British alt-rock quintet Where Fires Are are starting to spark across the pond. After performing at the inaugural Mondo.NYC festival last September, Where Fires Are will be returning to North America this week to perform as a part of Canadian Music Week conference and festival in Toronto. Rock on Philly had the chance to talk with Robbie Gillespie, the band’s vocalist/second guitarist, before their big trip to Canada to talk about Where Fires Are’s background, future goals, and their latest release, One Four Six One.
Rock On Philly: You all had very different musical backgrounds before you came together as Where Fires Are. How did you guys actually end up meeting and making music together?
Robbie Gillespie: We all went to Leeds College of Music which is a music college in the middle of England and we all were on the same course with the exception of Matt [Exton, drums/vocals], he did a jazz course, the rest of us were all on the popular music course. I met Nick [Banks, keys/synth/guitar/vocals] and James [Clegg, bass] really early on, they were some of the first guys I ever talked to when I started college. We spent a lot of time with each other through the course but we didn’t actually start writing together until we graduated- I say “we” but I didn’t actually graduate, I left fairly soon after the start of the second year of three [laughs]. The other guys graduated and I was still in the city, Ash [Reynolds, lead guitar/vocals] had been playing with James in a different band and he wanted to start a different band and make things bigger. He asked Nick if he wanted to get involved and they asked me and we asked Matt; the five of us started getting together and things snowballed from there.
ROP: Who/what influenced you guys when you started recording your EP, One Four Six One?
RG: That EP is quite influenced by the New York trip. We went over to New York last September to perform at Mondo.NYC, at the first year of that festival. It was ones of if not the best thing that we’ve done so far as a band and we had an amazing time out there. We had a couple songs written before New York and we performed them for the first time out there at the showcase and another one was written on the plane ride over to New York, the One Four Six One name came from the number of the apartment in Brooklyn that we stayed at. It was quite largely influenced by the New York trip. We’d been feeling for a while that our music was starting to be a lot more suitable for the North American market- the British music scene at the moment is a little bit strange, I don’t want to get too into it because it sounds like I’m being negative but it seems a little bit stale at the moment, I just feel like there’s a lot more interest happening across the Atlantic and we feel that we’ve been leaning that way for quite a while. Between the New York trip and now Canadian Music Week we feel like we’ve really been running with the whole North American thing.
ROP: You used PledgeMusic to help fund the release of One Four Six One. What was the experience like going through that process and interacting with your fans through that model?
RG: The process was exciting and obviously really positive considering we met our [fundraising] goal. I’m not gonna lie and say that it wasn’t stressful, it was definitely stressful at times watching the percentage go and just hoping you make it. In terms of the concept and the company and the guys we talked to at Pledge it was absolutely brilliant and they were such a huge help for us. We’ve really been recommending it to our musician friends back here and encouraging them to get involved because it helps you connect a bit more with fans and it gives you a great idea of what specific fans are interested in and what the fans want from you and how you can give them a slightly more in depth experience of your music and what you have to offer. Overall it was really positive and a huge help in not only funding our costs for One Four Six One but also covering some of the costs of coming to Canada, it’s been a huge help for this year. We have a soft spot for PledgeMusic now!
ROP: Philadelphia has a very pronounced and unique music scene. What’s your hometown of Leeds like?
RG: It’s great! There’s probably some similarity- I’ve heard Philadelphia has many passionate sports fans and sports teams and Leeds is very similar. The sports teams in Leeds have this hugely passionate, fiery support come rain or shine and the music scene reflects that in a lot of different ways. The people in the city are really proud of the music that comes out of it and that reflects in the turnout for unsigned bands and local music. It’s generally well received and passionately supported which I think is why there are so many great bands in Leeds at the moment. It’s not a huge city and also we’re close to Manchester and Liverpool which has wider known music history with things like Oasis in Manchester and The Beatles in Liverpool. Leeds has a DIY, grassroots feel to it, there’s a bit of a grunge scene going on at the moment. It’s a brilliant place to be. When we started the band and stuff started to go positively for us we talked about possibly moving to London but I think the necessity for that today in the UK is much smaller because there are so many great music cities and Leeds is definitely up there- we don’t have any intention of leaving anytime soon. Leeds is a great place for creative arts.
ROP: What are your goals for the rest of 2017?
RG: I’d love a swimming pool shaped like a guitar, but in slightly more realistic terms I’d love to be able to pay my bills every month [laughs]. I think we have a body of work now with One Four Six One that we’re all really proud of and we want to do it justice. Obviously with Canadian Music Week we’re gonna go out there and make the most of it. We have a list of people we want to talk to and we want to spread the name a bit more in North America. We’ve had such positive experiences out there and North America’s going to take quite a lot of the focus for us. We’re going back to New York in September and we have a PR campaign that is going to take potentially ten months to focus on North America. Since the band started three years ago we’ve prided ourselves on almost always being on this upward trajectory and it’s always about maintaining that and making sure that we do ourselves justice and don’t slow down. We believe we have the potential to start earning a living out of what we do but that’s not the number one priority- we just have to keep the momentum going and have fun, we have to enjoy it while it lasts.
Check out One Four Six One via Spotify below!