Smile Politely

Backyard Tire Fire Get Their Ya-Ya’s Out (And Release an Album) Tonight

Backyard Tire Fire has long been known as a rowdy, shit-kicking alt-country band. Their new album, The Places We Lived, is a soulful departure from their previous work, and one that lead singer Ed Anderson feels he must defend. “We’re capable of being a loud, abrasive rock band, but there’s more to the band than just that,” Anderson observed. “I think we represented that well [on the new album]. Some people who know us through our hell-raising live shows are trying to make sense of it. Nobody wants to make the same record twice. You should let people do what they do and not analyze the shit out of it.”

Ready to hit the road for an extended tour after a summer playing festival dates, Backyard Tire Fire will play the first of several record release shows around the Midwest tonight at the Highdive. Doors open at 9 p.m. with Golden Quality and Tractor Kings opening, and admission is $7 for the 19 and over show.

The Bloomington, Ill.-based band recently added this date to the tour, which means that they’ll debut the new album here before returning to Bloomington for shows Friday and Saturday night at Paulie’s. “We played at the Highdive with Reverend Horton Heat a couple of months ago, and it was a really good time,” Anderson explained. “It’s our first show with our new record, so hopefully there will be a good crowd. It’s a hip room.”

The album will be officially released next Tuesday, August 26, but you can most likely get a copy tonight, if Tuesday’s too long to wait. “We’ll probably be selling them at the show,” Anderson said. “We have them, so I don’t see how they’re going to stop us from selling them.”

Backyard Tire Fire is touring as a four-piece after several years as a trio. The band, which consists of Ed Anderson on vocals and guitar, younger brother Matt Anderson on bass, Tim Kramp on drums, and new guitarist Fisch Carpenter, is more flexible as a quartet, according to Ed Anderson. “It’s fun to play with a four-piece, and it’s nice to have a second guitar,” he said. We’ve always adapted our recordings to play them live, and it’s been mind-blowing to play them how we recorded them. I liked playing in a trio, but this is the lineup that we’re taking out on this run and beyond.”

Anderson is clearly proud of the results with the new lineup, which are much more eclectic than their previous catalog. “There are songs like ‘Welcome to the Factory’ that are gritty and rocking, then there are some songs with tender piano, and some straight-up pop stuff,” he said. “Hopefully, we made something that’s acceptable to all. The songs were written over several months, and there was no concerted effort to make something completely different. There were a lot of late nights put in. It took a month, 30 nights of really shitty sleep in a row.”

The variety of the new album is something that Anderson is proud of, and something the band will carry over into their live shows. “Our live shows are evolving. We’re playing every song off the new album, and we probably will every night,” he promised. “It’s good to feel like there’s time to take a breath, sit at the piano and play a waltz. “How the Hell [Did You Get Back Here,” the album’s driving first single] is butted up with the slowest song. “Rainy Day” is a waltz with piano and strings, up and down like a roller coaster. All my favorite shows are like that.”

Anderson is fired up about the fact that Hyena Records is simultaneously releasing The Places We Lived on vinyl. “We’ll hopefully have the vinyl with us as well; it’s supposed to be here any day now. I love that kind of thing, it’s exciting. I’m glad they were cool enough to give us the green light on the vinyl. Most people just download songs now, so I don’t think there are too many CD’s bought. It’s nice to drop the needle on some vinyl also.”

Backyard Tire Fire began in Asheville, N.C., before making a brief relocation to Athens, Ga., and finally settling in Bloomington, near where the Andersons grew up. “I decided to go back to the Midwest where I had more contacts and it was easier to get gigs,” Anderson remembered. “My younger brother joined then, five years ago in 2003. That’s when I consider when we really started the band, and we jelled well.”

One of the things that’s striking about Anderson is his desire to remain true to himself and his audience. “I’m making a living, even though it’s a meager one, doing what I like,” he stressed. “I haven’t had health insurance for a decade, but fuck it. I’ve been doing this for 12 years, doing 150-200 shows per year. It’s what feels right. I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

That authenticity extends to the recording studio. “We recorded it all on analog,” he said of the new album, “we don’t cut and paste. We record things in a room, and the idea is to get a good take. There’s a lot of thought, time, blood, sweat and tears that go into it.” That kind of craftsmanship is a rare and valuable part of what Backyard Tire Fire is all about. The waiting is over, and it’s time for them to show their longtime supporters that their newfound sonic versatility is an asset. “Summer has been rehearsing, not playing that much, just select festivals, and we’ve been doing a lot of waiting and talking. We’re ready to get the fuck out and start playing.” Get ready to see Backyard Tire Fire let out some of that frustration on stage tonight.

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