Andrew Vladeck is a busy guy. Not only is he part of the bands Honey Brothers and Balthrop, Alabama, his latest musical endeavor, Fireships, just released their self-titled debut album. Before embarking on their upcoming spring tour, which kicks off April 25 in New York, Vladeck dishes on the new album, how he grew to love Bob Dylan, and stories behind his songs.
How did you get into music?
Andrew Vladeck: I got into music because of the “We Are the World” video. The video came out when I was a kid, and I kept making fun of one of the singers I thought was so bad it was funny. Turned out to be Bob Dylan. My parents were mortified that I didn’t know who Dylan was, and they picked up a couple of records of his at a garage sale. They were hard to listen to at first – unusual, unvarnished, direct, honest, nothing like the over-produced Top 40 crap I was surrounded by, but I was so intrigued by the sound I kept listening. It took about six months before – whammo – it clobbered me, and I got it so that those records changed my life. I went further back in time to drink from the well of American music. I learned every song off those first two Dylan records and can play them to this day. All because of that corny, but amazing, phenomenon of a video.
What’s the new single “Countdown Time” about?
AV: This is one of the most personal songs on the record and one of my favorites. I’m constantly reckoning with childhood dreams and contending with adult realities. It’s a thinly-veiled metaphor about an astronaut but it might as well be about anything anyone dreams about. I wrote it with my friend Adam Levy.
Can you tell me a bit about the new album?
AV: Almost all the songs became about the same thing: becoming. Yearning. Growing. Reckoning. I was quitting an irrelevant job and that was both liberating and scary, and I was drifting in the ether for a while. The ether is where songs come from. The songs were sparked from just about anything, everything was flammable, they started as one thing and became another. Some were germinated from articles, some from books (thanks to Bushwick Book Club), from friends who I collaborate with (such as Adam, Sydney Wayser, Dave Doobinin, and my old bandmates from The Honey Brothers).
Sonically, this record started with creating the guitar sound I wanted first. I wanted something other than stumming away – I wanted something fuller, [sic] vibey, evocative. Playing with traditional finger-picking styles and open tunings, working off the folk and blues stylings of Blind Willie McTell, Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi John Hurt and Fred McDowell. I love the way they echo the melody in their guitar playing and use alternate tunings to create a mood.
You’re part of other musical projects, so what inspired you to start up Fireships?
AV: Fireships kind of started without me, in that I observed what was happening and turned it into a conscious effort. I got on board for the journey. My life had been changing in some important ways, with everything called in to question and nothing in life to really anchor to. I was seeking spiritual solace in some of my favorite music, mentioned above, and the songs draw from that thematically and musically.
You’re also a member of the Honey Brothers and Balthrop, Alabama. How do you manage so many bands? Is it hard to keep up?
AV: At times it’s difficult, but it’s a good difficult, in a too-much-good-stuff kind of way. Generally my involvement in my other bands operates in a cyclical way with less overlap. Nowadays priority is Fireships, it’s the mothership for me creatively, and I’ve got all hands on deck. But I love playing and collaborating with so many awesomely talented people, I learn so much from them, I’m challenged by them, and inspired by them.
You’ll be hitting the road pretty soon. How do you guys prepare yourselves for spending so much time out on the road?
AV: Lots and lots of pizza. It’s been fun playing with the set and figuring out ways to make it a show, an experience, to have fun with it, to keep parts of it open to improvisation and make each night special for us, to stay in the moment.
Which song from the new album can you not wait to share with fans and why?
AV: That’s a tough one! I can’t wait to share that song that is right for that person at that moment. I can’t wait to share “Going Down Fighting” with the person who, like me, is looking to muster the courage to tenaciously pursue their dreams. I can’t wait to share “Fantasy” with the listener who is also laughing at how absurd our culture has become. I can’t wait to share “Countdown Time” with someone who attempting, like me, to make one giant leap forward while reckoning with earthly gravity. “Gush” with a friend who has a new crush.
Fireships will be in Chicago May 21st at Uncommon Ground on Devon. The band is currently working on new videos for “Long Shadow” and “Gush.” The video for “Countdown Time” can be watched here. Their self-titled debut album was released yesterday (April 21) via End Up Records. To grab your copy, visit their website.
Fireships Spring Tour Dates:
April 25 – Rough Trade – Brooklyn, NY (free, all-ages record release event)
May 2 – North Star Bar – Philadelphia, PA
May 14 – Tree House Lounge – Washington, DC
May 15 – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
May 17 – Bywater Brewery – Asheville, NC
May 18 – Smith’s Olde Bar – Atlanta, GA
May 19 – Fig Leaf – Huntsville, AL
May 21 – Uncommon Ground – Chicago, IL
May 23 – Melody Inn – Indianapolis, IN
May 24 – TBD – Louisville, KY
May 25 – MOTR – Cincinnati, OH
May 26 – Kafe Kerouac – Columbus, OH
May 27 – Mahall’s 20 – Cleveland, OH
May 28 – TBD – Akron, OH
June 6 – Toad – Cambridge, MA
June 9 – Cafe Nine – New Haven