It was the week after their Tramlines triathlon, but Firesuite were not taking a single moment off. They had new songs to practise and old songs to fine tune. They are in a corner room at Stag Works and after fiddling with some pedal settings and joking for a few moments, they proceed to rip out a few tunes.
We then go into the main courtyard, a couple of cigarrettes are lit, a few brews, ranging from ales to beers, are opened and a lot of questions are fired towards Firesuite. Wait, who are they? Well, they are Christopher Anderson (guitars, voice), Sarah Griffiths (guitar, voice), Chris Minor (bass, keyboards) and Richard Storer (drums). Christopher’s brother is taking photos and video, while a friend of the band, Stu, is also present. Stu plays keyboard during live renditions of ‘Sci-Fi Lullaby’.
So, where did your name came from? It’s an interesting name. I thought about a Doves song with the same name.
Sarah: That would be Chris’ fault.
Richard: I saw it by a B&Q near a fireplace.
Chris: It’s kinda named after Stravinsky‘s ‘Firebird Suite’.
Are you into Stravinsky then?
Chris: Yes, and Gorecki. I went through a phase, a pretentious one (laughs).
This is a question with a probable longer answer: how did you get the band started?
Chris: There is a long history of the band. I met a gentleman a few years ago and we decided to start a band. We were together for a period of time and then met Chris (bass) at Darnall Music Factory, where we met Sarah’s sister, Jane. Then there were a couple of line up changes, then we met Sarah, who was part of a band called Bolster. We listened to their recordings, liked it and she joined our band a couple of years ago.
Chris Minor: And Stu is also here. He helps us live.
Stu: I do what I can!
Chris: We’ll integrate him more as we write new material!
Sarah: If that’s alright with you.
Stu: I’m cool with that.
Do you plan to make it an ensemble, like 30 musicians on stage?
Chris: When we started, no one wanted to be in a band with me so I thought it would be different musicians. Darnall Music Factory is like a collective of musicians, so I thought it would be a revolving door of collaborators but as it happens, we’ve had the same members for a couple of years . Stu is a close friend, so no revolving doors.
Sarah: I was scared for a moment!
Chris: We do have the best drummer in England.
And best chef! (note: Rich cooks at The Rutland Arms. Go try the place!)
Here’s another one: it seems that in countries with cold weathers we get to see higher amounts of musicians playing very emotional music. What pushed you to play music?
Sarah: I was involved in classical music as a child, singing in choirs and things. When I was 13 or 14 I changed genres, left all that. I didn’t played an instrument until the last couple of years.
Rich: I have an older brother who is 6 years older than me and he played in a band. He had a guitar and next thing I knew I was hitting cardboard boxes. That was it. I knew I just had to do it and still at it.
Chris Minor: I started by listening to Metallica, got a guitar, couldn’t play anything by them so went into Nirvana and thought “Yes! This is so much easier!” so I went and tried to be a cross between Kurt Cobain and Billy Corgan for a couple of years and then realised that wasn’t going to work very well (laughs). I played in various silly bands, playing various silly songs about where poo comes from and things like that.
Chris: I had a little brother that had a guitar and I didn’t want to be outdone by him so I bought an acoustic guitar and started playing stuff like Green Day. Innocuous beginning. I was a very late starter, music-wise. I got into Foo Fighters, then Smashing Pumpkins, some Jeff Buckley. I got a guitar tab book of Jeff Buckley and liked playing by it.
I see tabs by Jeff Buckley and consider running to the hills. The complexity is daunting.
Chris: It’s all the chords he uses! It’s amazing! The tabs are all wrong, though. I used to print tabs all day during college and then go and play songs.
What was the first song by Jeff Buckley that you tried to play?
Chris: ‘Mojo’, I think. I liked ‘Last Goodbye’, it’s in open G. I had a couple of songs in open tuning.
Good choice! You just released your debut album and it’s everywhere now: Amazon, Spotify, Bandcamp, Soundcloud…
Chris: It’s everywhere but physical. That’s the issue at the minute.
Sarah: Purely economical issue (laughs).
I was just going to ask that!
Chris: We’d love to do a physical release at some point. We’re going to get something done, very limited though.
You mentioned you made a lot of songs for this album, so I was wondering what was the criteria to choose which ones you wanted?
Chris: It was ten songs, and our producer Tom Henthorn …
Richard: (interrupting) We just recorded everything we could and then decided!
Chris: Some of the old stuff wasn’t very good and some newer stuff I wanted to record right away. It was very organic. We got the songs that we wanted and we put those on the record.
Sarah: We had more that we wanted to put, but we chose well.
Chris: ‘Amity’ and ‘Beneath the roses’ were really new. ‘Amity’ sounded wicked. Tom (producer) wanted to mix some older stuff with newer stuff.
Sarah: There were many, many discussions, hence we are so bitter.
Chris: There were tears.
One of my favourite song is ‘Amity’, can you share the story behind this hit?
Sarah: Chris just played it, he said “I’ve got a new song”. It came by really easy.
Chris: Sarah just joined the band and that was the first song that we rehearsed that was new. It just came together. It’s my fave song in the album. Most of my fave bands use a female and male voice dynamic!
Sarah: That was the first point when I joined the band where I thought “this might actually work!” I wasn’t sure I was going to fit into it.
Chris: It sure is fun to play. Not easy, but we like it.
Sarah: Easy flow.
Chris: We do have loads of new material, just need some time to dedicate to each until we like them.
With ‘Amity’ and ‘Beneath the roses’, it sounds like you are a very democratic band, each one has a voice and stand on their own two feet. How did you start this process?
Sarah: That is true, but certainly for this album the majority of the songs were written by Chris. He had the melodies and we started jamming.
Chris: I knew if we could get to a certain point and then rehearse, we could get exponentially better if we could get a great bass line and a solid drum part. I didn’t want to be a frontman but that’s how I ended. We have a very good drummer and bass player, and we are two singers.
Sarah: We can take the pressure from one other by singing like this.
Chris: Like I said, all my fave bands have a female voice dynamic, like My Bloody Valentine. I like having Sarah singing most of ‘Beneath the roses’ so I can have fun with the guitar.
Richard, I really like your drumming and was wondering about your drumming influences?
Richard: I wouldn’t say everything but if I listened to Iron Maiden, I would say I sound like Nicko McBrain. I had a tape I recorded from my brother who was a big Iron Maiden fan and I had this cardboard drumkit and just played the tape on loop. I think it was ‘Run to the hills’. Also some jazz, like Buddy Rich, the greatest drummer that has ever lived! Jazz, yes, mostly Art Blakey, Max Roach, Gene Krupa. At the moment, a guy called Sebastian Rochford, who plays with Acoustic Ladyland and Polar Bear and it’s the best thing around.
Sarah: Don’t get him started with Jazz!
Richard: I was told to bring in the Jazz!
We might as well ask Chris about bass influences. Chris?
Chris Minor: I’m just a guitar player playing bass, really. I do like bass players, the usual like Les Claypoool. Weird stuff that’s cool like Jazz. My favourite guitar player is Django Reindhart, but can’t play anything he did.
You recently played 3 gigs during Tramlines 2011, all in three consecutive nights, how was that experience for you?
Chris: It was pretty good actually. We didn’t have any idea about the first night as we’ve never played there and felt underwhelmed by it. The second and third night were brilliant though! The Lescar and West Street Live were pretty good. We did clear the tables at the Lescar, some people didn’t want our racket. We did very well at West Street Live.
Sarah: I thought it was going to clear out after Castrovalva, but they actually stayed. The atmosphere was brilliant, it was great.
Chris: We didn’t play last year. We didn’t pursue any gigs, we thought we were going to be asked. Might as well as we were recording and stuff. It was good to come back and play. It was a good festival, probably the best thing to happen to Sheffield music-wise.
Richard: It was better than Crewe.
Sarah: Let’s not go into that.
Chris: What happens in Crewe, stays in Crewe.
Any plans for the rest of 2011?
Sarah: Writing, really. We have a few gigs coming up in October and November.
Chris: One in London in November, 26th. We play at The Harley on the 6th of November. We don’t have any PR budget so we’ll keep pushing the album. The response has been very overwhelming, which is gorgeous! People are listening to it.
Sarah: We didn’t expect anyone checking it out, we had no weight behind us, but it has been a very positive experience.
Chris: We had a lot of support, like from yourselves!
Sarah: That was actually a big turning point, as we never actually had any response and once we saw a positive response we flinched like rescue dogs (laughs).
Richard: Tom really liked it too.
Chris: There were discussions about making an album about a year before we actually set to record it and there wasn’t any point to actually do it as we didn’t have a massive fanbase. We thought about an EP but wanted to do it full.
I got into you because first you sent me ‘Amity’ which just hit the spot and then it was ‘Sammy Davis Jr. Jr.’ which made me stagger but I enjoyed it. Showed a lot of range.
Sarah, Richard: Thanks!
Chris: There was this Scottish band called Aerogramme. They had a very hard first album and then they made something quiet, soft stuff. I like bands that can change. Once we started rehearsing we knew how we wanted to sound. There isn’t any particular creed, just go and play!
Thank you very much!
We stay with the band for the rest of their practise session and even manage to get a proper fan photo with them. We wish them the best for the rest of this year.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López (additional questions by Tonan)
We’d like to thank Firesuite for going beyond the call of duty and interrupting a rehearsal for our meandering questions.
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