Saturday, May 16, 2015

Brooklyn band Fireships releases new album, bringing soaring Americana sound to Chicago

 

By ERIC SCHELKOPF

Innovative indie artist Andrew Vladeck soars into new musical horizons with his new band, Fireships.

Fireships released its self-titled debut album in April on End Up Records, and will perform May 21 at Uncommon Ground, 1401 W. Devon Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 9 p.m.

I had the chance to talk to Vladeck about his new band.

Q - It seems like the video for "Countdown Time" was fun to make. Growing up, did you ever dream of becoming an astronaut? What was it like going inside an actual Mercury Era space capsule? 

I didn’t dream of becoming an astronaut per se, but did daydream that I was Han Solo.  Who didn’t?


 That space capsule from the “Countdown Time” video might as well have been the cockpit of the Millennium Falcon. It was AMAZING.

The “Countdown Time” story is really a metaphor for all fantastic dreams and ambitions that we have as children, but we reckon with as adults.

Q - Explain the meaning behind the band’s name.
 

Our name is taken from an amazing footnote in American history: the little Hudson River sloops that repelled mighty British warships during opening hostilities of the battle for New York during the Revolutionary War. The nascent U.S. navy stuffed old river sloops with dry timber and stealthily pushed them towards the men-of-war under cover of a moonless night, at the last moment setting them ablaze, scaring the warships away.



I was inspired by how my hometown’s ancestors harnessed the dualistic nature of fire and water to literally and figuratively fight darkness with light. I was inspired by the victory of the underdogs.

This resonated more deeply as I was writing the album. I realized that songs themselves are fireships; composed of fire and water and cast into the night to brighten our lives. Amen!
 

Q - You also wear your old park ranger uniform in the video. Why did you want to become a park ranger and what did you learn from the experience? How did you become known as “The Singing Ranger?”

For me becoming an Urban Park Ranger was one of those dream jobs. I love how Urban Park Rangers exist simultaneously in nature and the city, witnessing and interpreting how the two interact and frame each other.


I learned that nature is tenacious and can find a way if we help it only a little - and be joyously surprised to hear coyotes in the Bronx, (!!!) to see a turtle laying eggs in Brooklyn, or a raccoon’s footprints in the Central Park mud.

I learned that people, from every walk of life all over the city, we’re equally gleeful when encountering something marvelous in nature, and also grateful for a chance to safely connect with other people - strangers - and share an experience, which was something we Rangers were fortunate to provide.

As for the singing bit, I was on assignment at a park event when I played a song before the scheduled performer - from that moment on I was farmed out to ranger events all over the city.

Q - Legendary composer David Amram is featured on the album. How did you hook up with him and what do you think he brought to the table?

I was so fortunate to meet him through my Honey Brother bandmate Ari Gold, whose father Herb Gold is a legendary writer of the same vintage as David Amram. David brings incredible musicality, generosity, and wisdom to every interaction.



It is a joy to know him, and every time I hear his playing on my record I feel great gratitude. And responsibility too - to share my gifts the way David shares his.

Q - I understand that Grammy nominated musician David Bromberg, who has worked with the likes of Bob Dylan and John Prine, gave you your first guitar and lesson. What were the biggest things that you learned from him?

David taught me that being passionate about music was not enough - I needed to work hard, be patient, self-critical, and self-reliant, while still keeping the joyous embers glowing, and not concern myself with anything but the talent or inspiration I could manifest.

Q - Besides this project, you also are in the bands The Honey Brothers and Balthrop, Alabama. How do you juggle all your different projects? Which project is your top priority these days?

There is no juggling these days. All hands on deck for Fireships!



Heave away! Haul on the bowline - full speed ahead!