Rich Howells

ARCHIVES: Scranton indie rock band A Fire With Friends is an ‘unconventional’ but ‘beautiful thing’

ARCHIVES: Scranton indie rock band A Fire With Friends is an ‘unconventional’ but ‘beautiful thing’
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Even when vocalist/guitarist Dan Rosler was practicing his acoustic guitar in his mother’s minivan with a friend in early 2008, he knew that someday this would turn into something bigger.

The 23-year-old Archbald resident was playing in a few different local bands at the time when he began collaborating with Ed Cuozzo from A Social State on a new project dubbed A Fire With Friends. Within six months, they picked up three more musicians and it soon developed into the seven-member outfit it is today, with Scott Jordan on guitar and vocals, Chelsea Collins on piano, John Husosky on bass, Brian Errigo on drums, Chris Pelak on percussion and guitar, and Eric Foster on synth.

“I knew from the beginning that I wanted it to be not just a normal four-piece rock band. I wanted to try something a little different,” Rosler said.

“This was a side project for a bunch of different bands that became the main focal point,” Foster added.

The Scranton-based indie rock act has gone through quite a few lineup changes in four years, but not everyone can handle their rigorous and often unusual practice schedule.

“It’s been so unconventional from the beginning. I don’t think it was a conscious effort to make it so strange – it wasn’t by any means – but we’re all just kind of night owls, or we’ve been forced into becoming night owls,” Rosler admitted.

“We would go to Denny’s, drink coffee, and then go outside and play in my mom’s minivan at the time or in the parking lot. We probably looked like a bunch of hippies, now that I think about it, but it was the only place we could really get this done at. It wouldn’t start until like 12:30 at night. Then we went in the winter time to our old bass player’s garage and practice in the office. … I was going to school at the time, so we would not get done until like three or four … and I had to wake up for college at eight.”

One of their recent songs, “Back to Sleep,” captures that insomnia well.

“The song is pretty self-explanatory. I think it’s safe to say most people know what its like to wake up and desire ‘just a few more minutes’ of sleep before they have to face the day. This song is about being unable to shake that feeling,” Rosler related.

Each of the current members balance day jobs with their true passion, with Rosler, Foster, and Jordan working in a factory together to make ends meet. Wrangling seven musicians together is no easy task sometimes, but Foster, 24, feels that what comes out of it is “a beautiful thing.”

“I usually write the songs and then I’ll bring it to practice. … I just got so accustomed to writing them on acoustic guitar; it’s very bare bones, so when I bring it to practice, there’s a lot of room for people to add things. I’ll have a ton of ideas, but so does everybody else,” Rosler explained.

“I think that’s the best part about being in a band is you suggest that, and someone suggests another thing, and it suddenly becomes something you didn’t even know if it had the potential to become.”

Inspired by real-life situations, the movies of Stanley Kubrick and Wes Anderson, and quirky films like “Dogtooth,” A Fire With Friends has produced two EPs, “Happily Haunted” and “Like Giants Sleeping in Basements,” both professionally recorded but not without their own oddities – Foster chuckles as he recalls practicing and recording parts in trailers and old barns. Even their latest video for the song “Electric Chair Blues,” filmed at the Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum in Philadelphia, was uncomfortable behind the scenes.

“It was cold, like every other experience that we’ve ever had in this band. It was miserably cold,” Foster recalled.

“I had to drink a lot of whiskey,” Rosler noted with a laugh.

Their hard work and dedication has paid off, however, as the video will be featured on Fuse TV next month as many of their songs rise to the top of the charts on Marywood University’s alternative radio station VMFM 91.7. And while they are proud of these recordings, they acknowledge that the wall of sound created by seven enthusiastic musicians is often difficult to capture on an album.

“I’ve left out a lot of things that we play live and didn’t put them on the recording just because it was kind of too much, so I kind of save a lot of things for the live show,” Foster said.

“A lot of the percussion stuff is on the CD, but a lot of it we held back on because it kind of became overbearing, kind of covering the actual drum set. When you get to actually do that live, it does become a bigger thing.”

While the band has been supported by and draws inspiration from the local music scene consistently, A Fire With Friends has also been well-received in many other states; they’re heading to Rhode Island and Massachusetts this month before returning home to The Vintage Theater in downtown Scranton on Saturday, March 3.

“It just feels really good to just be ridiculous and jump around and have people watch you do that. And if we get a good response afterwards, that’s the best thing. That’s one of the major reasons why I would even be in a band,” Foster emphasized.

“I don’t think we’re trying to change people’s lives or anything, but if somebody goes away with any sort of reaction, that’s a good thing – whether it’s disgust or joy, it’s still something.”

When Rosler plays a show, he just hopes that audiences recognizes the earnestness and fervor he has displayed from the band’s inception.

“I just hope they think it’s sincere. That’s all,” Rosler stated.

“If everyone hated us, I think we’d still be doing it anyway just because we love to do it. There’s also no better feeling than some complete stranger really, really enjoying it. I’d be a liar if I said that didn’t feel rewarding.”

Upcoming A Fire With Friends shows

Feb. 17: The News Café, Providence, RI
Feb. 18: All Asia Club, Cambridge, MA
Feb. 24: TBA, Wilkes-Barre, PA
Feb. 25: PhilaMOCA, Philadelphia, PA
March 3: The Vintage Theater, Scranton, PA

Photos by Katie Trott

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