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The Bonfire Set is a new folk rock group that both rocks with the best of them while offering songs designed to enlighten a new generation.

Music Interview: Reno’s The Bonfire Set Puts the Contemporary in Contemporary Folk Rock

Who, you my ask, is The Bonfire Set?

The short answer is that The Bonfire Set is a young, seven-member Reno, Nevada-based congregation with a new debut EP, On the Road, that resonates with familiar contemporary folk rock tones and flavors. But they’re something distinctive as well, especially as they represent a generation you wouldn’t expect to be saying the things they do.

The Bonfire Set - On the RoadFor one example, the title song is an obvious homage to Jack Kerouac, blending vocal harmonies with ’60s vibes. Speaking of the ’60s, Jamil Apostol, vocalist and acoustic guitarist for the group, says the song “Nuclear Love” is “a love song/anti-war song with two lovers `holding hands in the ashes … swimming in the depths of liquid napalm.'” Likewise, “Red Roses” is a song about a breakup as a result of war. Sound a bit like what they used to call protest music back in the day?

Lyrically, there’s a lot of social commentary in the seven songs of On the Road. In fact, On the Road is one of those collections with an upbeat, often poppy sound that almost masks the philosophical musings of the words. For Apostol, the EP is unified by recurring themes in “a story line of a character trying to make it in this world, despite being bombarded by attachment to war, relationships. etc.” This character ponders much on the meaning of mortality as in the optimistic opening track, “Few Years,” which notes we will all turn to dust, be bogged down in the 9-to-5 world, but all turns out fine in the end. Likewise, “Mammoth” is “about making good memories while on the path to enlightenment – `As we drove toward the
Light.'” Or “City Lights,” which is “about remaining eternal through old memories.” In short, this isn’t a set of simple observational or confessional stories but is rather very accessible music with a spiritual bent.

To dig into what The Bonfire Set is all about, I decided to ask Apostol to describe just who the band is, what inspires it, and what it is trying to do. Here’s what he had to say.

How did The Bonfire Set come together?

We’ve been childhood friends for the most part. It wasn’t until a trip to Coachella 2013 that we wanted to form a band. It was such an enlightening experience that we decided that that could be us headlining the main stage one day if we worked hard enough. Ryan had never even touched a bass until the band formed! We’ve been a band for about 16 months now.

Who are the members?

Beyond myself, our current roster includes Kirsten Crom (keys/vocals), Nathan DePaoli (drums), Casey Frasca (electric guitar/vocals), Denise Julian (vocals/percussion), Ryan Widmer (bass), and Patrick Zbella (electric guitar).

With that many personalities, I suspect everyone has their own sources of inspiration with a variety of tastes.

Yes, the group has many inspirations, which helps with our eclectic sound. Aside from the Beats, I am inspired by the works of Bright Eyes, Bob Dylan, Grateful Dead, Arcade Fire, Kendrick Lamar and even Kanye West. In addition to those musicians, spiritual teachers like the Buddha, Alan Watts, Baba Ram Dass, and many more have been a contributing factor for me.

Others in the band draw influences from different genres of music. For instance, our drummer comes from a metal background (who is also an EDM DJ), our guitarist Patrick draws inspiration from U2, Brand New, [and] Switchfoot. Casey is heavily drawn to ’70s guitar players like Jimmy Page and Clapton. Our keys player Kirsten LOVES Lady Gaga. Our bass player really digs the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

With such divergency in backgrounds, how does the group collaborate on your songs?

Generally, I would have a chord progression and lyrics already made. From there I let the other guys layer in their own “personality” to the song. It’s a very magical process.

I gather from your publicity that your intentions are to do more than entertain audiences. What are you guys trying to accomplish with your music?

Nowadays, it seems as if mainstream music is just mass-produced. Generally, I feel that it all really sounds the same and that it lacks the initial “quality” that music used to have. I’d like to cause a dent in the music industry, breaking barriers in form and the traditional trend of things through a resurgence of what this nation once had.

This is my contribution to the world; to raise the consciousness of people around me through my sound. People of my generation are being subconsciously brainwashed into believing whatever they are fed, and “the only thing that can save the world is the reclaiming of the awareness of the world,” as Allen Ginsberg states.

How did your debut album come together?

After playing some shows around Reno we decided that we were ready to record our album. We started a Kickstarter campaign in mid-December and raised over $5,000 as a result. We also had money from shows and merchandise.

We recorded with our hometown hero producer/engineer Tom Gordon (The Beach Boys, Boyz II Men, Dr. Dre, etc.) and had it mastered up in Seattle with Ed Brooks (Pearl Jam, Fleet Foxes, Death Cab for Cutie, the Head & the Heart, etc.).

You warn listeners some of your songs have explicit lyrics. Why?

Breaking the rules and being explicit widens the world.

What’s next for The Bonfire Set?

While On the Road is more on the “light and fun” side of things (perfect road trip album), the next album we are working on really goes a different turn and more in depth with socioeconomic issues, self reflection, and how we can effectively progress as a species without us destroying each other.

Currently, we are all studying in school and our drummer is leaving for LA at Musician’s Institute to further his drumming skills. We’ll most likely be writing new material with our drummer away and doing shows around the West Coast whenever we can. Or get noticed by a record label who supports our musical endeavors. That’d be rad too.

Check out The Bonfire Set at:

thebonfireset.com
thebonfireset.bandcamp.com

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