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Fireside Relics' creative sparks are so numerous they are releasing two new albums at once | Community Voices

 album covers
Fireside Relics

Nick Park and Aaron Davis of central Illinois band Fireside Relics stopped by the NPR Illinois studios to share their two new albums with Community Voices co-host Randy Eccles.

Randy Eccles: We are excited to have another band from the area join us, Fireside Relics. Representing the band today are Aaron Davis and Nick Park. Welcome. How's the music scene right now?

Nick Park: Oh, it's great. Springfield’s music scene is always a hotspot. A lot of great original musicians out there that bring it home.

RE: Aaron, how long have you been involved in music?

Aaron Davis: Right about the time I ended up meeting Nick, so I started going to open mics early in 2009…

NP: …before you could drink. What are you 34 Four now? So that tells you it's been, it's been a while.

RE: Fireside Relics -- how long has the band been together?

NP: We formed randomly at a Dawson open mic with Hip Bone Sam years past. Met a drummer, Ed Williamson, there. That's where the roots of the band started. I farm in that area with my family. From there, it just took off. We've changed personnel, added personnel, and evolved the sound as well.

Used to be a seven-piece band. We had keys and three-part vocals. Now it's more of a rock and roll, five-piece; two electrics, bass, drums, and two vocals.

RE: You mentioned farming. Besides living the rock and roll lifestyle, you're also helping feed us? Tell us a little bit more about your background.

NP: Yeah, I'm fourth generation on a family farm out by Buffalo/Dawson/Mechanicsburg area. Been doing that since college. I took a lot of time when I was young and traveled and in my early twenties. Used to go out west and be a ski bum in the winter and always, always come back to my roots here for harvest and planting.

RE: Not a lot of slopes around here.

NP: No. I've experienced different walks of life for sure. It's helped me in my writing style. Seeing different cultures and meeting different people. It's expanded my worldview.

RE: Aaron, how about you? Besides music, what's your background?

AD: I work in heavy industry. I've been maintenance in the trades for the past 10 years. I started out working on motorcycles. I used to race. That was my passion at first, and then gravitated towards bigger, heavier things.

RE: Lot of car music out there.

AD: Yeah. 50/50, Vol. 1 is a “driving” album.

NP:  We like music that sounds good with the scenery going by the window.

RE: As musicians, if you're lucky, you make a living off it, but almost always you have to be doing something else to pay the bills. Do you enjoy it as more of a side or is it your primary?

NP: It's definitely a side. We get our thrill out of writing. The creative process. We've never been much of a cover band. Of course, you’ve got to play the covers around here to get booked, but we've gotten pretty good at slipping in a mainly original set. Aaron and I are really the lucky ones in the band. We play with some phenomenal musicians that are trained and went to college for it.

Kristi Lecoq sings with us. Rick Snow, who's been a staple in the community forever, is the drummer -- plays with Mary Jo Curry as well. Now, Harv we call him, Jon Harvel on the bass. They, Kristi and Harv, both went to Millikin University and studied music with our producer from the first two albums, Dr. Dave Burdick. We're the two idiots that just kind of slap songs together and don't even know form. They like what we write. We're lucky enough they want to play with us.

RE: That's rock and roll.

NP:  That's what it is.

AD: Yeah. We don't know what the timing is or the signature. We both feel it. Rick and Harv will break it down like, “Oh yeah, that's it!”

RE: It's hard for bands to get an audience on all originals. How'd you figure out the right balance?

NP: We started with covers, heavily. Started slowly working in more and more (originals). Then in 2014, we made our first album going into it without having many expectations. We all fell in love with the process of it. The first one was self-titled. That was with Dave Burdick. He just retired from the Millikin University music program. Then we made another one with him and Matt Talbott, he is from the band Hum, at his studio over in Tolono, Illinois.

 Album credits
Fireside Relics
Fireside Relics - 50/50, Vol. 1 credits

That was focused on more of a live sound. Got a lot of live takes on that one. Third one, we just released. It's a two-part album. It's Vol. 1. It's the heavier rock side, and Vol. 2 is more eclectic.

We had a lot of material. It's not exactly a specific genre. Rock and roll is the genre, but there's blues roots in it, soul, funk roots in it. What's the album called? 50/50, which is the songs on the album, 16 songs we cut in half. So, two, eight song releases. Here's 50%, here's the other 50%.

 album credits
Fireside Relics
Fireside Relics - 50/50, Vol. 2 credits

RE: If somebody wants to check it out, can they find it on music services or where can they go buy it?

NP: Anywhere you stream your music. Type in Fireside Relics.

RE: When you play out, can people get vinyl or CDs?

AD: Yeah, we have CDs. If anybody buys those anymore.

RE: Vinyl is a little pricey, I understand.

NP: Yeah, it is. It's a pretty long waiting period in getting it pressed.

RE: The CDs are pretty simple, but it's hard to find a CD player anymore.

Everybody's on their phone, right?

AD: Exactly.

NP: Yeah. It's all pretty much free on the internet. Like I say, that's what the side job is for.

RE: Is Little Sister the single?

NP: Yeah, it's the single we just released. That'll be on Vol. 2.

RE: Tell us a little bit about Little Sister.

NP: I wrote it probably 2014 or 15.

It's one of those we've had hanging around. We always liked the melody of it. Kristi and I sing together. It's got a repetitive melody, vocal track to it.

RE: Do you have a little sister?

NP: I don’t. I just had a daughter and it's an optimistic song. More of an optimistic song than I usually write subconsciously.

Maybe before I had my daughter, that might have had some ties to it. It's bright and shiny, which we're usually not. We're usually heavy and diverse.

AD: Vol. 2 will be really diverse. We got our lightest songs ever on it. Some acoustic guitar accompanied by piano, going from our heaviest songs on Vol. 1 to some of our lightest on Vol. 2, expanding in each direction.

RE: Heavy is always a relative term. There's scream metal and there's rock.

NP: It's rock. We've always got a hook and have two vocalists. Having Kristi as the secret weapon you can throw in there -- everything sounds good.

RE: There's some dynamic or different pieces on Vol. 2. Are you playing with different genres beyond rock? Are there any other influences you're finding interesting to experiment with?

NP: There are some acoustic songs on it. I don’t know if I'd say folk or even country -- kind of ambient, acoustic sounding. Americana for sure. Narrative storytelling.

RE: You play mostly locally when you get out, you play in a lot of different places.

NP: Yeah, we've got a lot of shows coming up.

I farm. Planting and harvest seasons are hard for us to book anything. Try to squeeze everything into the window between June and August and then November to March. That's when we hit the majority of the scene.

RE: So, you have a tractor?

NP: Yeah. Got a, got a couple different tractors.

RE: Does it have a blasting stereo on it?

NP: They do, yeah.

RE: It was a big deal when my grandfather finally got a radio bolted onto to the fender.

NP: Yes. That's what it was when I was a kid on the Olivers.

Long, long days in the field. I'll have a melody popping in my head and I'll break my phone out and start writing a phrase of a lyric down and go home that night and get the guitar out.

RE: That's a cool influence. Aaron, when you get out to shows, what do you like about playing live?

AD: Starting out as a cover band, there's a different kind of gratification from playing a song that everybody knows. Play it well and they applaud. Playing something that you wrote, it really means something to see other people attached to it too. That's what really keeps me wanting to keep going.

RE: What of your songs do you see the best audience reaction to?

NP: One Aaron wrote, Next Time Around. We like to close with that one. It's got a big, big solo ending. He plays it the exact same every time. I don't know how he does it.

RE: That would be hard to play the same exact solo every time.

NP: He's like a robot. Think he just sits at home and plays over and over again.

AD: Like Little Sister, I improvised that in the studio, and I'll improvise it every time we play it live.

RE: What are you most fired up about on the new album?

NP: Our bass player’s song, it's called Whatever This Is. That'll be something nobody's ever heard of quite like what we've done before. He's got a very unique writing style. I'll leave it at that.

AD: My favorite song is probably going to be Turtle Dust. One Nick wrote that I'm a big fan of. It's our foray into Space Rock.

RE: When you look at the scene, what do you like about playing music here in central Illinois?

NP: The different genres. There's lots of different genres here. Being in the middle of the country, there's no set specific sound. You hear so many great bands.

The Downhome Music Festival is our favorite. Everybody always looks forward to that. Josh Catalano has put it together over the years. Patrick Miller helps him set everything up -- from the Wolf Crick Boys. They're one of my favorite bands. Greg “Lucky” Patterson, he is my neighbor.

 Festival lineup
Downhome Music Festival

AD: Our practices are crashed by each other.

RE: What's in the future, besides the new album, for Fireside relics?

NP: We're going to the studio to work on another single edit with Quincy, who we've never worked with to have something to put out on the airwaves while we have some momentum from these releases.

RE: Quincy is the producer?

NP: Yeah. Quincy Watson. Our drummer, Rick Snow, worked with him, with the Mary Jo Curry Band, and we're excited to get in there and try things out.

RE: How important do you feel a producer is in getting stuff recorded?

NP: Oh, extremely. I should mention we did this last one with Cameron Yates. Rest in peace to him. He passed away recently and working with him, we learned a lot. He just had an ear for a song and where a hook should be. When he got the right take, he would infamously say, he'd cut you off, “Again, again,” to where he knew how to bring the energy out in you and where he knew when you had that take. He was on the engineering side of it and the software side of it. He was a magician. He'll be greatly, greatly missed in this community. Already is.

RE: I appreciate all the work he was able to help different bands and musicians come up with.

Anything else we have to look forward to with Fireside Relics at this point? What's the future looking like?

NP: Playing live is what we're excited about right now, in the summertime, while the weather is nice.

RE: If anybody wants to follow the band, what's the easiest way to get more information?

AD: On Facebook and Instagram. @firesiderelics.

RE: We're talking with Nick Park and Aaron Davis of Fireside Relics.

We are looking forward to hearing more of your music.

Get to know your neighbors with Community Voices on NPR Illinois weekdays at noon and Saturdays at 5 p.m. or subscribe to the podcast. Also, listen to local music, including Fireside Relics, on The X from NPR Illinois at 91.9 HD3 or streaming from nprillinois.org.

 midshot of Nick and Aaron with Randy
Audrey Bellot
Aaron Davis, Randy Eccles, Nick Park at the NPR Illinois Studios

Randy Eccles is thrilled to be talking with community members and joining them in becoming informed citizenry. Please reach out at randy.eccles@nprillinois.org.
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