VIDEO PREMIERE: Scranton’s A Fire With Friends ready new album while ‘Cat Sitting, LA’
A Fire With Friends is almost 10 years old, which is not only a milestone for most local bands, but a particularly special one for a group that has had up to seven members at one time.
Since releasing the four-song EP “It’s Nice to See You Again” in 2015, the follow-up to 2014’s “Ghost House,” the Scranton indie rockers have been relatively quiet publicly, which makes sense considering its members also play in various bands like Esta Coda, Pity Party, Permanence, and University Drive. Behind the scenes, however, they’ve been as loud as ever, recording at JL Studios in Olyphant over the past two years. For singer, songwriter, and guitarist Daniel Rosler, it’s a project that he will always come back to eventually, no matter how busy he gets.
“I guess there’s just something about the band that brings us back. It’s my baby, so I know why I’m still around. I don’t know why the others continue to put up with me, but I’m extremely grateful,” Rosler told NEPA Scene.
“This feels like a warm loving home to retreat back to after branching out to explore other musical avenues. This band has been a constant for me, back when the band was a motley crew practicing in parking lots, up until now, when I’m raising a daughter with my girlfriend. There’s something really special about that to me.”
It’s a band that’s special to a lot of local music fans, so NEPA Scene is excited to exclusively premiere the lyric video for their new song, “Cat Sitting, LA,” and announce that their new full-length album, “Polaroids,” will finally be released on Friday, Oct. 27.
The song, which has been played live over the years and was even recorded acoustically on the NEPA Scene Podcast back in 2015, now has some studio polish with the full band and an awesomely animated music video by singer Jen Fracas, who also made a video for her own band, Eye on Attraction, and Luna Soltera earlier this year. The single set the tone of the whole album in a way.
“It came from a phone call with Sophie Pomeranz, who was an original member of the band back when we were a three-piece acoustic act writing songs in my mother’s minivan at Denny’s. She plays drums and sings in a great band called Killmama now. We were playing catch-up on the phone and she was telling me that she was cat-sitting in LA for a week or so for a family (that I assume) she knew. She’s always had a knack for winding up in anomalous situations, and this was no different,” Rosler said.
“But she was also expressing her difficulty with breaking into the local scene at the time. So, the two images struck me as interesting: it was a snapshot of a creative person caught in those moments where you go, ‘Why am I doing all of this?’ The rest of the lyrics were patched together similarly, through random moments in my own life, including drinking too much and sleeping in a bunk bed with Eric Foster, our old synth player, when he lived in a trailer. In a lot of ways, this song established the theme of the record.”
The biggest challenge recording this album, which includes a cello and keyboards in addition to guitar, bass, and drums, was scheduling not only the musicians, but time with producers and engineers Joe Loftus and Jay Preston at the busy studio. Preston also provided harmony vocals on “Cat Sitting, LA.”
“This song truly wrote itself. The band made it sound gigantic because they’re awesome,” Rosler continued.
“This was the most conventionally recorded A Fire With Friends release. Aside from a short track that I recorded on some shitty free multi-track recorder on my phone and a lecture I taped, we tracked it at JL Studios. It’s taken about two years, but a lot of that time was spent throwing ideas around, experimenting in the studio, and trying to work with everyone’s off-the-wall schedules. We have at least five more songs we started that we haven’t finished for this release. It was fun just taking our time and writing.”
11 tracks ended up on the album, with several reworked from “It’s Nice to See You Again.”
“We’ve gotten smarter at making interestingly arranged songs without neglecting a coherent song structure. I think that’s where we may have fallen short in the past. We started improving on ‘Ghost House’ and, while I also think the mad scientist approach gave a lot of color to [previous albums] ‘Happily Haunted’ and ‘Like Giants Sleeping in Basements,’ this is where I wanted to end up,” he explained.
“To me, it makes sonic sense in relation to the rest of the A Fire With Friends canon, but some friends who have taken an early listen think it sounds drastically different, so I’m not really sure how it compares. It’s my favorite, for sure.”
After “Polaroids” comes out on Oct. 27 physically and digitally, a release show will be held in November. New merchandise and two more music videos will be coming out over the next several months as well, with “Cat Sitting, LA” giving a good idea of what to expect.
“While I think it’s representative of the album, it’s definitely one of the more upbeat songs. There are a few downers, of course. We can’t have a proper indie rock release without some slow self-depreciation and inexhaustible woe,” Rosler noted. “Kidding… kind of.”
While one would assume that AFWF could be winding down at this point in these musicians’ hectic lives, Rosler said they’re actually planning more live shows and even some touring down the road while staying independent and creatively determined.
“As much as we can, which, given everyone’s schedules might be more sporadic than I would like. But touring for sure in the foreseeable future. We just have to start booking. We do everything ourselves, as we’ve always done, for better or worse.”
Watch Rosler perform an early acoustic version of “Cat Sitting, LA” during an old episode of the original NEPA Scene Podcast and stream or download this version for free below:
by Rich Howells
Rich is an award-winning journalist, longtime blogger, photographer, and podcast host. He is the founder and editor of NEPA Scene.