Interview with Fire Retarded
First and foremost: Why Fire Retarded?
Tyler Fassnacht: That’s an interesting story. I think it was last summer, over a year ago—I was going to Alex’s house cause we wanted to start playing music together and he was reading news on his iPhone. I walked up to his steps and he called from down the street, “What do you think of the name Fire Retarded?” And I was like, “Fire Retarded? That’s a terrible name” [laughs]. And he said, “No, man, Fire Retardant, with a t!” and I was like “no, that’s dumb too.” But then we were hanging out a while later, a few hours went by and, just—I was like, “Wait… Fire Retarded, yeah!” We wanna play dumb punk music, we gotta have a dumb name.
Alex Ross: But then we looked in the Websters [Dictionary], and it was in the Websters as something that is covered in fire retardant, and that’s our defense!
So you guys are now one year old, and you’ve now added Bobby [Hussy] from The Hussy to your lineup. So, question—what’s it like having Bobby around?
Alex: That son of a bitch! He’s terrible.
Tyler: It’s good!
Alex: No, Bobby’s awesome, he’s helped us out a lot. He’s definitely added a lot of sounds and he makes us look at our music differently by adding new guitar parts and new subtle riffs that really add to, especially recordings.
Tyler: And experience. He really cracks the whip on us. He makes us practice more, wants us to sound better than we do, even though—
Alex: We suck
Bobby Hussy: I don’t beat them! I’m not like Michael Jackson’s dad. It’s a metaphorical whip! Mental torture. Stronger than physical pain.
So what’s changed in the year since the band’s started?
Alex: We got a lot better.
Tyler: Yeah, we played our first show last October in Kenosha, Wis. It was a good—I mean, it was fine. We played super sloppy. At first we just wanted to be a really loud, noisy garage punk band. Basically just a Coachwhips. And that’s what we started as, but we kept playing and our songs started developing more structure and started being actual songs and not just blasts of noise.
Alex: And it got a lot better once we started, you know, practicing a lot. The thing is, I only ever played drums when we had practice, so I could only practice every once in a while. So the more and more we practiced and the more and more shows we played the better I was getting at drums until the point where I actually knew the songs from memory and could just throw them down.
Tyler: We just take it more seriously now.
Alex: Definitely. I would say that’s the biggest difference, we take it way more seriously.
So you guys are going on a national tour soon—are you excited for that?
Tyler: we’re very excited. This is going to be, well, technically tour number three. We went on a little mini tour last march. It was like four or five days.
Alex: It was the tour of Indiana [laughs]. We played one day in Chicago and then three days in Indiana, and it was like… okay, we’re in Indiana.
Tyler: We’re really excited to go South in January. We went to the East Coast in August, which was really good. We had a lot of fun, the shows were good, the people were very receptive. So, hopefully now that we have our physical 7” [“High Horse” single] to promote it’ll be even better. We’re hoping to play better shows, better crowds and… yeah, we’re real excited.
How does playing in Madison differ from playing in other cities across the country?
Alex: Best city. Best city. People actually give a shit about shows, people actually come out. It’s better than everywhere.
Tyler: There’s a really good music scene, and stemming from that there’s a really good audience for music.
Alex: People actually want to see music here and want to see their friend’s bands succeed. Whereas a lot of other cities we played were just sort of halfassed shows that weren’t well attended. Other cities were cool and had things to offer, but Madison’s just the best for shows.
Bobby: Yeah, I’ve been everywhere and Madison has a really strong—
Alex: We’re about to have a killer attic show on a Wednesday night. That’s what means the most.
Bobby: Yeah, it’s gonna be a good show tonight.
Speaking of your 7”, can you talk about that a little bit?
Tyler: Yeah, so, “High Horse” was the first song that Fire Retarded ever started playing and working with. It’s one of the first songs I ever wrote for the band. We played it and immediately Bobby identified it as the first single.
Bobby: I really like it, it’s a really good song. It’s not my song so I can say that.
Tyler: It’s just really strong. It has an identifiable intro with the drum part. And then last winter Bobby came into our—well, we went to his practice space, and he recorded it all and did the mixing.
Alex: We did, what, eight tracks that day?
Tyler: Yeah, we put three on the 7”
So you have five floating around for future use then?
Bobby: They’re not finished, kinda like we knew—we got the record deal—
Alex: And we also wanted demos of the songs.
Bobby: Yeah, we got them down and we’re maybe not going to release them. We knew what the songs for the 7” were and we had a deadline, so to make that you just finish the songs you need. I’ve been doing it forever with The Hussy, it’s just sort of like, “okay, these songs we need to finish now,” so you finish them now.
Tyler: A couple of the songs are going to be on our full length. One of them’s going to be on another 7” we’re going to do with another label.
And you’re signed to Glory Hole now, right?
Tyler: They agreed to just put out the 7”. We’re going with a different label for our full length.
And that full length is in the works right now?
Tyler: Yeah, it’s all written right now. We’re probably going to start recording it sometime in November or December, the next month or two.
Bobby: We finally got a tape machine.
And you’re going to stick to the punk garage sound for that?
Bobby: Absolutely [laughs].
Tyler: Yeah, some of the songs are more dynamic, but, definitely, it falls under the same genre.
Bobby: We’re going to wait till the second LP to change it up.
Could you guys talk about your influences? But the influences that people would least expect.
Tyler: I’ll go first. I would say Fiona Apple. Her songwriting is incredible, and the level of honesty she achieves in her songwriting is something that I’d someday like to do in such a convincing and non cliched way.
Bobby: I’ll say, well, let’s just continue this female trend. I’ll say Cat Power. Cat Power’s You Are Free is probably one of the best records of the last twenty years. And then Dave Grohl drums on it, so that’s still referencing past great bands. But she writes great songs too. And both [her and Apple] can’t handle playing live apparently, both have mental breakdowns [laughs].
Erick Fruehling: Probably shitty radio rock. I grew up on that. Like, the station that comes to mind is 94.1 WJJO.
Alex: Me and Eric have been friends for a long time, and there have been times where I’ve been like, “dude, I am not coming to a Dying Fetus show with you.” [laughs]
Eric: Pop music, sure, but I think that’s why I like a lot of this punk music. I didn’t really have a source of music and I listened to a lot of this radio stuff because it was intense, and I just sort of went from there into punk stuff.
Alex: I would say, I don’t really play drums like it, but metal has definitely inspired a lot of my drumming. Like Slayer, or Black Sabbath. I mean, I love Sabbath.
Bobby: We all know that!
Alex: Okay, well, I could’ve said, like, Keith Moon. Cause that’s obvious! Honestly, there’s a lot of Slayer beats I try to play during faster parts, I try to make the faster beats be more interesting than just (drumming sounds). You know what I mean?
All: Slayer! (repeated over and over with increasingly metal inflections)
So, any parting words of wisdom?
Alex: It’s our one year birthday. Hopefully we’re going to burn down the garage.
Tyler: Hopefully we’ll be around for at least a few more birthdays.
Alex: Yeah, we’re really excited for our tour, and we’re really excited for our full length and things are looking good, real good. Feelin so fine.Subscribe to The Daily Cardinal Newsletter