By Elizabeth Eaton
EDMONTON – James Renton is one of Edmonton’s finest punk storytellers and as any good storyteller knows, the plot must progress. Fitting then, that his outfit Fire Next Time has refined their sonic onslaught on their gritty new LP, Knives. Within, you’ll hear an increasingly sophisticated sound pared with lyrics that communicate the band’s “salty, old bearded” age.
If ‘sophisticated’ reads ‘commercial’ to you, pump the brakes; the record delivers punk rock from the gut. Knives is a different, advanced version of the FNT you know and love.
And so, a more cohesive band emerges. If you pared away the folk elements (the banjo, the harmonica, the saw), the result is a straightforward punk record. The sections are distinct even when united. Take “Birch Wood,” where clean electric guitar and rhythm sections lead into imaginative, anthem like lyrics. Every single track is high-energy and appealing without losing FNT’s gutter-grown charm.
“It’s our first record with our drummer Garrett (Kruger) and he’s very particular about his drum sound. It’s way more refined and there’s a lot more life experience in it,” explains Renton.
“Nick Kouramenos used to play in This is A Stand Off and The Johnsons: he’s an incredible bass player, so people I think are going to notice that right off the top. The bass playing has gotten much more technical and uh, just better. [Ryan] Mick and Kevin [Klemp] are just whizzes at guitar anyway, so I don’t know if much of that will change, their riffs will come off more complicated. And as for me, I’m the same old dog, I don’t do all that much for new tricks.”
Despite Renton’s professed “salty old dog” status, the inspiration for Knives comes from a fresh chapter in his life.
“Me especially and a couple of the other guys are really into Dungeons & Dragons,” Renton says.
“I had stumbled across this article this dude had written about how he writes his Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, and he has something that he coined called ‘Knife Theory.’ When he is creating characters for his story or in his campaigns he has this thing called ‘knives.’ So, a knife can be something that you love, something that you hate, or something that your character completely depends on, so like, family and friends; or like addictions, drugs and alcohol, or aspirations like power. A good storyteller can take those knives and twist them at will to drive the story forward. We called [the album] Knives, thinking within the phrase ‘everybody has a knife to twist.’”
Exploring topics like addiction, suicide and mental illness often gives FNT an intensely serious feel. While still being respectful of the subject matter (“I try not to romanticize it in any way,” says Renton) the D & D references certainly twist Knives in a lighter direction.
“We’re hoping people can see the duality that is FNT.”
Fire Next Time play Dickens on May 11 (Calgary) and Brixx on May 12 (Edmonton) as part of their Canadian tour with This is a Standoff. Their new album Knives is released on May 4 via Stomp Records. You can order it on vinyl or digitally at https://firenexttime.bandcamp.com/.Brixx, Dickens, Fire Next Time, Knives, Stomp Records, This is a Standoff