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Just A Fire

| March 30, 2006 | 0 Comments

Just A Fire
Stop Don’t Start

You could almost mistake it for intention, and think Just A Fire were just another indie rock band poking fun at conventional rock ‘n’ roll. The Chicago band’s debut album, Light Up (Asian Man), was recorded almost immediately after they formed, punk pragmatism at its best. But the next one, this spring’s Spanish Time (Sick Room), was put off. Then rescheduled. Then put on hold. Never before has the promise of spontaneity been so utterly destroyed.

“I don’t know,” muses bassist/vocalist Fred Erskine, “when we got the band together it was like, ‘Yeah! Let’s just start writing and recording in [drummer] Scott [Adamson]’s studio.’ We really didn’t give the songs the time they needed. We did with this album, not because it’s what we wanted to do, but sort of by default.”

While trying to work around each other’s day-job schedules and that of indie über-producer J Robbins (Jawbox, Promise Ring, Jets To Brazil), Just A Fire scrapped, rewrote, and rearranged Spanish Time to make it unrecognizable from its initial state. “Like, we’d write a batch of songs and try to get a session together, and we just couldn’t squeeze our scheduling in or couldn’t get an engineer in when we wanted to,” he jokingly laments. “Time would go by and slip away. We’d throw a couple songs away and write some more, things just kept evolving. That happened at least three or four times: getting sessions booked. So, it was probably over a year of just rewriting those songs while we were waiting to get the right session booked.”

Whatever the formula, professional frustration on their second album trumps the naivete of the debut. As assuredly as former Soviet premier Nikita Krushchev beat that U.N. podium with his shoe, Spanish Time doesn’t see a need to take a breath and reassess. “Sidebet”‘s rambunctious delivery is like running a red light in the midst of a 360-degree spin, one that doesn’t lose velocity through the surging close of “Goat Dinner.” To think, it sounded completely differently four or five sessions ago.

“We rewrote most of the songs on there at least once,” Erskine says, “with the exception of maybe ‘Fly Your Flag.’ We definitely rewrote ‘Sidebet,’ we made changes to ‘I Roll High.’ ‘Spider Cop’ is new music entirely — we had entirely different music. Same with ‘The Sun Is A Magnet’; we had entirely different music for that before. I don’t know. I get kind of crazy sometimes. I get unsettled. Sit on something too long . . . ”

That he believes in structure at all comes as a surprise from a one-time member of June Of 44. Describe that band’s later work as “complex” to someone who knows them, and you’ll see an arched eyebrow the likes Marvel Comics can’t manage.

“All in all, the songwriting process is somewhat similar, at least the way June Of 44 was writing toward the end,” he says. “A lot of the material was kind of organic, just coming up with whatever was going on in the practice room. Early on in June Of 44, a lot of those songs were brought into the practice room. Towards the end it was collaboration. And that’s just sort of a lot of what we’re doing.”

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