Rich Howells

VIDEO PREMIERE: Wilkes-Barre rockers Zayre Mountain salute those jumping ‘Into the Fire’ of coronavirus pandemic

VIDEO PREMIERE: Wilkes-Barre rockers Zayre Mountain salute those jumping ‘Into the Fire’ of coronavirus pandemic
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Music is often as much a comfort during hard times as it is a reflection of the period it was created in. Zayre Mountain is expressing both with a new song and music video premiering today on NEPA Scene.

While millions of people are quarantined at home to avoid exposure to the coronavirus as it continues to spread, the Wilkes-Barre rock band changed their initial plans for “Into the Fire” to salute the medical professionals on the frontlines fighting this pandemic and relate to all those affected by it.

“I work on the road all day for my day job, so I’m constantly recording little ideas for vocals, guitar, drums, whatever, as they float into my head. I still have the original voice memo, and my wife and I listened back to it after we finished making the video together. It’s funny how you could hear within the first 45 seconds I’ve landed on what will become the actual chorus,” vocalist/guitarist Stephen Flannery began.

“Clearly that lyric is influenced by Shakespeare’s ‘Once more unto the breach, dear friends,’ but my mind was on any war one might need motivation to engage in further, like fighting addiction. I’ve lost countless friends and even close relatives to that battle, and I know even more who fight that fight every fucking day. Every day they have to force themselves up and say not today, yo, not today, and choose to plunge themselves again into the fire, into the fight, over and over, and this song to me says we’re in it together, fight, and we’ll see each other in the end, at the end of the day, and with addiction, people fight that war every day. Each day a new battle. And a loss could mean the war, tickets, done. That’s a lot of pressure, and this chorus is meant to motivate, to help.”

He worked out an entire script for the corresponding music video before COVID-19 changed the world as we know it.

“After the dawn of this new day, and after a bit of the initial apocalyptic paralysis faded creatively, my mind gave me the new idea, and I completely scrapped the old one and forged ahead with what now is the official video. The war of the song so clearly became the war being fought by our brave hospital workers. The motivation of the chorus I’m sure could be heard at the start of every shift, even every hour, in every hospital across America and, hell, the whole world. I picture each individual worker having to give themselves this sort of pep talk many times through a shift to steady themselves and gather their courage to keep going back into the shit, the fire, the hell they’re encountering and will continue to encounter for a long while to come. PTSD is going to be a very real issue moving forward after this event,” he explained.

“With making the video, the quarantine actually helped because my wife Amanda is our video editor, so we were able to work together in our home to get it done. And that’s all while we were – but mostly she was – homeschooling our three rugrats and preparing ourselves in every way for this long and necessary grounding.”

Zayre Mountain is grounded in the East End of Wilkes-Barre where Flannery grew up with guitarist Bill “BJ” Cook and bassist Brandon Cook and met drummer Joe Fitz in middle school. Flannery and Fitz were in a band called Original Sin together while the Cook brothers had their own musical projects, but at the end of 2012, they all got together to play a benefit for The Christopher Fund, a charity named after a dearly departed friend, and they’ve been a band ever since.

“We have eclectic musical tastes, each as individuals and also as a band, so I like to just say we play rock ‘n’ roll, but really we mix hard rock with funk and reggae and sprinkle in a lot of soul, and each of these flavors comes to the forefront and shines on different songs,” Flannery described.

“We’ve been playing live a lot, like countless working bands out there, hustling and giving our all at local pubs, casinos, festivals, backyard parties – you name it. And we’ve been finishing up our second studio album.”

Over the past few years, they’ve been working on the follow-up to 2014’s “No Pikers,” recording with Joe Loftus and Jay Preston at JL Studios in Olyphant.

“Each song holds its own story, but a theme that arose was fire, from literal to metaphorical and shades in between. That’s why we’re calling the album ‘Dancing on Fire.’ It’s 10 tracks, and we’ll be setting the release date and party once the world clears up a bit and lets us see past tomorrow.”

A lot of thought went into just the first single, “Into the Fire.”

“The verses have their own story, which I’d prefer to leave a little more cloudy [than the previously described chorus], but I do see the verses as the downshift and the chorus as the up. But just to shine a little light on the first verse, because it actually makes my point for cloudiness, ‘Pull yourself up for me / Strength comes in mystery,’ I remember writing it thinking, ‘Get up, no matter what, get up from the mud and mire, but also don’t talk about it so much.’ ‘Strength comes in mystery’ – save a lot of yourself for yourself, building and building, so that when you do share, it means something. So many share everything these days, especially on social media, and to each their own, but that’s where my head was at, and also knowing where I was headed, having the chorus already written, it all made sense,” Flannery said.

“The new album, like our first one, is a rollercoaster ride of styles, but that all blends very well to make our overall sound. It’s 10 songs and breaks down to about a third hard and heavy like this one, a third funky and fun, and a third that are not soft ballads or anything but more chill, even though their depth is clear.”

Other than releasing the album, Zayre Mountain plans to work with Borrowed Time, an all-around entertainment company and brainchild of friend and local musician Dave Hardy, as well as deliver “a fun and killer live show” when large gatherings are safe again.

“Personally, I’m lucky enough to have a day job that didn’t completely disappear. Same for the fellas, to one degree or another. It’s hard enough to lose all the band bookings, for the revenue and as an emotional outlet and way to see and feed off each other – band, fans, and friends alike – but overall I consider myself lucky. Everything is relative, and many are worse off right now, so I count my blessings,” Flannery noted.

“But I’d be lying if I said none of this scares me. I have a wife and three little kids, and the most common tenants of my mind on even a normal day, before all this shit, was keeping it all afloat, keeping them striving, keeping them all safe and secure, so now those thoughts have moved in pretty much full time.”

“Into the Fire” is just one way that he is dealing with those feelings.

“Obviously we hope people dig the song and music and check out the band and all that, but that’s for anything put out by a band or musician or artist. We all want to be seen and heard. But specifically now, from the video and song together, I hope people take away an even deeper appreciation for those on the frontlines of this thing. Also, to see so many aspects of what’s going on all tied together I think is useful, from the great toilet paper battles early on, to the riots and fires of Italian prisons, to the empty streets of bustling cities, to the virus itself, to the human spirit still dancing and singing, but again especially to those truly working on combatting this enemy,” he left off.

“To our friends, fans, and families – What an awful thing this is, is it not? That tears at the very fabric of what it is to be human, what our strengths are – to love and hold each other in crisis, to rally around the weak and lift the whole. But this has, as it must if it is to be beaten, divided us to our smallest of atoms, with families and friends spread out, unable to feel and touch each other. It’s heartbreaking. But we have the easy part. Many are giving much more, and some have and will give the ultimate.

“Again, I truly hope this video helps to bring out the appreciation I know we all feel for the hospital workers. Thank you, thank you, thank you, and we will be seeing each other again soon enough.”