Whether I find it myself, or someone else shoves it in my face, I love discovering new music. I can’t get enough of hearing a band for the first time. I remember back in the day (like it was so long ago) when I first heard the band Anberlin. They became one of my favorite bands immediately. Or when I first heard a song by my favorite band of all time, Eve 6. Those guys are still around, and look for an interview right here on rickyleepotts.com in the next few months. But besides that, a few weeks ago, a good friend of mine said, “Hey Ricky, check out this band from Chicago. They are really great.” I looked them up on MySpace (yes, I still use MySpace), and listened to a few of their tracks. One song after another, and I was in love. Their lyrics are polished and their vocals are pristine. These guys quickly became one of my new favorite bands. A few emails later, and I was sitting down with these guys. They are on the road now, so look for them in a city near you soon. It is my pleasure to sit down and to introduce you to the boys in A Friend Called Fire.
Fire is hot. Not sure I want to be friends with fire. How do you guys keep from getting burned?
(Powers) Drink a lot of beer and whiskey.
(Aaron J) And also, fire’s our friend, so why would a friend hurt us?
So I love your look. What came first, the look (the style if you will), or the sound?
(Jon) Thanks. I think they’ve both progressed a bit… I mean, you should’ve seen the shirt Aaron wore at our first show. Whoa. You can find pics of it somewhere out there and use them for blackmail, for sure. I guess the music came first, as it should.
(Powers) My hair is more famous than I am. And no, I don’t use a straightening iron.
Speaking of sound, I love your sound too. You guys might have just become my new favorite band.
(Aaron J) Nice!
(Jon) That’s always an honor to hear someone say.
Who are some of your biggest influences?
(Aaron J) like Tool, the Beatles, and Josh Freese.
(Powers) I would have to say Metallica, Mute Math, and Sevendust.
(Jon) Put me down for Muse, Social D, and Dr. Dre.
Who writes all of the lyrics?
(Jon) I do.
You guys are on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace… how do you keep all of these social networks organized?
(Jon) Aliens do it for us. We’ve worked out a pretty sweet deal. It’s, like, technology that’s hundreds of years in the future, but we only get one-tenth of a percent of it’s capabilities. Still not bad.
(Aaron J) Jimmy Hoffa has to keep busy somehow…
You boys are from the Windy City. What are some of your favorite places to play in Chicago?
(Jon) The Elbo Room rules. The people there are so cool. It’s like Cheers. Everyone knows your name and PARTIES! And they have Little Kings!
If you could only perform one song, for the rest of your career, which song would you choose?
(Jon) An American Daydream. (For the record, everyone agrees.) The song flows through most of the different “kinds” of songs we play – musically speaking. There’s a certain magic about that song. I get chills playing it sometimes. That happens to me a lot when I LISTEN to music, but am usually so wrapped up in playing that I can’t take myself to that particular plain. It’s a dangerous place to be while performing. I mean, there have been a few times when I was singing that song that I damn near choked up. The song is about the people of our country. It’s our story. It’s heavy.
So you know the guys in Glass Halo? Have you guys ever shared the stage?
(Powers) Plenty of times. I think we played three or four shows with them in a row on our last tour. They’re probably one of the most talented bands in Indianapolis, and super cool dudes and great songwriting. They make me want to sing along!
(Aaron J) Aaron’s a riot.
(Jon) Is that just because you guys have the same name?
What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?
(Powers) I would say around 500-600 people.
(Aaron J) I think it was that first show in Nashville!
(Powers) Oh yeah, it was like five or six people.
Describe your genre in one word.
(Aaron J) No. (Please note that everyone laughed hysterically when Aaron said that.)
I hear a little Incubus in there. You like that band?
(Jon) I’ve heard that a bit recently, I think it might have something to do with the timbre of my voice. That’s cool, because they are amazing.
(Powers) Great band. Can we tour with them?
I have never seen you guys perform. What can someone expect from a live show?
(Aaron J) Way too much sweat.
(Powers) Pouring from all glands, except Powers. Whiplash surgery in the future, maybe a new ankle.
(Jon) But like in a good-time rock ‘n’ roll kinda way. Most places get all freaked out when I tell them I shoot fireworks from my guitar. Some kind of liability or something?
Do you have a job outside of music?
(Aaron J) My job is… looking for job, just like every other college graduate.
(Jon) I work at a large auction house, setting up galleries and photographing inventory for catalogues. I also write and record music for commercial use.
You have a few endorsements. How do those come about? Are you out there asking for them or are people just dropping those in your lap?
(Jon) We can’t fend them off fast enough! Just kidding. We ask for them and just present who we are and what we have going on. We just got in touch with a few different companies we liked and a few of them agreed we should work together. By the way, Clayton picks RULE.
Living in Chicago, I bet you were sad to see the Bears take a hard loss this year in the NFL playoffs. Are the Bears your favorite team?
(Jon) Yeah man, I gotta love ’em.
(Aaron J) The Bears were playing?
(Powers) Yeah, I know what’s going on but I don’t watch a lot of sports anymore. Sorry Chicago.
(Jon) I started to get back into football in the last few years. I love that game. Their last game was a total bummer, but we had fun at the party!
While we are on the subject of sports, are you a Cubs fan, or do you prefer the White Sox?
(Aaron J) Please refer to my answer on the last question.
(Jon) Baseball is boring. I don’t get it, sorry. Imagine a baseball game with no beer or hotdogs!
(Powers) The Cubs because I can hear the roar of the crowd from my place.
(Jon) I don’t know how you live there, dude.
(Powers) Simple, I don’t go outside.
Where did you come up with the name?
(Jon) When I was about fifteen years old, I was riding my bike listening to the X-Files CD (Songs In The Key of X). The Foo Fighters have a cover of a Gary Numan song called Down In The Park on it. I thought a phrase was, “down in the park with a friend called fire.” I thought it was so awesome. Probably because I was on the way to light fireworks or something. Then I found out those weren’t the lyrics, which was even better. I always thought it would make a killer band name. And it has!
So people can download a copy of your debut album for free on your website. Do you see this as a shift in the music industry, forcing bands to give their music away rather than charging for their tunes?
(Aaron J) Of course, that’s why we’re doing it!
(Jon) Yeah, in a way. But that was just our first EP, we aren’t giving away our new one…. To everyone anyway.
(Aaron J) It’s almost like art is becoming something people expect to just have. Like water coming out of a water fountain.
(Powers) If no one knows you, they aren’t going to buy your music anyway.
(Jon) It’s like the record is a business card for a live show.
Where do you see the music industry, say five years from now?
(Jon) Who knows? At this rate, radically different than it even is now, even just in terms of availability. People want instant gratification all the time now. I don’t think that’s going to do anything but increase. It’s part of the challenge.
(Powers) Exactly. Music isn’t going to just die though. I just wish music would get back to MUSIC, not just trends.
(Aaron J) We’re in the weird stage of an evolution process and knowing that Napster was able to change all of music very easily, who knows were it’ll be in five years. And that was really just one guy.
Who designed the cover for your debut album?
(Jon) Three friends of ours in a group called the ITS Crew. They do legal graffiti. They did a whole mural on a wall in the city for the album art. It’s close to Midway airport in Chicago. I gave them some of the lyrical concepts on the album and we just said, “Do what you want.” It came out great and we extracted parts of it for the album art and our art director Kevin put the package together.
What’s the most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
(Powers) I Jumped off of a stage and dislocated my talus bone.
(Jon) In November we had a big show, sound checked fine, got on stage with the intro music playing and my guitar rig didn’t work. Spent ten minutes onstage in front of hundreds of people trying to figure it out. It was a new cable I got with an on/off switch. Since when do they EVER have those? And when did it get pushed?
(Aaron J) Probably going on stage and realizing I probably don’t have enough sticks to make I through the set. Or counting off the wrong song, that’s pretty embarrassing.
Tell me a little bit more about that process. What was it like recording a full-length album?
(Powers) It’s a fun and stressful process. If we had all the time in the world to do it, it’d be awesome.
(Jon) We kinda do though, with Scott. I love it. I wanna do it all the time. We come in with the songs arranged and ready to go. Most of the work we put in is getting the sounds and tones we like, and adding touches to fill it up nicely but not overtake anything.
How many places are you hoping to hit on your Winder Daydreaming Tour?
(Powers) Well if we didn’t have the blizzard of 2011, we would have hit them all! We should change the name of it to the Snowpocaliptica Tour.
(Jon) At least we’re trying.
(Jon) Should have been ten; just a small tour.
(Aaron) Probably would’ve been smarter not to do a winter tour in winter weather states.
Where do you see yourselves in five years?
(Aaron J) Being replaced by a computer.
(Jon) Couldn’t that happen now? (Laughs)
(Aaron J) I still play the parts! It’s like half of me is a machine now.
(Powers) Touring full-time, in our fifth studio album, in a bus, with a crew.
What do you want to be remembered for when this is all said and done?
(Jon) For making timeless music.
(Aaron J) Just to be remembered.
I always let the artist get the last word. Go.