By: JoAnn Snavely
It’s award season!! With big name award shows like The Grammys and The Brits having happened over the last couple of weeks, brand new musicians like Wet Leg and Omar Opallo have been sweeping award shows. I’m going to be introducing some musicians who may be sweeping award shows in the near future. This week in a brand-new, revived edition of “Spotlight on Rising Stars” I will be introducing the Herald and its readers to two new bands: The Backfires and Sorry Snowman.
Last week, I settled in to do my first-ever zoom interview. In the past, I addressed this series fearfully and did all prior interviews over direct message and email. This time around, I knew I needed to face my fears and do some in-person interviews (well, as close as I could get to in-person interviews). The Backfires were the first band I had the pleasure of interviewing this way, and they couldn’t have been a better choice.
The four-piece band is made up of frontman Alex Gomez, guitarist Harry Ruprecht, drummer Max Wanduragala, and bassist Matt Walter. The thing about that makes this band unique is that they spread across two continents. Bandmates Harry and Max were based in London while Matt and Alex were NYC-based
The name The Backfires actually has a rather unique background to it as well. In the band’s inception, they began with the name “Qualia Noir,” which not only is moody and philosophical by nature, but also proved to be rather difficult to pronounce. They found their friends and fans struggling with the band’s name, and one day in the studio realized how poorly the name idea “backfired”; thus, the band name “The Backfires” was born.
So, how would a band with bandmates living on different continents form? It all happened when Alex met Harry and Max when studying abroad in London. They teamed up with Matt a bit later in 2019 prior to recording their debut EP. The band would remain separated throughout COVID-19, and only recently did Max and Harry move to NYC to pursue the band full-time.
They compared the difficulties of being separated as a band to being in a long-distance relationship– it just wasn’t the same. I mean, it has to be difficult working off a 5-hour time difference. They truly didn’t feel like a band, often it was just very disconnected. Alex described their creative process with creating music: “a lot of the writing was predominantly just Harry and I hopping on a Facetime call and just writing songs and then I think that like being in-person is a lot easier to work out ideas with like Max, right because you know the 3 of us can all be in the same place and be playing all the different instruments at the same time…you can’t really play drums on zoom”, Harry further explained by saying “You can like feed off each others ideas.” There were still a lot of positives to the process with COVID, they didn’t have to be in the same place and it worked while they were still in school.
Now, the band is reunited in NYC but let’s go back a bit further in time. Each musician had their own personal journeys with music before they joined the band.
For Harry, his journey began simply; by listening to CD’s with his family. Some of those earliest CD’s being by bands like The Killers, Arctic Monkeys (classics), Metallica, and most notably the Darkness’s debut album Permission to Land. Max’s journey began differently, he grew up constantly surrounded by music. There were instruments everywhere, whether it be the piano or other instruments, they were being played, and if not, music was on the record played. Genres ranging from classical to pop, he grew up surrounded by it in a home that did nothing but nurture his love for music. Max relished this anecdote, “I just remember coming downstairs in the morning to like cooking or like my dad would be doing something and there was always some sort of music on the record player.” For Alex, his journey notably began similarly to Max–by listening with his family. He mentioned one of the more nostalgic music sources, listening to Christmas music during the holidays. The memory of hearing his favorite Christmas carol or Beatles song while his mom made cookies seemed to not only narrate nostalgia but also spark the musical road he’s trekking now.
These wildly unique and differing journeys reflect really well into their musical influences. For Harry, he quotes Oasis as an influence for “their ambition to write the best songs possible and be the biggest band.. “I think that’s very influential for what I want to get from music.” Stylistically, he mentioned guitarists like Johnny Bond from Catfish and the Bottlemen and Johnny Marr from the Smiths. Max explained his influences by saying“I love the Stone Roses, I love the Smiths. A lot of those old English bands… A lot of them did things very differently and were sort of ground-breaking at the time”. Some additional musical influences were Joy Division and Mitch Mitchell from the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he is influenced by a musician’s ability to approach music differently. Alex continued the theme by noting even more iconic bands like The Cure; “they’ve had a lot of darker music, but when they are happy, they do happy really really well.” Alex admires the duality to have produced some of the greatest pop-songs of all time yet produce albums like Dissenegration. Other songwriting influences are Robert Smith, Oasis, and Catfish and the Bottlemen, which he admires for their abilities to produce fun music that is easy to sing along to.
Since their reunion in 2019, they have released a handful of singles and their EP Consider the Backfired. Back in November, they released the single “Reflections On My TV.” The single about a lingering breakup carried a bit more meaning other than to tell the tale of a harrowing breakup. For the band, it landmarked the closing of a chapter. Since its release, they have moved on to bigger and better things. “It was the last song we’d written and recorded before we were all in the same place.” In this song’s initial creation, they found themselves across the world from each other, this made the song rather difficult to perfect, leading them to have to re-record and readjust their sound many times. Our approach to music has definitely changed since we finished recording that. We’ve learned what we’re doing now… we know what we’re doing. We know what we want and (now) we’re trying to pursue a specific goal. Whereas I think before that let’s just give them the best thing we have. We were very studio first and let’s just try to recreate it second live.” They spoke heavily on their transition from focussing on studio production versus live recreation. After much trial and error the band realized their music wasn’t hitting as hardlive. They switched their focus from studio first, live second to creating a live song FIRST and replicating it as closely as possible in studio recordings. In doing this, they find they have grown in their sound and grown to focus less on synth and more on instrumentation.
There is such a large focus on live performance for the band because of what they want to produce. The band had a huge focus on live shows and giving people an alternative outlet to have fun. Living in such a large city as NYC, it can be hard to find something fun to do other than clubbing and seeing DJ’s. They want to become the live rock band they yearned for.
Their love for being live has been taken out of NYC recently. The band has had the opportunity to open for iconic bands like The Criticals (interviews from them coming soon possibly!) and the Courteneers. For Max and Harry, being able to play with a band like the Courteneers– an uber iconic English band– they were essentially playing with one of their favorite bands. Max explained that “It was quite a surreal moment because.. they were the last show I went to see in England before I came over here… and then next thing I know we got on their tour. And we were playing in front of a lot of English fans as well which was new.. which was really nice especially for me and Harry.”
Not only have they been opening iconic bands, they have headlined a few shows of their own. Recently they headlined the Bowery Ballroom which is an iconic NYC venue. One where many of the most iconic musicians OF ALL TIME have played in (Lana Del Rey, The Killers, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and so many more).
Another most memorable moment from the band’s live experience was selling out a show in London. Harry explained that experience by saying “We’ve been here over a year sort of touring around the East Coast and then we went 3,000 miles away and managed to sell out a show in London as well.”
Aside from live re-creation (because obviously, their music isn’t exclusively heard live) they simply want to create music to invoke happiness. They are working to create music people can relate to, because as important as playing live may be, it is so important to create relatable music in order to develop a fan base.
The band has taken to social media to help develop and grow its fanbase, but in doing so, they have also found the struggles to maintain the balance between the two. Max explained that balance, he stated “you have to split your time quite well nowadays… I think you hear a lot of bands, they have to work other jobs until very late into their music careers because there’s so much competition in the music industry. It’s incredibly hard to sort of differentiate yourself because you sort of have to work across the board- your music has to be great but also your social media has to be great… you have to have a storyline, you have to have something to get interest outside of the music.” They still endure a handful of obstacles in doing this. You have to always get yourself out there and “do it all the time, as much as you possibly can.” Nowadays, everyone seems to want to make it big, “it’s not just writing and playing music really well… it’s like maybe half that. With there being so little money to be made in social media platforms like Spotify and TikTok, it seems to be a trade-off when it comes to making it big!”Although they experienced these obstacles, it hasn’t stopped them from continuing their journey. This past Tuesday, they released their latest single “Joyride.” My interview obviously occurred a bit before the single’s release, but I would 100% recommend checking it out. I won’t tease much about the single since it has already been released but I will elaborate on the journey about it. They wrote this single about the city that brought the band together–NYC. Since writing the song, it’s been their closer and it’s been so much fun watching fans learn lyrics and the reactions to the song. Most of their released music prior to “Joyride” was written during 2018/2019 while they were in college. Now, they feel more removed from the music they created prior and this song seems to bring them back to the art. The band explained the songs as the “1st time we really nailed a live recreation, I think it’s the best thing we’ve done so far. We’re only gonna try and top it.”
Listen to “Joyride”, out now!
THERE WILL BE A PT.2 TO THIS ARTICLE FEATURING AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BAND SORRY SNOWMAN
Spotlight on Rising Stars Series: an Author’s Note
This is the fifth edition in the “Spotlight on Rising Stars” series. In the last article in the series, I introduced the herald to Aberdeen is Dead, Kevin Ehrenstrom and Oceanic. Next week, I will have interviews with fanclubwallet and Housing Co., until next time, listen to my interview with Sorry Snowman and check out the bands’ links and the link to my ‘Spotlight on Rising Stars’ playlist available on Spotify that is updated with each article release!
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