San Francisco, California three-piece The Trophy Fire just released their third Greyday Records album, Directions For Daylight, on May 21st, and the trio has some big plans to go along with it. I mean, who wouldn’t want to open for U2?
To give everyone on here a little introduction to the band, I got in touch with vocalist/guitarist Ben Flanagan to talk about the record, their record label, a few of their influences, and how hot it can get onstage. Take note: HOT!
G- Hi there and thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! Introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
B- Ben Flanagan here…. lead vocals, guitar, keys. I grew up in Durham, North Carolina and relocated to San Francisco in 2000. The brothers Adam (guitar, vox) John (drums vox) grew up in Concord, California and have always lived in that general area.
G- You are just about to release your latest album, Directions For Daylight, on Greyday Records. How do you feel about the final product, and what is it like working with Greyday?
B- Working with Greyday is great and has been since we signed with them a couple years ago. We really appreciate them taking us on. Plus, we love Portland (where Greyday is based), so we get to go there a lot more than we normally would.
Todd, the head of our label always lets us crash at his house (which I’m sure he regrets as soon we leave and there is a “trophy tornado” to clean up after,) but I think he still loves us anyway.
G- Hahaha “Trophy Tornado.” That’s awesome! A new single, perhaps?
If you would, tell us about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, who was behind the boards this time around, and how long did the release take to record and get ready for release?
B- We went with the guy that did our last record, Aaron Hellam, who works out of his own studio called Castle Ultimate in Oakland. He is a dear friend, absolutely hilarious guy and, most importantly, brilliant behind the boards. We have a good enough rapport now where he can tell me something I am doing totally sucks and I will just laugh and change it. I don’t think I have that with anyone else.
G- What is your writing process like, and who in the band typically comes up new music? Do you have a primary songwriter, or do you write music more organically through jamming during rehearsals?
B- We really have a few ways of writing songs: sometimes the songs emerge from “jams” in the practice space. Other times I will come in with a skeleton of a song and most of the parts already written, or one of the other guys will bring a riff or drum pattern to the table and we take it from there. Lyrics always come later. Once I hear the aesthetic of a song, I figure out what it’s going to be about and start writing.
G- Can you give us a few examples of any bands or artists in particular that influence your style? Who do you typically like to listen to, and are there any acts you think we should know about?
B- I can really only speak for myself, but although I’m influenced by all sorts of rock and pop music. I think we end up sounding most like a synthesis of British 80’s synth pop like Depeche Mode, INXS and Tears for Fears and 90’s American rock bands like Sunny Day Real Estate, Nada Surf, Jawbreaker, Hey Mercedes, Far etc. I really love both genres equally and am influenced by both lyrically and musically to a very large degree.
G- Do you have a favorite song you have ever written? If you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them and why?
B- This could change if you asked me tomorrow, but I think the best song I’ve ever written is probably the last track on Directions For Daylight, which is a song called “Kids.” Musically and lyrically, it just came together about as perfectly as I could have hoped for. The song, I think, has a meaning that anybody could grab onto: It’s about looking back at the times, people, memories that have affected us and how all of those components change us as we move forward. It’s a very sentimental song, as is most of this record.
G- 4 albums every fan of you should know about and why. Go!
B- Orange Rhyming Dictionary by Jets To Brazil is the greatest record lyrically that I have ever heard. Turns of phrases like “be a believer, believe everything, you’ll be right half the time” and “swims in the pool she used to clean, our new king looks like a queen” are just are so clever and beautiful to me. Blake Schwarzenbach is probably my favorite living lyricist.
Pink Moon by Nick Drake has been an obsession of mine for a while now. Incredibly haunting, sad yet hopeful. Amazing guitar work and melodies. I am intrigued by his story as well: misanthrope, alienated, died young. He left an incredible record.
Infinite Arms by Band of Horses is probably the record that we listen to most on tour. I would say if we have a drive over 4 hours, no matter who is driving the record will be played at least once. No Joke. It’s been played hundreds of times. Ben Bridwells voice is just too good. It doesn’t even make sense to me. The whole record has this perfect blend of 90’s alternative rock with this southern country edge. It’s a really special record I think.
Another album everyone should know about is Hulk Hogan’s 1995 album Hulk Rules. This is one of the biggest train wrecks of all time yet it brings us so much fucking joy. Our label mates, I Was Totally Destroying It, brought the record to our attention and since then it has been in constant rotation. The record goes from awful rap tunes (“Beach Patrol”) to rockers (“American Made”) to sensitive power ballads like “Hulkster in Heaven.” It’s truly an experience.
I can’t believe I put this record on the same list as Nick Drake. I’m going to hell.
G- Hmmm possibly. Are there any bands or artists that you hope to share a bill with in the future?
B- Too many to name. U2? We’d play with U2. Can you guys facilitate that?
G- Yeah, actually… Bono owes me a favor or two, and The Edge is into me for $50 bucks. I’ll get you guys to open a few shows.
Sorry… I had a slight brain spasm for a moment… Anyways, what is the craziest or most memorable show that you have played to date? Where was it and what was it like?
B- We toured with Dredg and The Dear Hunter for a couple of months and got to play in some incredible rooms on that one. Granada Theatre in Dallas, House of Blues in New Orleans, Highline Ballroom in NYC. The most memorable of that tour may have been playing Emos in Austin. We opened the show at about 8 and it was still literally 97 degrees outside. The stage there is kind of half outside so by the time we were done we were ready to faint. Another memorable show was playing to a sold out crowd in San Francisco at the 2011 Noise Pop Festival with Max Bemis from Say Anything. Amazingly energetic and responsive crowd. One of my favorites.
G- Lastly, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming bands everywhere who want to make it in music, on the road, and as a professional musician?
B- I think the two most important things I’ve learned are two of the most simple: Be good at playing with your band and be good to other people. If you can play and you work hard to promote, are good kind and respectful to the people at the venue, don’t go over your set times, don’t have your fucking drummer break down his drum set on stage after your set, the venue will have you back. If you are an asshole you won’t get anywhere. Be nice. 🙂
North American Tour Dates:
6/19 – The Casbah @ Durham, NC
6/20 – 447 @ Cambridge, MD
6/21 – The Cave @ West Haven, CT
6/23 – Knitting Factory @ Brooklyn, NY
6/26 – World Café Live @ Philadelphia, PA