Unless you're on death row, TODAY is the first day of the rest of your life. Everything starts TODAY my friends. That's because TODAY (well, the day i'm writing this) happens to be Friday 6th April, which - in addition to being the first day of the new tax year (#excitement) - is the first day you can listen to the brand new dreamy LP The Year Dot by our non-identical London quintuplets, Firestations.
It's true. All ten of the album's tracks have been released into the cosmos. We've lovingly pressed them across two sides of translucent-blue vinyl, which you can purchase from the Lost Map webshop ... or from the band themselves. They are playing an album launch show TOMORROW, Sat 7th April, at Paper Dress Vintage in Hackney. Details: HERE.
Firestations are Mike, Laura, Martin, Giles and Tom - five friendly folks who create lyrical alt-pop songs filtered through joyous surges of collective noise-making and bursts of electronic sound from synths and guitars. On The Year Dot, they have refined and expanded on a shared obsession – sketching simple pop songs then painting over them with drones, vocal harmonies, electronica and unusual rhythms. The album is a true DIY effort, made over the best part of three years in Mike's small home studio in Walthamstow, the north circular hissing in the near distance.
"With dreamy, clean guitars, celestial percussion and hazy melodies, Firestations present that sense of worldly vulnerability in synth-driven glimpses of the sublime. At times bittersweet, laced with languorous passages while elsewhere charged with energy, the record feels both collective and personal, a statement of lost time and contemporary urgency." ★★★★ THE LIST MAGAZINE, APRIL 2018
HAVE A LISTEN TO THE YEAR DOT
Here's front-man Mike with some words on each track from the album. You can click on the BandCamp player and listen while you read, what a time to be alive!
THE YEAR DOT
1. BUILD A BUILDING
This song was what happened when I set out to write a catchy number. The verses were resurrected from a demo I made a few years back and the chorus and outro added (seamlessly, I like to think) at a later date. It's inspired by the routine frustration and daily grind of city life, and how I often fall into traps of my own making, but still feel powerless to escape – then it kind of segues into a bit of a rant about why you shouldn't listen to powerful people offering easy solutions to complex problems. In other words – “a catchy number”.
2. MAKE YOUR OWN MIND UP
MYOMU is really me telling myself to be less judgemental, even though the accusatory tone is directed towards the listener. The lyrics are intended to be a defence of a person who is a loyal friend, but also has a dark side and has done bad things in the past. Life can be tough, and independent thinking beyond media spin, societal pressure, expectation, party politics etc. can be really hard. On a different note, I reckon the outro might be the most fun thing on the whole album. Also, it’s in 13/8 – the best time signature for unexpected dance moves.
“You are the receiver, you get the message”. This begins as a song about feeling adrift and forgotten, that you're not getting yourself across to anyone and sort of operating under the surface. Then the chorus comes along, followed by a rare (for us) cathartic guitar solo, and it's more about the joy of finding someone who understands you and just knowing that they're in the world making everything bearable somehow. You send out a signal and hope that it reaches someone - it’s our dystopian sci-fi electro-pop love song.
4. OLD LETTERS
This one came into being while I was working at a rubbish job, with a boss who thought that he was great and that I was shit. It wasn't just about my work (although admittedly I was pretty lazy), but my entire world-view. I stayed there far too long and felt like he was draining my very life-force – hence the chorus “They made you disappear”. Eventually I did disappear, but thankfully from that job and not from the world.
There were some Japanese soldiers in the seventies known as holdouts who believed that the Second World War was still underway. One of them, Hiroo Onoda, was stationed on a small island called Lubang in the Phillipines and up until 1974 he awaited an American invasion. He lived off the land, stealing cattle and occasionally killing policemen who came too close. I got fascinated by the kind of motivation it must have taken to keep this up for 29 years. Musically speaking, this track has the sweetest (and only) slide guitar solo on the album.
6. BLUE MARBLE
Carl Sagan (American astronomer) gave an amazing speech where he reflected on a photo taken from the Voyager 1 spacecraft as it left the solar system. It showed the Earth as a pale blue dot suspended in a sunbeam. He said: “Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark... That's here. That's home. That's us. On it, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever lived, lived out their lives... To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known”. Pretty cosmic stuff. I've been known to go all misty eyed when thinking about it, and so I wrote a song about the joys of insignificance.
7. FAR FUTURE MORNING
I'm obsessed with the blog Wait But Why and there is this great article on there exploring why some people think freezing yourself (cryonic freezing) after you die is a great idea. Blend that article with the Queen song Who Wants To Live Forever, throw in a few episodes of Futurama and hey presto you get this number. Plus it has flugelhorn.
8. PYRAMID SCHEMES
I like the idea of a pyramid scheme as a metaphor for inequality where the small section of people at the top get the most and then people lower down get progressively more ripped off. It's a bit political this one – rallying against the persistent idea that somehow rich people deserve to be rich and poor people deserve to be poor. Alternatively: Thomas Piketty's ideas plus the Basic Income Movement are pretty cool, innit.
9. FROM HERE
The resurgence of right-wing ideas around nationality and belonging is disturbing, especially as fuel for Islamophobia and a reaction to recent refugee crises where people are in desperate need. Also, London, with its extreme wealth, can sometimes just seem like it's fully taking the piss. Man, this must be the political section of the album...
10. LIGHTNING STRIKE
Victims of lightning strikes sometimes get left with a kind of tattoo called a Lichtenburg Figure. I watched a documentary about it at the same as worrying about the state of politics – at the time I wrote it Trump had just got in, and that, along with Brexit and Marine Le Pen in France just made it seem that everything was changing for the worse, that there was a storm arriving. I decided I’d try to write an upbeat track about the rise of fascism. And that’s your lot!