Written by Dege Legg
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Lafayette rock band Wildfires inject some sound and fury into a growing indie music scene.
Over the years, many young men have trekked over desert, flame, mountain and sea to worship at the stone totem of metal. Its hulking mass casts such an ominous shadow that only the strangest and most twisted of the lot have the temperament to attempt the journey. The young men come to seek. They come to plow.
Written by Dege Legg
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Over the years, many young men have trekked over desert, flame, mountain and sea to worship at the stone totem of metal. Its hulking mass casts such an ominous shadow that only the strangest and most twisted of the lot have the temperament to attempt the journey. The young men come to seek. They come to plow. They come to pillage and party - some say quite freakily. They come to grind the sacred chords that the Templars of Steel have handed down through the ages to successive generations, saying, "Take this rod of thunder, this stringed wand, and with it make hellish racket amongst the townsfolk. When the hair of the elders grows white as the snowshoe bunny, you will know you have made a great noise."
You cannot deny the youth their lawful right to rock. Between the ages of 12 and 25, young people have an insatiable desire to hear music that is similar in tone to the sound of war machines firing in sequence or that of growling oxen during mating season. It is not just a desire; it is a need. The volume and grind of the distortion resonates within them, making sense of the world, giving them purpose and direction within the monolithic halls of rock - well bloodied with all stripe of madness and lunacy.
Lafayette's Wildfires have come to stoke the same rusted steel that thousands before them have stoked, but they come to do it in their own way - with a noxious mix of hardcore punk, Southern-fried metal, and post-rock eccentricity. Composed of Lafayette locals Max Binet (vocals, guitar), Grant Leblanc (vocal, bass), Dave Graeff (guitar, vocals), and Jeremy Randazzo (drums), Wildfires, along with bands like Blast Rag and Foul Stench of Youth, are part of a small but growing Lafayette punk rock renaissance that has been spurring on a sometimes lethargic, underground music scene. "The scene has dwindled in the past couple of years, but various people are starting to take action and do their part in speaking up," says Binet. "I'm not sure that there's so much of a punk rock renaissance besides the few and the proud of us who put punk into practice instead of just our song writing."
Recorded at home and engineered, mixed, and mastered by Matt Jeansonne, the new Wildfires CD, Qualms, traffics in the anger of the ancients, the fury of the righteous, and the mysteries of the quixotic. Grizzly riffs spill into vocal quatrains that give way to speeding fits of heaviness. This ain't smooth crooning music. Vocals scream, heave and squawk amidst the brown chowder of roaring guitars, skull-busting beats and low-end rumble. This is grist for the grind known as heavy rock and roll - howling static paired with mammoth chunk, scorching and howling into the poker face of post-9/11 America.
"Achievement-wise, we try to keep things equally heavy and intelligent, with absolutely no breakdowns," says Binet. It's an ornery sound, one fitting for youth raised amidst two wars, color-coded terror alert levels, Taliban boogie men, a struggling economy, and major media outlets all too ready to exploit the citizenry's fears for higher ratings. In times such as these, sometimes the only transmission that makes any sense is that of a distress signal. Pure angry noise, slugging its way into the heart of the unknown.
After years of independent music growing increasingly genteel, mannered and estranged from its punk rock roots - having more in common with car commercials and Gordon Lightfoot than seminal underground bands that paved the DIY highway - it's a good sign that the flame of indignation still burns in the millennial generation of bands like Wildfires. They're doing it for themselves, the scene, and whoever happens to be listening at the time, which is the way it should be. If the presence of loud, uncompromising rock and roll in your city qualifies as cool, go see Wildfires play Café Cottage on March 26 with High in One Eye.
POSTHASTE WITH MAX BINET OF WILDFIRES
1. What's up with most metal-tinged punk bands and the screamy vocals? Does screaming, rather than singing, better convey the things you want to express?
It's a matter of intensity. When human beings are angry, they want to yell and shout. To an extent, I suppose we're angry, but not in a tough guy sense.
2. Guilty pleasure music.
Jeremy has a T-Pain application on his iPhone, and we like to make goofy auto-tuned hip hop songs. Other than that, we aren't guilty about anything we listen to.
3. Worst gig ever?
One time we were loading on stage at The Underground Sea when the power went out, and never came back on. Pretty disheartening.
4. What is good and what sucks about the Lafayette underground music scene?
What sucks is that many bands, venue owners, and bookers/promoters segregate the different styles of music going down rather than cross-pollinating and trying to turn people onto new things. What's good is that there are people noticing this besides myself, and doing their best to "fix" it.
5. Is a music scene a tight community of bands working together, switch-hitting shows, or is it merely a self-serving entity cloaked in unassuming clothes meant to further the ambitions of select individuals within the scene?
It absolutely should be a tight community of bands working together, but some people are more concerned with image, and how good they look on paper than just supporting other local bands.
6. Seems like anything can qualify as indie nowadays? Define indie.
Indie is short for independent. It was originally, for me, a matured and less oblivious form of punk. These days it's become a genre, much like Green Day calling themselves punk when we all know different.
7. Career aspirations other than music?
I love to graphic design and am going to school for it soon, but the band is my number one priority.
8. Guitarist Mike Bloomfield once famously espoused: "Dig yourselvesbecause it's really groovy." In the event of losing one's grooviness - by age, cultural shift, insurance fraud, divorce, whatever - what method should one most avoid in attempting to regain it?
Remain ageless. Keep up with the current trends, but at the same time, ignore and resist them as much as possible.
9. 2012. Blind date with the disaster or quantum metaphysical upgrade?
If computers didn't blow up at midnight on 1/1/2000, why would the world blow up in 2012? Cause the Mayans said so?