singing your song.
-Levi Mazelstein - Whoopsy Magazine

"Introducing the Small Stars: The biggest little Reno lounge band from Texas"

Miles Zuniga is a washed-up, down-and-out, third-rate lounge singer with delusions of fame and fortune far beyond his reach. Or at least, he plays one in his new band, Small Stars. Zuniga - who adopts the Bill Murray/Tony Clifton-esque persona of one "Guy Fantasy" in the Small Stars alongside bandmates "Buddy Llamas" (aka Jeff Groves), "Brick Masterson" (John Bush of New Bohemians fame), "Maximillian Dolby" (Matt Hubbard), "Godfrey McCambridge" (Jeff Johnston) and "Richard Steele" (Landis Armstrong) - started Small Stars in September, shortly following a "morale breaking tour" with his other band, one-time chart toppers Fastball. After Fastball's comback bid with last year's Keep Your Wig On was nipped in the bud by staff changes at their then-label, Rykodisc, Zuniga and co-founder Tony Scalzo decided to focus their main creative energies elsewhere. For Zuniga, that meant putting together a band that could really put on a spectacle: "I wanted fire and magic and comedians and dancing girls!" And that's exactly what you get at a Small Stars show, along with original tunes Zuniga describes as a cross between Hunky Dory-era David Bowie and the Rat Pack. In May, the Small Stars released their self-titled debut (available at, and next in the works is a fill-blown musical -followed, one presumes, by a multi-picture MGM deal and the opening of their own hotel in Reno.

Richard Skanse
- Texas Music Magazine

"Drinks with the Small Stars"

Booze, girls and better clothes than Wayne Newton, The Small Stars are bringing the Reno lounge scene to Austin.

Imported from Reno due to questionable circumstances, The Small Stars have spent the past year boozin', usin' and cruisin' the Austin music scene. The Daily Texan ran up a bar tab and sat down with band members Guy Fantasy and Buddy Llamas, who flatly deny any resemblance to Miles Zuniga and Jeff Groves, along with their manager Vic Odin (supposably for legal reasons) for the first ever installment of the "Drinks With" interview series.

Daily Texan: Vic, I noticed your accent, where exactly are you from?

Vic Odin: Birmingham, England.

DT: Did you manage any bands in England?

VO: I managed this band called Last Boy on the Block. It was a boy band. They were kind of like N'Sync.

Guy Fantasy: All of the guys in the band were 35.

VO: They were rehashed, but they were great. They had a real thing going.

Buddy Llamas: I think some of the guys from New Edition were in that band.

VO: Completely broke after that one.

DT: Is that what brought you to America?

VO: You ever heard that song, "Band On the Run," think about "Manager On the Run." And so I ended up in Reno and stumbled into this dirty club and Guy Fantasy was there hosting his nightly events.

DT: What was the show like in Reno?

GF: It was cool, a lot of the working girls would come down, and gambling is legal there...

DT: How long were the shows?

GF: About six hours. We were in this little place tucked behind the casino called the discovery room at Harrah's. we were supposed to go from 9 to 3 am but it would vary. That's were we really learned how to entertain people because we had to cover such a huge amount of time and we only really knew about three songs.

BL: It is a good thing they pump so much oxygen into those casinos.

VO: I managed to pump a lot of extra things in there too.

DT: Which lounge singer are you hoping to get a leg up on?

GF: It's not really to sing better than them, it's to live better than them.

BL: To make more money

GF: We'd have to set our sights pretty low. I can't even think of a lounge singer... maybe Mel Torme? We'd probably never hit his level.

BL: He wrote the Christmas Song.

GF: How are we going to top that.

VO: Lou Glam and Foreigner have a new show in Vegas.

BL: Celine Dion plays in Vegas now.

GF: Does Wayne Newton have any kids that are performing?

BL: I think Juice Newton is performing.

GF: Yeah, we could be better than Juice Newton.

DT: Which member of the band is the biggest booze-hound?

GF: In The Small Stars that's pretty tough, its like the NBA.

BL: We may be The Small Stars, but in that arena, we are large stars.

DT: What's the biggest bar tab you have run in Austin?

GF: 300 bucks.

DT: 300 bucks?

GF: Yeah, we just don't like to drink Cuervo. It's gotta be, like, Patron...

BL: I don't know how that got started. How did we become such an aficionado low-rent band.

GF: When your circumstances are so meager, the only true chance you get to be a star is at the bar.

DT: Did you have to pay for the drinks in Reno?

GF: You see in Reno the drinks were free. They would pawn it off on the gamblers.

BL: The rubes.

GF: Basically tourists from Iowa were buying our drinks

BL: In Austin, people generally don't want to pay you to play music

DT: What kind of side jobs do you take to make ends meet?

GF: I think one of our guys is an associate professor at Austin Community College. They gave him a chair and told him to go away.

BL: We never found out what he did with that chair...

DT: I noticed that the band is very fashionably conscious, now that you are not in Reno, where do you guys get your clothes?

BL: We have a huge steamer trunk

VO: You see in Reno, people on the street would offer you clothes.

BL: Or you could find some people that just died. a lot of good clothes.

GF: We'd hang around funerals.

VO: Free booze and food

GF: It's actually a really good scene

BL: ou can't beat it. best clothes you could get.

GF: Plus when your at a funeral, no one's going to ask you if you belong there.

DT: That would be impolite

BL: Then you go to the wake, there's more food.

GF: And possibly clothes. "where's your bedroom?"

BL: And then you have a new suit.

DT: If things ever get to heavy in Austin, what kind of car would you take to get south of the border?

GF: The thing about mexico is that you don't want anything flashy. you want the most durable piece of shit car.

BL: Something you can work on.

GF: Pre-1980

VO: Something that can take leaded gas. 1970 VW bus.

BL: That's not a bad car.

GF: I'd like to arrive in style. Lincoln Continental.

BL: Or a Cutlass, Oldsmobile. Something about 18 feet long that you could fit several guys comfortably in the back seat.

GF: And you need a big trunk, in case you want to come back and bring some o - The Daily Texan

"CRITICS' PICKS : the Small Stars"

A Small Stars show is nothing short of a show. Never breaking character, the musicians best known for their day jobs in Fastball, New Bohemians and assorted Austin bands don costumes, clever aliases and Vegas kitsch. With over-the-top, lounge-inspired romps like "Two Girls Are Better Than One" and the escalating tomfoolery of band manager Vic Odin's theme song, "I Turn Music Into Money," it's easy to write the band off as nothing more than an amusing, well-rehearsed side project. But the jokes stop as soon as the lament of "Don't Keep 'em Waiting" and its tale of a never-has-been peeks through the greasepaint parody to reveal something more: This is a band whose proficiency and dead-on caricatures didn't come easily. Is lead singer Guy Fantasy (aka Fastball front man Miles Zuniga) a tongue-in-cheek character sketch or a sad victim of unintentional irony? Either way, the audience wins.
- Dallas Observer


The Small Stars (Self Titled - 2005)
Tijuana Dreams (2007)



Born of the drum-addled minds of Fastball's Miles Zuniga and Jeff Groves, The Small Stars early beginnings go way back to Austin, Texas circa 1989. The first performance by Guy Fantasy and Buddy Llamas took place in a lesbian coffee house just off Austin's famous 6th Street music district. Sadly, before a second show could be arranged, rock bands, record deals, platinum albums, and world tours got in the way. Now, 15 years later with the preliminaries behind them, the pair are back, and they've brought a few more musicians with them.

“A band that's a musical that's a band,” is the seed of The Small Stars' rock-n-roll-vaudevillian nature. The band’s characters, revue acts, and stage play explore limits the 'pop'-eratic structure. To push the story of Guy Fantasy and his cabaret, David v. Goliath narrative, Zuniga and Groves have written songs balanced upon the edge of Dean Martin's inebriaic croonings and David Bowie's character glam-slams.

Sounds great on paper, but a funny thing happened on the way to the theater. Unlike most supergroups, this seemingly random amalgam became an actual honest to goodness BAND, the veritable sum-greater-than-the-parts ensemble.

Miles Zuniga as Guy Fantasy the Singer/Master of Ceremonies also from Fastball
Jeff Groves as Buddy Llamas as Saxophonist/Sidekick also from Fastball
John Bush as Brick Masterson on Drums also in New Bohemians/Edie Brickell
Jeff Johnston as Godfrey McCambridge on Bass also from Li'l Cap'n Travis
Landis Armstrong as Richard Steele on Guitar from the El Orbits

The band’s first release took Texas by storm garnering much press and praise. Featured in Texas Music magazine’s CD sampler, “Otra Vez” became a regional number one song. The band was also chosen as a featured artist on Apple’s iTunes Music Store’s “Staff Favorites.” Then to top it off, the Austin Chronicle placed the Small Stars Debut on their Best of 2005 list. Naked Calendars, A Movie debut, A West Coast Tour, and over 150 shows behind them the Small Stars are just getting started.

The band just recently finished recording their 2nd CD to be titled Tijuana Dreams. Produced by the jimmies and engineered by Michael Crow, the album came out punchin’ and kickin’. The boys even managed to get super-legend master-mixer Bob Clearmountain (Rolling Stones "Tattoo You", David Bowie "Let's Dance", Bruce Springsteen "Born in the USA", Roxy Music "Avalon", and so on) to mix the album. The Stars took all their favorite bits from the red light cabarets to the latin glam-rock discos and super-sized them stretching the band’s oeuvre (ouch). The Small Stars also recruited Texas legend Joe Ely to lend his impeccable voice to the border-style “That’s What God Made Whiskey For” coming to a download site near you.

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