In a just world, Backyard Tire Fire (BTF) would receive the copious press coverage reserved for commercially successful but artistically bankrupt acts such as…well, you can probably think of at least a few. But while you probably won't see the group on the cover of Rolling Stone in the near future, at the end of the day it doesn't really matter.
What matters is good music, and on that point Backyard Tire Fire delivers big time. What they also deliver is a sound that is firmly rooted in the rich history of American music – rock 'n' roll, R&B, country, and folk to name but a few – while still being fresh and original.
The trio of Ed Anderson (lead vocals & guitars), brother Matt Anderson (bass & vocals), and Tim Kramp (drums & vocals) have released five albums so far, the most recent being February 2007's Vagabonds and Hooligans, which has received widespread acclaim from critics and no doubt won them many fans, myself included. The band has also staked their territory as an energetic and passionate live act.
BTF's Ed Anderson recently took the time to respond to some questions about the band, starting with that very unique name.
Any significance with the name Backyard Tire Fire?
Not really. Just a redneck nod to the Springfield Tire Fire on The Simpsons.
Choosing a live album (2002's Live at the Georgia Theatre) as your first release was rather unorthodox – how did that come about?
We were broke and living in Athens, Georgia. A friend multi-track recorded us live at a gig and it seemed like the cheapest way to put out a record. So I guess it was kind of out of necessity.
How did the band come into existence?
I was living in North Carolina and doing solo gigs and missed playing that rock and roll music. So I invited Tim Kramp to move down and live in my basement to play drums and drink Budweiser.
How did Matt enter the scene?
We were broke and living in Athens, Georgia (wait, I guess I already said that) and decided the best thing for the band was to move to the Midwest where we had friends and family and folks that wanted to help us take this thing to the next level. Within a couple of weeks we were gigging with my brother on bass, within a year we had management, and a label and then the agent followed. So I would say we made the right decision! Not to mention we got a great bass player out of the deal.
What brought about the relocation to Bloomington, Illinois?
I went to graduate school here, Tim is from here, it's cheap to live here, we like it here (although it seems we're rarely here).
How would you describe your sound and style to someone unfamiliar with your music?
We're a rock and roll band. We play honest original songs. I've heard alt. country, indie, folk, blues, etc.
How important was using analog technology to you for the recording of Vagabonds and Hooligans?
Extremely. Our records wouldn't sound the way they do if we used digital technology. Our records sound warm and real.
"Get Wise" is the most lyrically pointed song on the album. Were the lyrics inspired at all by current events?
Certainly. I think a lot of folks have that same feeling that things aren't right. Religion and politics are two very powerful, scary things.
I've only been into the Lips for a few years, but love what they do. Wayne is a fearless freak and an inspiration to artistic musicians. They make interesting thought-provoking music.
You recently completed a tour with Clutch. How was that experience?
Great. Real good bunch of people and loyal fans. Couldn't have toured with a nicer group of folks. And they bring the pure rock fury every night.
What can we look forward to on the next album?
Good tunes with hooks. Lots of weird tones and old amps and guitars. I've written a significant amount of the tunes on piano; so this record will be more keys-driven than the previous ones. I'm hoping it's cohesive and to the point and different from anything we've done before.
What's been the highlight of the Backyard Tire Fire experience so far?
I'm just happy to be making music and that folks want to come hear us and listen to our records. Had a great time up in Canada with Clutch on this last tour. Really nice to kick that much ass in a different country. Can't wait to get over to Europe!
To learn more about Backyard Tire Fire visit their official home page and their MySpace page. Their last two albums (Bar Room Semantics and Vagabonds and Hooligans) can be purchased by following the links to Amazon.com in this article. You can purchase other BTF music from the band store or iTunes.
Backyard Tire Fire are heading into the studio soon to begin recording the followup to Vagabonds and Hooligans, but will will play some dates in Illinois in October in between recording sessions, then head out for a quick tour in November. Their fall tour schedule is as follows:
October 5 – University of Illinois, Urbana, IL
October 18 – Hangar 9, Carbondale, IL
October 19 – Friends & Co., Charleston, IL
October 20 – Paulies, Bloomington, IL
October 31 – Mojo’s, Columbia, MO
November 1 – Larimer Lounge, Denver, CO
November 2 – Lazy Dog, Boulder, CO
November 3 – Bottleneck, Lawrence, KS
w/ Cracker and Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit:
November 6 – People’s, Ames, IA
November 7 – First Avenue, Minneapolis, MN
November 8 – High Noon Saloon, Madison, WI
w/ Phonograph supporting:
November 9 – Picador, Iowa City
November 10 – Double Door, Chicago, IL
November 15 – Rudyard Kipling's, Louisville, KY
November 16 – Ruby’s, Columbus, OH
November 17 – Grog Shop, Cleveland, OH
w/ Joe Stickley’s Blue Print:
November 21 – Lucas School House, St. Louis, MO