“We tried to be weird, but not too weird. We didn’t want to alienate anybody,” vocalist and guitarist James Renton says of Fire Next Time’s forthcoming album Cold Hands.
The local foursome decided to forgo some of the folk melodies that permeated its previous record, Hungry River Hymns, in favour of a more heavy-hitting punk-rock sound.
“We were playing more with trying to make this record more interesting, I guess,” Renton explains before heading to work at Wunderbar. “It’s still a pretty straightforward punk-rock record, but we had a lot of fun in the studio playing with pedals and keeping things sounding interesting—and our producer is Jesse Gander, and he’s really good at that and has a great ear and really enjoys himself when he’s making noise.”
The album, recorded by Gander at Rain City Recorders in Vancouver, touches on some literary influences as well as a solid dose of frustration and musings about the city Fire Next Time calls home.
“I was reading a lot of Cormac McCarthy at the time, so there’s a lot of really dark crap in there with that, but I mostly just write about stuff that pisses me off. And Edmonton fucking pisses me off a lot, so that gets talked about quite a bit still,” Renton says.
No, that doesn’t mean rants about the usual suspects like potholes, ostensibly bad drivers and a less-than-stellar hockey team. Rather, Renton’s lyrical focus is on the lack of support for the city’s local arts and music scenes—though he admits it’s not easy going out to see live music until one in the morning on a weeknight when you have a job to show up to the next morning.
“When we started five years ago, everyone was kind of in that age where they were going to shows all the time, and they were able to go to bars and they wanted to get drunk with their friends,” says Renton, though he notes Edmonton is night and day in comparison to the music scene in his hometown of Fort McMurray. “People have jobs and you get tired and the natural things that come with age, but I don’t think anyone’s really picking up the slack on that. We’re losing venues like crazy. I read today the fucking Artery is closing, and, you know, Wunderbar is doing the best it can to stay open, but people aren’t coming to these shows. It’s even tough when bands come in and they want to book shows; there doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of younger bands to play for them, like no one’s playing in punk-rock bands anymore, it doesn’t seem like.”
But Fire Next Time is continuing to represent Edmonton’s punk contingent at home and further afield. The band, which is now signed to Stomp Records out of Montréal, is gearing up for a tour and an appearance at Quebec punk-rock showcase Le Pouzza Fest after the release of Cold Hands—tentatively set for May 5 on vinyl and CD.
“I collect vinyl, and my roommate is a huge audiophile,” Renton notes. “I don’t care much for CDs. They’re flimsy and you can throw them in your car and they get lost and then you don’t really give a shit. But vinyl is something you can really hold; it’s a piece of art, especially now that there’s a label like No Idea that does really interesting colour vinyls … it sounds better, and I’ve never pressed anything on vinyl and I always wanted to. The label was really pushing a vinyl release too, so that really helps that they were supportive of that.”
Sat, Mar 7 (8 pm)
With the Real McKenzies, the Isotopes, the Old Wives