Alex Figgis met up with FIRE FLY, the rock experimentalists playing this year's CR Fest.
Musical trends don't so much come and go as evolve. It would be true to say that genre classifications are poor, at best, in describing particular styles where so often words constrain rather than liberate the imagination. It is apparent that there has always been a remnant of artists who live for innovation, paving the way for like minded peers striving to push back the well established boundaries which have been unwittingly erected by genre stereotyping. Such innovation has helped realise an exciting and vibrant musical culture which, although made up of an array of differing styles, stands united in purpose; to continually seek new and imaginative ways in which to express themselves. The resulting cosmopolitan musical culture has given rise to such diverse hybrids over the past few decades as ska, acid jazz, 'progressive' rock, rap-core and industrial to name but a few.
In recent months, a new name has appeared within the sparse ranks of musical innovators. From out of the dust of Seventh Angel and Detritus, Fire Fly emerge brandishing a peculiar brand of molten metal, the likes of which have never been heard before. "We like to think of it as a bhangra, Mozart, ska, house music mix," explains drummer Adam Gallagher. "It's kind of developed through all of us", continues bassist Mark Broomhead (ex-Detritus). "Simon (Bibby) and I were in thrash metal bands before we did this, so there's that heavy influence. Scott and Adam come from very different musical backgrounds, and it's all come together as a bit of a casserole."
Gastronomic imagery aside, there is enough evidence found within the band's EP debut 'Swings And Roundabouts' to suggest a distinctively modern progressive edge to Fire Fly's novel sound, such as the eclectic mood and tone of "Angry Again". Whilst not riddled with complex passages of obscure time changes and peculiar rhythm patterns which one usually associates with progressive rock bands of yore, the music evidently goes part way in carrying the essence of what is being communicated. "Music is dictated by the lyrics to a large degree," states vocalist and guitarist Simon (ex-Seventh Angel). "The lyrics come first and then, in order to capture the emotion, to get across what is being said in the lyrics, we use the music to do that. If that's what progressive is, then yeah, we're progressive." Far from being self indulgent, the musical score works in conjunction with what is being said. "It's just the collection of our four ways of thinking," interjects Adam. "The music is directly, I think, from something that we feel. It's not just technical. We all like depth and complexity...it's in the four instruments and the words and the arrangements." "It's trying to create something that's beautiful," concludes Simon, "and if it's beautiful in the sight of God, then that's fantastic."
It is good to acknowledge creativity as a divine gift to be used wisely. Instead of drawing attention to self, surely it should be used by God's people as a means to an end; drawing attention away from that which is created and onto the Creator. But what of Fire Fly? "Our stance on that has changed radically over the last few months," admits Simon. "Probably a few months ago we'd have said we're just a band of Christians. But now I'd say we're first and foremost...," he stops and thinks of a simple way to explain what he means, before emphatically stating, "It's all about Jesus, really." The source of such a radical change in focus? Spending a weekend with Real Missions in the Mega Center, Sheffield. "We just did a couple of events," Mark reflects. "There was drum and bass going on, some deejaying and dancers, and there was a worship leader there. It was all mixed in together and done in the heart of worship. It's just so powerful when it's honest and real."
Far from presenting platitudes and portraying an unrealistic worldview, Fire Fly's intentions are to be purveyors of truth in a world void of absolutes; where society as a whole is now suffering as a result of embracing post-modernism, and the dangerous idea that absolute truth is a myth. Simon comments upon the band's realism, "Our lyrics focus on some of the more serious sides; more the hurt and the frailty of who we are as human beings. Hopefully we create an atmosphere where people can feel comfortable. It's OK to be like we are. We're frail, we're naked, we're poor in front of God. But still our worship is such a beautiful thing before God; and we don't have to pretend to be anything so special. But in our frailty we can just come before God and say, 'Here I am. Take me.'"
Being self-aware, writing from their own experiences of wrestling with their humanity, enables Fire Fly to relate to and empathise with those willing to accept the fact that life is painful; that there is hope and meaning to life, in spite of the depravity of human nature. "It depends on how willing people are to take their masks off," reflects Simon. "We just try to wear one as little as possible." Although he admits that it is difficult to be congruent, he is acutely aware of the need we all have. "We all feel a definite leaning towards trying to be a voice for people who do feel down trodden and sitting in the corner in a fearful position; who don't feel they belong; who feel like they're misfits. I think that these people can be left out and just be forgotten. So that's a definite area that I feel we have something to say and something to tell them; that, 'Hey-up! Jesus thinks you're the best thing.'"
After some 12 months of being together, with already plenty of gigs under their belt and a critically acclaimed EP to their credit, Mark is level headed about Fire Fly's future, "On a practical level, at the moment we're just trying to write challenging songs, challenging musically and lyrically; and as they come together there'll come a natural point where an album is feasible and right to do."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.