Indie music veteran Andrew Vladeck has been down this road before, so as he prepares his new band, Fireships, for the road ahead, it wouldn’t be accurate to say that he’s seen it all, but he’s seen enough.
“I brought an album to a folk format station and they said it was too rock; then I went to a rock station and they said it was too folk,” he laughs. “And I got those responses the same day, and they were both right. That was the thing that was so annoying. They were right according to their strict definition of genre and how they want to cookie cut things, but they only have so much room to introduce new music.”
That’s a blessing and a curse for the Brooklyn-based Fireships, simply because there is no ready-made cubby hole for their music, which is featured on a self-titled debut album released early this year. So while the first label placed on them is folk, this is not some guy sitting on a stool playing an acoustic guitar.
“I’ve always had that challenge when it comes to categorizing and being strictly in a genre,” Vladeck, a founder of The Honey Brothers, said. “I think the songs, at face value, seem to come out of the folk realm. Sometimes they’re narrative in their lyric focus and that kind of thing, but musically, it’s really fun to flesh them out with the full band arrangement, and that brings them toward rock. So it’s just this fuzzy problem I have with genres.”
Luckily for Vladeck and company, radio and those in the suits may have to play the genre hand, but listeners are a little more open-minded than that, and that gives a band with good songs and an eclectic sound a fighting chance.
“I think the listeners, more than anyone else, want to hear something that’s slightly different or very different,” he said. “They want to hear something that’s fresh sounding. I know these channels exist for a reason because it’s easy for radio to understand and target a market by being very specific about genre, but that is both a service and a challenge. I’m making this music because I like pulling elements that aren’t exclusive to a particular genre, and it’s all in the ballpark. It’s just a little in left field.”
Ted Williams and Rickey Henderson would agree that baseball has had plenty of great left fielders over the years, and now it’s Vladeck’s turn to take a swing for the cheap seats with Fireships. And as far as he’s concerned, he’s already hit it out of the park.
“I definitely went into this record with a vision for what I wanted to hear, which of course, is difficult,” he said. “How do you transcribe a vision into something oral and sonic? But me and Paul Loren, my friend and producer, worked really hard and we really figured out how to get on the same page and to get what we were going for. We had certain records we were listening to as references, and we knew we wanted to try and combine a lot of the sounds. So when it was done, this record was what I was going for. And I’ve been doing it long enough to not need or expect the validation that other people are going to necessarily feel we nailed it for them.”
Vladeck is likely to get it anyway. And that’s just fine with him.
“I’d be very happy for a couple of the songs to get through to a wider audience one way or another, and for that audience to ask to see us as we are scheduling tour dates, so we can play more shows to more people,” he said. “That, to me, would be very satisfying.”
Fireships play Rockwood Music Hall tonight, November 30. For more info, click here