Editor's note: Throughout the summer, Sentinel reporter Dusty W. Sipes will write a weekly feature on local artists who perform various genres of music. This week's feature reviews the sounds and inspirations of Lewistown band Fireskippers.
The band Fireskippers is not interested in what's in style or temporary. Sam Price, lead vocalist and songwriter, says the group's favorite music is outside of time.
Every musician dreads the age-old question, "How would you describe your sound?" To nonmusicians, this seems like a rudimentary question, but to an artist it is almost insulting. To take one's craft and simply apply a generic label such as pop, rock or rap seems to take a bit of the magic out of it.
Photo submitted by SAM PRICE
From left, Kristen Price, Sam Price and Tim Pollock appear in a promotional photo for their band, Fireskippers.
"I have a tough time describing our sound so it's easier to go with things other people have said. It might be a kind of folk music with a big bite. I guess we're probably a love-or-hate-them type of group and will naturally alienate some people by doing what we love. We wouldn't have it any other way. Why spend the time if you aren't going to go the whole way?" Price said.
Fireskippers consists of: vocals and guitar by Sam Price; bass, harmonica, trumpet, keyboards and a plethora of other instruments provided by Tim Pollock; and drums, percussion and viola by Kristen Price.
Sam and Kristin are married, and Sam's friendship with Pollock dates back a number of years.
"We've been friends since we were small and have been through a lot of music together. When we were in middle school, Tim was into classical music and I was into stuff like Pixies, Nirvana and The Clash - anything my brother and sister brought back from college. As teenagers, we got into my parents' old crate of records and really made some discoveries: 'Sgt. Pepper,' 'Highway 61 Revisited,' 'Best of the Clancy Brothers' and a lot more," Sam said.
Little did Sam know, Kristen was making the same kind of musical and intellectual discoveries of her own before the menage met each other.
Getting an opportunity that musicians rarely experience, one of the early groups Sam and Pollock formed had the opportunity to open for one of their idols, Violent Femmes.
Long before the inception of Fireskippers, Sam and Pollock performed in a series of bands, each one more evolved than the prior, and integrated a series of new sounds, instrumentation and influence.
Serving as chief songwriter, Sam credits Kristen and Pollock with having the proclivity to notice and accentuate his craftsmanship. The art of composing is not exclusive to the creation of something entirely new to visionaries, but rather metastasizing concepts of tradition, pastoral, caprice and the absurd.
"I read somewhere what Hoagy Carmichael said about writing the song 'Stardust.' He said, 'And then it happened - that queer sensation that this melody was bigger than me. Maybe I hadn't written it all. The recollection of how, when and where it all happened became vague as the lingering strains hung in the rafters of the studio. I wanted to shout back at it, "Maybe I didn't write you but I found you."' Once I've found something, Tim and Kristen flesh it out and complete it with their contributions. They are always coming up with great parts that take the song where it needs to go. Places a lot of people would show off to the detriment of the song - they make the right move," Sam said.
Most recently, Fireskippers modern influences can easily be described as intellectual, historical, cultural or scholarly. Son House, Willie Brown, Blind Willie McTell, Mississippi Sheiks, Memphis Minnie, call and response from preachers and congregations, songs and ballads of the Bituminous Miners, railroad songs, sea songs and shanties, spirituals and work songs have haunted the speakers of Fireskippers members, calling forth the ghosts of the past. The music borrows echoes of tombstones long forgotten and tells lore of the abyss; memories and people forgotten for more than a hundred years and stories that were once told in a saloon, port or homestead are resurrected through Fireskippers music.
Like many folk artists, influence on songwriting can be pulled both from the tangible and the intangible.
"Anything can influence a song. Staying at a hotel in Pittsburgh recently opened up a new song. You never know, but you have to be ready," Sam said.
The band has independently recorded two tracks, "Rush Delivery" and "Little Alpha," for their yet-untitled debut album and plan to work with local electronics wizard Steve Dillon in July on more tracks.
Summer tour dates for Fireskippers can be found on Facebook and their single "Rush Delivery" can be purchased on Amazon and iTunes. The band will also send an mp3, free of charge, via email.
Fireskippers can be contacted at email@example.com.
Dusty W. Sipes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org