Q&A: Amy Fusselman

Matt Reber, Wexner Center Store Manager

Sep 05, 2018

Writer, artist, and publisher Amy Fusselman

Before she became the highly acclaimed author of The Pharmacist’s Mate and Savage Park: A Meditation on Play, Space and Risk for Americans Who Are Nervous, Distracted and Afraid to Die, writer, artist, and publisher Amy Fusselman was an Ohio State student and a member of a Columbus band that made a dent on the local scene, and on younger musicians that would follow. New Bomb Turks bass guitarist and Wexner Center Store manager Matt Reber was one of them. Below, Matt shares how The Bread Group influenced him and his friends and Amy answers some questions about her time in the city and in the band, and how it helped shape her own work. She’s coming to the Wex Store for a reading from her new book, Idiophone, on Wednesday, Sept. 12.

Cover image of Amy Fusselman's book Idiophone

In 1987 I came to Columbus to attend The OSU. The decision to start my academic career here was the result of a number of important factors. There was affordable tuition and an admissions policy that was willing to accept my middling high school transcript. 

There was also the music. The multiple record stores I took note of on my college visitation trip in 1986, like Schoolkids, Mole’s, Magnolia Thunderpussy, and Singing Dog, and the fliers for rock shows that hung on their windows and the kiosks along High St. The cassette tapes of radio shows from Ohio State’s former radio station, WOSR, hosted by my best friend Pete Crooks’ brother, John (in 1987 I’d become a DJ there and meet my fellow DJs/future bandmates, Eric Davidson and Jim Weber). And a concert on the public square in Medina, Ohio in 1985 by Columbus band The Bread Group, plus some time hanging out and talking with the band after the show. They were the coolest things my friends and I had ever seen.

Amy FusseIman was the guitarist in The Bread Group. I have been familiar with her writing since the Pharmacist’s Mate was published by McSweeney’s in 2001. Eventually, a thread on the Facebook page “Columbus Music Scene 1975-1985” led to our connecting, and to the reading and book signing coming up. 

What year did The Bread Group form and how long did you play together?
I graduated from OSU in 1986 so it must have been a couple years before that. Our band was me, vocalist Frank Snider, lead guitarist Richie Athy, bassist Patrick Roetzel, and drummer Andy Izold. I played rhythm guitar. Patrick, Frank and I were all undergrads in the English department and the band stayed together until we graduated. We played mostly at a place called the IP Lounge, which was a bar on High Street run by a Greek gentleman named Louie. He also sold one-dollar gyro sandwiches which were the source of much morning remorse for me. 

What were your perceptions of the OSU/Columbus, Ohio scene at the time?
I was obsessed with music at OSU. That was my real focus of study. I was a DJ at the OSU radio station along with Frank, who was then my boyfriend and is now my husband. We saw bands constantly, mostly at Stache’s. Some of the most important audience-member experiences of my life were at Stache’s: The Butthole Surfers, Big Black, Pussy Galore, Agent Orange … I also vividly remember seeing The Cramps and X at The Newport and The Gun Club at a little bar called Crazy Mama’s. I was so lucky to see those shows!!

I didn’t really appreciate how rich the scene was at the time. It was just people I knew doing interesting things. I saw Scrawl come into their power and that was really important for me to witness. I saw The Great Plains and The Gibson Brothers develop. Frank and I still quote Gibson Brothers lyrics: Big Pine Boogie!

Were you at the Medina show?
The Medina show was the greatest thing The Bread Group ever did and naturally I missed it and heard about it forever afterwards. I had done a program at Oxford that summer, which was great, but I really wished I had been in Medina! Sue Harshe from Scrawl joined the band for that day and I am sure the show was fantastic.

Were any of you DJs at WOSR? I feel like that was brought up in the after show convo because we all made a beeline to the radio station to become DJs.
Absolutely. That was our source for getting all the new music and it was also a useful exercise in using the microphone and talking to an audience—very important for me as a developing writer. 

What was your most memorable experience in the band?
We opened for The Minutemen at Stache’s and that was incredible, of course. We also once played at this little bar called The Bitter Creek, which was a place on High Street across from Louie’s that catered to a decidedly non-collegiate clientele. I also remember playing a Christmas Trash Fest at Stache’s where all the local bands played a Christmas song. Our band played “You’re a Mean One, Mr Grinch,” and that song was probably my favorite one we ever performed; Richie and Frank turned it into a massive dirge. 

How did your Bread Group/college years influence your life/writing/career?
That period was really pivotal because I was part of something bigger than myself, which is something I had always wanted. And I trusted my bandmates and met Frank, who has been the most important person in my life. My writing has always been informed by performance and I also think that that is something that was laid down in those years. I learned so much seeing bands and the music of that period was just spectacular.

Are you looking forward to anything special about your return visit to OSU?
I am so excited about coming to OSU and to be at the stellar Wexner! I also really hope there’s time for a sandwich at Katzinger’s!