On Fire

We’ve been holed up for the last month or so, trying to get the poison out. Don’t get me wrong, it can be a sublime experience making music, but if you ask anyone who does it on the regular, they’re going to know exactly what I mean by that. It was a busy fall, in which we spent some time driving around the Eastern Seaboard in support of “Primetime,” seeing this and that, like that guy with a shiner getting arrested in a Portland Denny’s at four in the morning (where we washed up stranded, because the hotel sold out literally two minutes before we arrived and we needed somewhere to stay warm until the sun came up). He was so calm and reasonable about it, too. I guess the rage must have blown over, because by the time the cops got there he was basically expecting them. He just finished his coffee, then got up and got in the back of the car to head to jail. Matt went out to sleep in the sub zero van, the rest of us picked over our breakfast burritos and held the coffee cups to our solar plexi in an attempt to get our core temperatures up. What was I saying? Oh yeah, getting the poison out. Sorry Denny’s! I gotta have love because the waitresses were so kind and let us hang out until sunup, then they found a plastic bottle so we could fill the radiator to make it back home for our tour closer in Boston. But that omelet was, shall we say, merely rented.

Anyway, the thing that keeps us interested is writing new stuff. It’s not long before I start to feel like I’m in The Lights Out tribute band if we aren’t forging ahead, and I know the guys feel the same. So once we got off the road everyone took a collective breath and decided to set a deadline for ourselves. We booked time at Mad Oak in Allston with board wizard Benny Grotto (now operating on a mixing console once used by Robert Plant, among others), marking the first time in the 10 or so records I’ve been a part of that I’ve returned anywhere. And after this second round, I gotta tell you it’s looking pretty good to head back for thirds as soon as the next bunch ripens. At the time though, it didn’t feel like we were quite ready, so there was pressure to make sure we showed up prepared. For a band like ours, that means parsing the details back and forth quite a bit: nailing down tempos, deciding which chord goes in that little turnaround before the solo, shaping the right keyboard patches, figuring out how it’s going to work live versus on record. Some of the lyrics were written hours before they were cut. Some of these songs have been years in the making, some fell out of the sky in 10 minutes. Most fell somewhere in the middle of those extremes, and there was a lot of push and pull between competing visions for both parts and songs. But the end result was hitting the studio as oiled as it gets, and at least in my case, just a little bit pissed off and aggressive in the right way.

On the day we went in to record, the sun let loose its largest series of solar flares in nearly a decade, which continued the whole month we were there, in an event called the “solar maximum.” For an album named, “On Fire,” that is some alignment.

Even though nobody really listens to a record all the way through anymore, and even though I believe the song to be the logical nuclear unit of what a band does, it still seems to make sense to make and record songs in batches, and that opens the door to overarching themes that, intentional or not, tie the batch together. At the very least, they were all finished over a block of time, and we were experiencing life in a way that was unique to that chapter. In the case of “On Fire,” the songs reflect a lot of turmoil: whether in love or drugs, or standing up for yourself, or deciding the best course for that day is retreat. I don’t think it’s a happy record, but I’m happy to say it’s our best one yet. We added Adam to the roster of lead singers as he stepped up for a number, and Jesse kept it going with one of his own. Adam’s decision to add keys to our sound worked out better than any of us could have foreseen, as he evolved in one short month from lead guitarist to band colorist. Matt just keeps laying down one secret weapon after another. I mostly hear what everyone is doing in the jam space, but it’s always a real treat to sit in the control booth and hear the bass singled out, realizing all over again what a monster you’ve got rumbling around in the basement while you’re screaming from the rooftop. The Jackettes swooped in to grace us with their amazing voices, and we got some brogasmic background vocals from Dan from OldJack, Rick from I, Pistol, the incomparable Jason Dunn of Dirty Bombs and The Luxury (welcome back guys!) and Phil Fleming from WMFO. Thanks y’all! It meant a lot to us, and it definitely improved things to have you there.

So today we’re tweaking the mixes — on leap day, no less — which will be very minor tweaks because Benny f#@king NAILED it. Then we’ll master this weekend. Then we’ll sit back and listen once as fans, give ourselves the chills and feel that sense of accomplishment. And then we’ll put it away and move on to the next one.

“On Fire” press buzz:

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2 Responses to “On Fire”

  1. Real cool stuff man:)

  2. […] The Lights Out Blog Stickier than a High Life-coated sneaker « On Fire […]

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