Pushing indie rock out to the edge and pulling it all the way back again and just generally thrashing it around in whichever way they please, Adelaide’s own Fire! Santa Rosa Fire! (F!SRF!) are a fantastic example of how modern pop music is gravitating in more challenging directions.
Including a broad wash of influences and styles as well as embracing sonic textures usually confined to genres like post-rock or shoegaze, the band are in a constant search for ways to reinvent and breathe new life back into the somewhat foetid corpse of mainstream indie rock.
Moving from calmer moments that recall the restrained and delicate folk of bands like Fleet Foxes and Grizzly Bear to balls out rock in the vein of The Mars Volta, the band have built a strong reputation for delivering frenetic live shows rife with dreamy vocal harmonies, seething synths and frenetic guitar noise. Having just recently released their debut LP, Sea Priest, the band are heading out on a national tour in support of the release, taking over the Oxford Art Factory tomorrow night with Bearhug, Traps and Deep Sea Arcade in support.
With such a momentous event set to take place on our very doorstep, Music Feeds caught up with guitarist and singer Dave Williams a few weeks ago to see how things were shaping up and discuss the finer points of taking a more gangsta rap approach to indie rock.
Music Feeds: Now the album launch is coming up soon. It must feel great to finally have the album done, I mean it’s been such a long time coming, I was thinking it might end up in a Chinese Democracy-style ten year gestation period?
Dave Williams: That’s very true, I think it just got to the point where we all just said ‘this needs to come out now’. The recording of it had been spaced out to such a degree that, while none of the material felt alienated from anything else, we were worried about the cohesion of it. But in the end you just have to accept the fact we could have spent another year on it but it had to come out now. We had to take our first step into having an album and all the stuff that comes with having a debut album.
I have no hesitation, or at least I have a lot of confidence in saying that the next record is going to be more mature and more consistent because we’re going to be writing and recording it over a shorter period of time. We were all so desperate to just get it out and step into that bigger forum, because EPs do smack a little of immaturity, certainly not always but a lot of the time. You know you just hear that endless dialogue of ‘oh yeah, we’re this new up and coming band, here’s our new EP,’ I mean we were that band not too long ago so I’m not trying to judge, but it’s nice to have something a little more comprehensive to show for it.
MF: Comprehensive is a good way to put it considering the album shifts mood and style so much, sort of a compilation of the band’s many personalities.
DW: Yeah definitely. There are songs like ‘Animal Spirit Guide’ and ‘Onionknight’ which have more of an organic sort of folky rock feel, I guess, and then we’ve got the ones where we’re a little bit more conscious of distorting the guitar sounds a little bit and trying to make it sound less than strictly conventional, like using pitch shifting and what not and at the same time putting a bit more emphasis on different song structures or whatever.
Songs like ‘War Coward’, ‘An Rabbit’ and ‘Ghostress’, I mean generally speaking they do follow a fairly normal song arrangement but we were trying to do things that were a little bit more interesting here and there, putting in things that perhaps wouldn’t be expected from the sort of indie genre we’ve been placed in. Pretty much trying to avoid the disco beats as much as we could if you know what I mean. At the same time we wanted to be more than honest about the fact that we all wanted to write a pop album.
MF: Cool. You’ve also just brought in a new guitarist, what was the problem, you getting a bit old for this shit Dave?
DW: No, I just wasn’t cutting the mustard. All my favourite bands have this sort of two-guitar interplay thing, and I think for the label in the beginning that was a pretty strong element of the band. At the start we had this other guy in, and he didn’t last very long after we got signed, we sort of had a falling out and that was the end of it. But with Nathaniel we’ve known him for years, he was a part of this band who somehow got a hold of a copy of the very first EP we did, which was funny because we never released it you know, it was only released online or something and it very much sounded like kids being kids in a studio, you know, it’s not something we publicise all that freely, but that’s how we met him and we’ve known him for years.
We would go over to Melbourne and they’d put us up and then his band came over to Adelaide once and we played a show with them. Nathaniel was actually playing bass at this point but regardless we’d always gotten along really well with him and we really liked his bass stylings. One day I was like ‘I wonder if he’d be willing to join the band’. So we made some inroads in that direction, you know nothing like, ‘hey join the band, we’ve bought you gear let’s go’, we just said to him look, we wouldn’t even be able to conceivably have you in the band for at least six months and it kind of just went from there.
He’s just shown one hundred percent commitment though, came over, moved to Adelaide and just integrated himself into the band so seamlessly it feels like he’s been here forever. He’s a fantastic guitarist, and a much better guitarist than I am so I’m hoping to be the Ed O’Brien to his Johnny Greenwood you know; he can do all the tricky parts and I’ll just make lots of noise, that works for me.
MF: Yeah sounds ideal. How have things been going otherwise, your last single seems to have gotten a pretty good run at Triple J?
DW: Yeah we’ve been getting a really good run recently; we’re getting played almost every day with ‘Little Cowboys, Bad Hombres’. I mean ‘Animal Spirit Guide’ and ‘Witch House’ never really got that much attention and so we were just like oh fuck. War Coward did pretty well so we were hoping to get some attention for Little Cowboys and we have, I think basically because Dot Dash must have threatened Richard Kingsmill at gunpoint or something.
MF: Yeah the old Suge Knight hang the mutha fucka out the window technique. I think indie rock needs more of that gangsta rap ethic.
DW: Oh absolutely, I happen to feel that there aren’t half as many bitches around up in my crib as there should be. I’ve been saying that for years Mikey, years.
Fire! Santa Rosa, Fire! play the Oxford Art Factory tomorrow night, Friday 4th June with support from Bearhug, Traps and Deep Sea Arcade. Click here for tickets.
Their debut LP, Sea Priest, is out now. Find it on iTunes.