In Case Of Fire are holed up in their dressing room on an impr.
obably sunny day in Newcastle. The Irish trio (brothers Steven – vocals, guitar – and Colin – drums – Robinson, and bassist Mark Williamson) are here supporting Fightstar on their latest UK tour and seem to have accumulated a few fans in the North East, amongst those outside waiting for Charlie to arrive.
The band have been hard at work on their debut album, 'Align the Planets', and were about to go on a headline tour following the Fightstar one – workshy, they are not. Pennyblackmusic caught up with all three a few hours before their gig at the O2 Academy.
PB : How’s it been working with Fightstar? Have you worked with them before?
CR : Yeah, it’s been really good so far. They’re nice guys, really nice.
PB : Were you fans of them before you worked with them ?
CR : No...(Laughs). No, they are not really our sort of band.
PB : Busted fans ?
CR : No. We’re more McFly kinda guys.. No, really, it’s good they’ve sort of branched out, but it’s not really the sort of stuff we’d listen to.
PB : What is the sort of stuff you listen to when you’re not working ?
CR : We’re into the Mars Volta, Refused, that kind of stuff. The Bronx, yeah.
PB : Have you found a lot of people who weren’t aware of you before are becoming fans because of this tour ? Has it opened you up to new audiences ?
CR : I think it’s not so much this tour, but we’re getting a little bit of feedback from the 'Kerrang !' tour that we did in January. We visited a lot of these same cities. Plus we’ve been touring pretty solidly for the past year, so I think we’ve turned a little corner. We’re starting to see pockets of recognition, which is great. Definitely this tour we’ve noticed a difference.
PB : You’ve been played on Radio 1 a bit lately as well. Has that helped ?
CR : Yeah, or last two singles have both been playlisted on Radio 1 which is really good. I mean, having that sort of exposure on a regular basis is really fantastic for us.
PB : How was it the first time you heard yourselves on radio.. Was it weird ?
SR : Yeah, well we’d been played before on specialist shows, like The Rock Show or Zane Lowe, but being played on Sara Cox, you know.. You don’t really expect to hear us on Sara Cox and Scott Mills, so to hear that it’s a bit weird.
MW : One day I was just driving home and I flicked the radio on, and it was in the middle of our song, so that was pretty bizarre.
PB : Has the feedback been good from Radio 1 ?
CR : You sort of think, it’s a bench mark, you know. If your song has been played on Radio 1 you can sort of tick it off. You’d actually probably think you’d get even more feedback from it, but I don’t know, it’s not been as much as maybe we thought it would, in our heads. Maybe it never is in the music industry, I think outsiders think the minute you get a record deal you’re driving a Ferrari, but it doesn’t really work like that, you know ? There’s a lot of hard work to put in, and still people don’t realise it’s years before you can do it for a full time living.
PB : Touring’s pretty constant, isn’t it ?
CR : It is, yeah. You really need to keep it going. And for a band especially in our position, where it’s your debut album, you need to follow it quickly with a second album and keep touring otherwise people will forget about you pretty soon. Like the Subways, we toured with them, and they took a prolonged break between albums, but when they came back they found their fanbase had shrunk.
PB : Do you ever get time off then. Have you much chance to go home ?
CR : We do, yeah. It’s like time off, but not really time off. It’s time off from touring, but we’re still working, you know ? It’s great to get back to see our families though. I’m married and Steve’s married, and Mark’s engaged, so it’s great to get back.
PB : So how did it all start ? Where did you get together ?
CR : We were in another band, with another guy. We were a four-piece. We’d been around for maybe three and a half years, and we did quite well back in Northern Ireland. We’d hit a brick wall when it came to the rest of the UK though, so we decided to scrap everything with the band, songs, everything. So we took everything we’d learned and decided to take it in a different direction. We wanted to concentrate on breaking the UK as well, so we didn’t tell anyone in the local scene. But the other guy, he’d just sort of had his fill, so he left. And that was in 2005, so since then we’d just been working on In Case Of Fire, and not pushing ourselves as much back home.
PB : Has your music style grown since then ?
SR : It has yeah. Towards the end we were more sort of a Jimmy Eat World sort of genre, and that’s not what we were listening to. We were listening to music with more depth to it. We wanted to push the envelope a bit more ourselves. We never rest on our laurels, you know, and say “that’s it boys”, but we try to write new songs which are always pushing ourselves forward.
PB : Are there any bands you’d like to perform with in the future then ?
CR : We’d love to play some shows with The Mars Volta, or go on tour with Muse. And if Refused ever reformed, we’d love to support them on a tour.
SR : I think mostly we’re just looking towards getting more of our own shows, more headline shows.
PB : Are there any bands who you’d choose as your support then ?
CR : There’s a band we love from back home, if we do more headline shows. They’re a band called Mojo Fury. It’s kind of hard to pigeonhole, mental sounding rock music.
PB : Have you read any comparisons about yourself with other bands that are really flattering or that you’ve though ‘that’s ridiculous’?
SR : Ha ha, yeah. Loads. The 'NME' last week called us “pop-metal” and that’s one of the biggest kicks in the teeth I’ve ever had. And someone compared us to Taking Back Sunday last week, Atreyu.. I think a lot of the people who are getting what we’re about draw comparisons to Muse, the Mars Volta. In the early days of Muse though, all they had to put up with was "they’re like Radiohead", and nobody says that now.
PB : Are you excited for the release of your album ? Has it been a lot of work getting it together ?
CR : It’s been a long, long time coming, yeah. We originally recorded it ourselves in our parents house over about seven months, but luckily we signed management afterwards and got the chance to re-record it. We’ve done things back to front compared to a lot of bands. Most bands tour, get their fanbase up, and then record an album, but we already had the songs we wanted so we recorded the album first, then started touring after that.
PB : Do you read all your own reviews ?
CR : Some of them. We’re trying to get out the way of it. Before you get management and stuff, press is like your lifeblood – you need that word of mouth to get well known. Once you get a little more established, there’ll always be people waiting to knock you down. You have to learn that press, good or bad, is still press, you know? As long as the fans are liking it and as long as we’re comfortable with it, that’s all we can hope for.
PB : Your latest single, 'The Cleansing', is about a parent who copes with the loss of a child. Do you always write about such serious subject matter'?
CR: Yeah absolutely. If it’s not sort of serious, we find it’s not really worth writing about. We detest throwaway music.. Well we don’t detest it, but there’s a place for it. If all bands sounded like us, everyone would get bored, but personally this is just what comes naturally. It’s just the state of the UK music industry at the minute – there are so many rock bands who are carbon copies of what’s coming out of America at the minute. There’s no substance to their music or lyrics. We want to be a band with longevity and integrity – you have a responsibility and a voice and you can use it to a really positive effect.
PB : What do you feel about playing festivals. Have you enjoyed it ?
CR : We had our first full summer of festivals last year, and it was really good. People really didn’t know who we were then. They might know a little bit more this year, but it was a great experience playing cold like that. I think this year we’re more relaxed about it.
PB : On your MySpace page you’ve got a manifesto about ‘the New Agenda’, is this something you’ve come up with yourselves ?
CR : Yeah, that’s always been the idea for In Case of Fire. We always wanted the band to be more than just the music. We wanted to create more of a movement. We are sick of the way the world’s going, without sounding pompous. People will turn around and say "well nobody’s happy with the way the world’s going", which is okay, but at least we’re doing something, we’re trying to say to people. There’s things you can do to try and make a difference.
SR : We’re certainly not a political band. We’re not out there at rallies or anything. It’s more about the wider scope, and awareness. We just want to make people think about these issues, and at the same time, we put our manifesto up because we wanted to make a grand statement. Otherwise you won’t catch people’s attention, you know? We’re open to the criticism of it though, like the 'NME 'having a pop at us but on the next page glorifying a band like the Virgins, who go out and sleep with different girls every night. You can’t then turn round and say “why’s Britain in this state ?” It’s like they should hold a mirror up to themselves. Any magazine which gives Pete Doherty hero of the year is an absolute rag in my opinion.
PB : Do you see your position as trying to open people’s eyes a little bit more then ?
SR : I think so yeah. Maybe just trying to show people there’s another option. For the kids to see a band that’s appearing in a magazine who are approaching difficult issues, who don’t drink and take drugs, who are married and engaged, yet can still get up on stage and play a show.
PB : And still play the type of music they might expect from someone who would drink and take drugs ?
SR : Yeah, exactly. A lot of bands have to get themselves worked up with drink and drugs in order to go out on stage, but we’re not afraid to go out cold like that.
PB : What do you do at your shows after you’ve played. Do you hang around to watch the other bands ?
CR : Sometimes we’ll go down to the merch stand, but our management keeps trying to make us a merch band, asking how many t-shirts we’ve sold but we have no idea. Normally we spend time in the dressing room pulling apart the set we just did. It’s rare we’ll go back out to watch someone.
PB : Do you get chance to meet your fans on tour ?
CR : Yeah we do like to. Generally on this tour it’s been fans of Charlie, but, yeah, if there’s anyone who wants to talk to us we’ll always have time for them. In Newcastle we’ll probably make an effort to, we have a good following here.
PB : What’s next for In Case of Fire ?
CR : Just to carry on making music I think. We don’t say "by this time next year we want to be playing at x and y", to however many people, but we’re always trying to push forward and make better music constantly.
Nothing makes me quite so happy as when a band ends an interview with “oh, that was a great interview, thanks a lot”.. As if it’s me who’s done them the favour here. In Case Of Fire were a pleasure to talk to – three guys who take not only their profession, but also their position of responsibility very seriously.
I did see them around the merch stand later that night, taking time out to talk to people as they’d promised. I’m usually impressed with anyone I meet who can speak well and has a belief in an issue, but these guys deserve to be held up as pillars of the music community. I have the utmost confidence that their ideals won’t be compromised and their work ethic will remain intact, regardless of the NME’s future endorsements. If I were said magazine, however, I’d take the next Hero of the Year award much more seriously. I have three contenders to nominate right now.