Fire On Fire

Fire On Fire

They used to be the art-punk-prog-chaos collective Cerberus Shoal, but they ditched their electric instruments, went into hiding for a while, and now play all acoustic—stand up bass, mandolin, banjo, harmonium, accordion, acoustic guitar, dobro etc etc, and they all sing and harmonize on the songs. Live, they do it “old school” and just use two mics placed in front of them on the stage, like a bluegrass band. They all live in the same house up in Maine, across from rusting green oil tanks, apparently. To me they sound like a backwoods, fierce, psychedelic Mamas And The Papas or a crazed and joyously vengeful gospel string band. - Michael Gira/Young God Records 2008

Fire on Fire BIO by Fire On Fire:

Fire on Fire began without a name in a warm kitchen in Maine. Some of us used to be in Cerberus Shoal. We were three friends whose musical interests grew outward from the punk roots of our youth to a more personal intimate exchange and we began playing songs for each other. Songs on guitars banjos and harmonium with lots of words and voices. The music was living, open and it invited everyone to take part in it. The circle widened to include two more friends who brought rhythm melody and more voices and songs. Fire on Fire is now five friends who play fierce and emotionally sharp words to stab at our selves, our situations, our lives. Our music comes from the heart of each singer and songwriter. Take that statement how you like. Each one of us brings themselves to the common table without self consciousness. Playing for the enjoyment of playing and in turn creating a live performance that is electric and ecstatic foot stomping and howling all the night long. All five friends live together in a big blue house across from green oil tank # 28 in South Portland, Maine.

Fire On Fire are:

Colleen Kinsella – vocals, harmonium, guitar, accordion, banjo

Caleb Mulkerin – vocals, guitar, banjo, dobro

Tom Kovacevic – vocals, oud, nay, tamboritza, jembe, tamborine

Micah Blue Smaldone – vocals, upright bass, banjo

Chriss Sutherland – vocals, guitar, doumbek

Here’s a review

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Fire on Fire, "Handmade EP"

Written by Simon Marshall-Jones

This Portland, Maine based group are members of art-punk-prog-chaos collective Cerberus Shoal along with North East Indie labelmate Micah Blue Smaldone reinvented as a kind of mutant 'bluegrass/folky' quintet using traditional instruments (plus a few unusual ones) such as upright bass, banjo, piano, harmonium, and accordion in addition to harmonized vocals. This is anything but traditional bluegrass or folk, however, as there's a distinctly uneasy edge and fractured sense of reality bordering on dark psychedelia that removes it a million miles from the mainstream forms of those genres, while also acknowledging the debt owed to those uniquely American styles of music.

This is a Web site/live gig only release and comes in beautiful handmade packaging: an original piece of artwork by band member Colleen Kinsella and printed on good quality card stock while the lyrics and credits are printed on vellum. According to the Young God Web site Michael Gira—who also shared production credits with FoF's Caleb Mulkerin—has "an adamant belief in the music" and, to be blunt, I couldn't agree with him more.

This is startlingly haunting, atmospheric, shimmering, and scintillating music, channeling directly into the true heart of life and America, in much the same way as Britain's dark folk current does, scratching beneath the surface glitz and glamor to the hidden and unvarnished every day. Mulkerin's tremulous voice, reminding me of Neil Young without the nasally whine, is a perfect foil for the themes of liberty betrayed, life, death, the curse of old age, and amnesia. Running through each of the five songs is a frisson of edgy tension between the deliciously dark and poetic lyrics—often sung in male/female harmonization—that contrast sharply with the musical backdrop of picked banjos, guitar, piano, and simple percussion. I had shivers running up and down my spine, such was the effect of these offbeat tales of modern life.

Love, loss, friendship, pain, and just the plain old job of getting on with living: it's all there in buckets and delivered with an uncomplicated passion and, moreover, a simplicity that's refreshing. This is, quite simply, a breathtakingly beautiful set of songs.