This month we are happy to feature one
of the hardest working bands out of Minneapolis. I originally meet Firetrucs'
Tony Parks at antiFEST when he sat in on guitar with Bird and he was kind
enough to kick me a CD from Firetrucs. I liked what I heard, it's a bit
different than most of the band's we have featured in this series and I
knew we'd have to get something on them. Due to the popularity of this
series, we book it months in advance and so now here we are five months
later and we're bringing you an interview with Tony that took place last
month. Hope you enjoy the interview, get to know a little about the
band then go over to their website and check out the music. - Keavin
RNW: The standard opening question,
how did Firetrucs come together?
Tony: I was actually passing through Minneapolis to see my family after
a summer of touring as a guitar tech, and met Shane through a mutual friend.
He and I worked out a few songs with just guitar and drums, and were both
immediately freaked out by the energy level. Shane brought in Brian to
play bass as our first audition, and working with him was similarly effortless.
I mean there was never a moment of "okay, everybody stop playing while
I show you how this part goes." We were able to drink scotch and rock out
and the songs came pouring out. I think we had like 25 songs worked out
within a few months. I decided to stay in Minneapolis, and the band was
RNW: And where has the journey taken
you so far?
Tony: I’d say that we’re getting
our "unsigned touring band" resume’ together. We have toured the
midwest and California, recorded two full-length albums. We’ve slept in
the van during blizzards, we wrecked a van on I-94 en route to Chicago,
we’ve played to full rooms and empty rooms, with great bands and lousy
bands and we’re eager for more. Well, except for the van troubles, I suppose.
RNW: Where did the name Firetrucs come
Tony: This is something of a mystery
to me. I’m pretty sure that it seemed like an excellent, silly idea one
evening while drinking, and I think we were just too damned lazy to think
of a better name once "firetrucs" was coined. The name itself has no hidden
meaning, and it is my hope that no Fire Engine references or imagery ever
find their way into the fold. Ultimately, I’m just glad it’s a plural word…
RNW: Where would you place your sound
in the musical spectrum? In other words, how do you describe yourselves
to those haven’t heard you?
Tony: Typical band response:
"This question is hard to answer." I usually just tell people that
we're a rock band with a big guitar indie rock sound that sings songs about
girls and cars. The appropriate comparisons that I've heard from
other people range from Gish-era Smashing Pumpkins or Jane's Addiction
to Burning Airlines and Shiner. But on the other hand, I've encountered
people who insist that we're a Trent Reznor and Ozzy rip-off. This is mysterious
to me, of course, but I suppose each person hears things in their own way,
haha... I'd better go get some Trent Reznor albums and see what I've
been ripping off...
RNW: Who are your biggest influences?
Tony: Each of us listens to pretty different things...(and we rarely
agree on albums we can all enjoy in the van). Perhaps if all three
of us were, say, huge Foo Fighters fans, our sound would be less interesting
than it is... >From my perspective, (and the guys would probably correct
me on this, haha) Shane brings a pretty straight-up, behind-the-beat, John
Bonham drum style, and Brian's bass playing is heavily impacted by his
interest in house music and New Order. I'm not a huge fan of any
particular bands, but I definitely respond to great albums. Shiner's
Lula Divinia and Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti are probably the two
albums that have had the most influence on me over the years.
RNW: If you only had one chance to win
a fan over with one song. Which song would you use, that you think best
represents what you are all about?
Tony: Whew....I'm not sure about
this one...we've got a pretty broad range of things happening from song
to song, but I'd probably say that the title track of each of our albums
were intended to sum up the sound at that particular time. So, "Space
Loaf" from our first album, and "Hovercraft" from the second album would
probably be my hesitant submissions in this category. Each album
has a long epic song on it, too, though, and these are my favorites ("You're
the Same" and "Downtown").
RNW: What first inspired you to become
Tony: Man, for real: Classic
Rock. When I was a kid, I would just lay down in the living
room with my parents' albums strewn all over the floor, soaking up the
Allman Brothers and Led Zeppelin and Cream and the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood
Mac...the album artwork on these records seemed larger than life to me.
Now that I'm an adult, some of these albums seem a little silly, but I
still remember being utterly amazed by all of it, the sound of the needle
on the record, the over-the-top tacky "Swan Song" logo, Hendrix' hair,
and of course, the lovely Stevie Nicks. I was hooked at age 6.
My mom had an acoustic guitar and I started taking lessons in 2nd or 3rd
RNW: What is your song writing process
like? Does one person come up with the songs and the rest of the band add
their parts to it or is it a full group effort?
Tony: I come up with the structure
for the songs, either by locking myself in with beer, coffee, and amplifiers
or by random chance upon picking up and acoustic when inspiration hits.
I record everything, edit it down and bring it to the band. The guys
pick it up from there, and I'm always amazed by the results. Often,
I'll have an image in my head of how the drums are supposed to sound, but
without fail once the guys learn the song and add their own spin to it,
it becomes something cooler than I had imagined possible in the first place.
RNW: You are based out of Minneapolis.
What's the music scene like out there?
Tony: When we started this band,
we practiced 6 nights a week for about 8 months, just writing and writing
and writing...so we never got out much to check out the other bands.
Surely all of this practice served us well, but I regret having missed
out on a lot of what's going on. For a city as small as Minneapolis,
it's got a remarkable number of venues and high-caliber rock bands of ALL
kinds. A really, really healthy scene...but it's still pretty catty
and self-conscious...it's still a small town, you know? Still, Minneapolis
has a legacy of being a great rock town, and I think there are a many bands
today still holding the torch.
RNW: You’ve released two albums in the
past two years. Will we see another one in 2003?
Tony: I certainly hope so! We are currently writing and recording
21 songs for a new album, tentatively titled "Songs About Being Wrong."
When we formed the band, we basically just started writing, and STAYED
writing....and as such, in order to document the evolution of our sound,
we've got to put out a lot of albums. I feel like since we rushed
into this thing so quickly and enthusiastically, we're finally just now
getting a chance to lay back and find our sound. I have felt since
the outset that Firetrucs is a "work in progress," and while our early
work was a little easier to pin down, these new songs are truly the final
product. We're staring to feel a little more comfortable in our skin,
and our range has grown accordingly. As I said before, I'm a fan
of "albums" instead of "bands," and I think we're on our way to making
our "Gish" or our "Ritual" or our "Low End Theory." We recorded our
first two albums in an incredible rush, and I want to take our time on
this one, and make each song distinctive.
RNW: I’d like to briefly talk about
the songs on your latest CD. I’ll give you the song name; can you give
us a little info on each one? Maybe the meaning behind the song or a behind
the scene story that goes along with it?
All I Need: This song started
as a rap-rock spoof in practice about camping. As writing developed,
though, it busted out one day as a barnburner. This song is first
on the album because it jumps right out at you. The song is silly,
serious, heavy, and light all at once.
Motorcar: Motorcar is a step
in a new direction for us. The vocal arrangements, instead of guitar,
are the focus of the song. While writing the album I wrecked my car
and messed up my back, and then I sold my other car (the 1971 Volvo P1800
featured on the album cover) to pay for the recordings. This song
is a little salute to the wrecking and sale of automobiles with a crafty
love parallel thrown in for good measure.
Hats Off (to Rivers Cuomo): "Rivers" stands out on the record,
it sounds the least like the rest of the album. I woke up from a
disturbing dream about lechery and wrote the first verse. Soon enough,
it became a silly song written from the perspective of a lovelorn emo fan,
and what better format than a Weezer tribute? This has been the song
that radio has really picked up on, sadly. (It would suck to get
pegged as a straight-up pop band...) Oh well, at least it's getting
picked up! Oh, and the title was plucked from Led Zeppelin's "Hat's
Off to (Roy) Harper."
Telephone: Telephone is one
of my favorites. I was deep in a long-distance relationship for two
years, and this song was written about the inevitable phone sex factor.
The chorus is shamelessly Jane's Addiction, and Louise Post From Veruca
Salt sings the final verse and chorus with me in duet.
No Sound: No Sound is a song
an ex- and describes how you can lose all of your independence and
strength by getting wrapped up utterly in preserving a doomed relationship.
It also depicts the sensation early in a relationship where you're never
sure if the girl is really into you or not, haha...
Two To Be Twisted: This was
a song that we pulled from the Space Loaf LP sessions and modernized for
this album. It was one of our live favorites, usually the show opener,
but we just couldn't seem to get the right take done in the studio.
We tracked this one, though, at 3 in the morning in a mansion in the woods,
candles lit and all, Brian threw on the piano track, and we finally made
a worthy version.
Anthumb '02: We did an electric
version of this song on the Space Loaf LP, and I had prepared this acoustic
version for a radio show, and it seemed like a perfect fit for this album.
The song is about being a teenager and playing in a s***ty cover band,
and being fully convinced that you're JUST about to make it huge.
Also there is a fair amount of Nu-Metal bashing in the chorus...
underwent several overhauls before finally landing in the format heard
here. The song is ultimately an expression of affection toward the author's
lover, but also touches on kindergarten, soundmen, surfing, and the mysterious
"Chez Situation." The Hovercraft itself stands as a status symbol attainable
only by such obtuse rockers as U2, Aerosmith, and of course Rod Stewart.
Downtown: This is the dark,
brooding, self-indulgent, 7-minute song on the album. The song is
about the fine line between loving a person incredibly, and the sudden
realization that you hate them for everything they do, and you wind up
doing everything in your power to make them feel like s***. A real
"sunshine song," I know... If you listen very closely at the
beginning of the song, the s***ty amplifier we used for the guitar was
picking up Van Morrison's "Brown-Eyed Girl" from somewhere.....irony
Breathe: "Downtown" slips into "Breathe," which is a resolution
for all of the relationship troubles brought up in the other songs.
Our first great experiment in ethereal rock, this song is about truly,
deeply missing your lover in every possible way. Louise Post sings
duet on this song as well, and Brian's hypnotic bass line for the outro
serves as an excellent backdrop for the "Hindenburg Crash" happening on
guitar to end the album.
RNW: So our readers can check you out.
How can they hear your songs or buy your CDs?
Tony: Our website (http://www.firetrucs.com)
has a few sound bytes from the Space Loaf LP, as well as a link to our
mp3 page at http://www.mp3.com/firetrucs
which has a few tracks from the Hovercraft
LP. This site used to hold 8 songs, but mp3.com pulled the plug on
the "Free" artists, limiting us to 3 songs. The Space Loaf LP is available
via PayPal from our Chicago Label (http://www.secretfirerecords.com)
or with a regular credit card from Juno Beach (http://www.junobeach.com).
I have busted ass to get the Hovercraft LP available in as many places
as possible, so, in order of profitability to the band, it can be purchased
at: 1. firetrucs.com 2. CDBaby.com 3. JunoBeach.com
4. Amazon.com Also, it can be ordered via telephone at 1-800-BUY-MY-CD.
In the Minneapolis area, the album is available at most of the local record
RNW: What’s the collective goal for
Tony: Primarily, I'd like to keep
recording and touring and writing as long as humanly possible without continuing
to live in total, utter, starving debt. We love the road, and we love the
studio, and we'll be damned if we don't keep on keeping on. As for
stardom, though? That's a pretty unreasonable and wack goal for us
to have at this point... (Although I wouldn't mind buying my Volvo
back some day, haha....). We're songwriters first and performers
RNW: What do you think of the current
state of rock? Any bands that do It for you?
Tony: Thank God the rock is coming
back to the radio. There were some pretty dark years there...I'm
extremely turned off by the uninspired, hyper-aggressive, non-clever Jaw-Rock
we were all subjected to for the last several years. I salute Trail
of Dead, Joseph Arthur, BRMC, Interpol, Clinic and their peers for raising
the stakes lately.
RNW: What do you think sets you apart
from other bands?
Tony: Frankly, since the Smashing
Pumpkins fell off and Radiohead entered the stratosphere after "OK Computer,"
I'm really hankering for a rock band that can play around with atmospherics
and grace while remaining a solid guitar band. At our best, I think
we're pulling this off, and the album currently in progress will show even
more of this progression.
RNW: What would be your dream tour,
the band you would most like to go out on the road with?
Tony: Haha, I don't know for sure.
Before they broke up, I would have said Shiner, but I think their fans
would have torn us to shreds. I can think of a few Minneapolis and
Chicago bands that I'd love to go out with on a small scale, but in terms
of national bands to tour with? Maybe Zwan or Jucifer...
RNW: Tony, you’ve played with Bird out
here in Los Angeles recently. How did that come about? Are you living in
LA now? Any chance of Firetrucs shows outside of Minneapolis?
Tony: Bird and I were both fortunate enough to have been young men
playing in rock bands in Chicago during the great Chicago explosion of
the early-mid 90's. Our respective bands used to play shows and drink beer
together back in the day, surrounded by incredible venues and bands like
Veruca Salt, Smashing Pumpkins, Triple Fast Action and Seam. That
particular place and time was SO unbelievable to have been a part of, and
now that we're both out on the West Coast, Bird is one of the only people
I have met who has a reverence and respect for that sound and era.
We have the same frame of reference, you know? He plays along with
my songs, I play along with his songs, we're on a very similar wavelength,
and working with him is always a blast. He's an unbelievable talent...he's
downright spooky sometimes. Yes, I have moved back to Los Angeles...it
really feels like home here, my lovely lady friend is here, and it's a
far less...well, tormenting environment than Minneapolis. This summer
we look to be touring pretty extensively, and I believe that we will have
some shows out here...
RNW: What do you think is the biggest
obstacle for new bands there days to making it in this crazy business?
Tony: This is sure to sound like
an a**hole thing to say, but really, I think a band's biggest obstacle
is often itself. Many of the bands I've encountered are all to eager
to blame outside factors for their lack of success, whether its the radio,
the MTV, the club owners, Creed, etc... I think that a band should
always be trying to improve itself and look at the band as a full-time
job. If you don't promote yourself and get your stuff out there (and
brace yourself for criticism and conflict) as much as you can, you more
than likely won't find your audience. It's like you have an invention
(your rock band) that you have to show to as many people as possible if
you want anyone to use it. If you believe in your music, you have
to just jump in and go for it, and if you sit back and wait for David Geffen
to call you at home, you might as well throw in the towel. Usually
when I'm on this tirade, I retreat to a Charles Bukowski paraphrase
of a quote in response to an unknown writer asking him for advice on how
to make it big: "If you're writing just to be a writer, your stuff
will never sell, but if you were trapped on a desert island all by yourself
and you wrote in the sand with sticks...because you HAD to write.
You might have what it takes."
RNW: What has been your proudest moment
as a band so far?
Tony: None. We've played on
some great bills and had the album played on some prominent radio stations,
but I don't yet have a real sense of satisfaction with our progress.
Probably, this means I'm a head-case, haha. I guess I was proud of
us when we completed our first real tour. We really banded together
as a group and came back to Minneapolis a sturdy, road-ready group.
We've been a different, much-improved band ever since.
RNW: On the other side of the coin,
what has been worst experience?
Tony: We played an outdoor show
at the University of Minnesota and everything went wrong. Strings
broke, guitars were thrown, songs train wrecked... I'm so spooked
by that show that I never want to play outdoors again! Rock belongs
indoors, right? Also, nearly slipping off of an icy Wisconsin Freeway
at 3AM was pretty terrible.
RNW: Has the Internet helped you
reach new fans? Do you think like some that the net will eventually
open up the music business or will the major labels still dominate things?
Tony: Disclaimer: What I don't know about the music industry
could fill a warehouse, haha... I don't know that the internet has
helped us reach new fans more than radio or touring, but it has DEFINITELY
provided an incredible means for the fans already enlisted to keep tabs
on us. As for major labels, I am known to delve into major-label
bashing right along with the best of 'em, but really, as much trash as
I talk, I am more than a little scared of the idea of the Big Labels losing
control of the industry, too. I mean, I'm not convinced that the
unorganized rogue internet revolution could do the job as well...
I think that ultimately, successful bands deserve to sell some albums and
make a living at what they do, and without the record labels and ASCAP
chasing down money for them, I'm not positive that the bands could survive.
Sure, it would be fabulous to have bands rising from obscurity entirely
through internet promotion and sales, but I haven't seen a precedent of
this yet, so I'm not sold.... Regardless of whether you're on a major
or indie label, it seems to me the most important thing is to be a priority
at the label you're on. I'd rather have the full support of an indie
label than be shelved at, say, Dreamworks.
RNW: What’s next for Firetrucs?
Tony: We aim to spend as much time
on the road as we can, and get the new album recorded and released this
RNW: Where do you hope to be five years
Tony: I hope to have 3 more albums
done and finally get auto insurance with the proceeds.
RNW: Finally, what do you want people
to take away from your music?
Tony: I remember as a college student
that there were rock albums owned by men and women alike that were reserved
for listening while driving, making out, drinking or getting high...I hope
that we can make it onto this elite list, haha...
now that you know a little about Firetrucs it is time to go to their website
and learn more
of a great unsigned artist or band? Let us know.
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