New London Fire is one of the smoothest undiscovered bands on the music scene today. Headed up by multi-tasking frontman Dave Debiak (also of Sleep Station) the band’s freshman release, I Sing the Body Holographic, is anything but disappointing. Lush, powerful, expansive and absolutely danceable, their single “Different” (now available for free download on Patrol) is one of the most catchy, impressive tracks I’ve heard in a long time. The rest of the album isn’t perfect, but it’s a gorgeous effort nonetheless and worthy of far more than the limited press the band received.
Over the summer Debiak talked about his inspiration for the album, his vision for the future, the struggles of everyday life, and the state of the music business. Due to many technical difficulties and catastrophic circumstances (surrounding the death of a laptop) this interview was lost for publishing, until now. At least one of the unnamed albums Debiak refers to in the interview would end up being Sleep Station’s The Pride of Chester James (available now on iTunes, in stores February 5). New London Fire also has a new album in the works.
Nathan Martin: What made you decide to start a new band after your success with Sleep Station?
Dave Debiak: I don’t know what happened, I think we were just doing a record and we started playing with some new guys and we started getting a new feel about stuff and we just decided, “You know what, let’s do this something else.” Pretty simple train of thought, just didn’t feel very Sleep Station at the time.
NM: Needed to change things up?
DD: Yeah, the new guys we were playing with, just felt different, just going in a different direction, just thought we’d go with it.
NM: Where did this album come from?
DD: Once you start playing with a group of guys and you start getting a feel of something, you just go with something. I went out one night, this guy was having a bachelor party, known him since I was a kid and we’ve been friends for years. We’re just not similar to each other, but we’ve been friends since kids. So I went to his bachelor party and he had a limousine that was just blasting techno music all night long. Then I got to the club and it was blasting techno and then it was a strip club and it’s really not my thing, you know. Maybe it was just this particular place, or this particular night, but I was actually kind of disturbed. So I went home the next day and decided I wanted to write a techno song. But, it didn’t come out that way.
More or less, it’s just writing things that had little more of a beat, a little more experimental with some keyboard. A lot of the content lyrically is about that whole situation and there are a lot of songs in there about a man who is in love with a prostitute. There are so many angles to the whole record [I Sing the Body Holographic], but now that I’m done with that record, I’m done with that sound.
NM: It’s an interesting sound and you know Sleep Station had this weird folk sound to it, and New London Fire had more of a post-80’s feel.
DD: Yeah, and I got it out of my system and I’m ready to move on.
NM: Before we talk about the new album, lets talk a little more about Holographic. It’s a dark album.
DD: It was more from a dark perspective. I don’t really write well from a happy perspective. I guess that’s just the way it is, I’ve always had this back and forth thing that I was writing about a prostitute and just trying to figure out how the emotion of love got lost on somebody that deeply, there’s a tremendous amount of things that would have to happen for a person to get to that point, and can they get back from something like that. Can that emotion still be found and nourished? That’s dark. It could be taken as something as something more than that, it’s pretty beautiful.
NM: Can you tell me about the creepy video for “Nadine”?
DD: Steve grew up in my house, best friends with my brother and has always been a tremendous artist, and he loved that song, I said to him, almost half-ass, you should do a video about that song, one of your videos. He said, “I’d love to” and showed up at my house with that thing one day.
NM: I still remember the first time I watched it, so powerful.
DD: Yeah and it’s unexpected, I didn’t not expect him to show up with it. I was pretty moved, I thought it was great.
NM: How hard was it going from the EP to the album? It took you awhile; what happened?
DD: There was a lot of holdups. That’s a good observation; I don’t think that most people were paying attention. There were just a lot of label things trying to figure out a
good time to drop the record, who would actually do the record. In retrospect I would love to see the record out and I would love to have another one out by now.
NM: When you go from writing concept albums to this more pop-ish type, how hard is that?
DD: I don’t think any of them are concept albums, I think that’s a term that when people think of concept albums, they are immediately thinking of different of what I’m doing. I’m just writing from a vibe, or an emotion. It’s thematic, it’s coming from that perspective. If you listen to any record ever made, there’s something that everyone writes about. You know maybe, protesting something or falling in and out of love with someone. Every record is thematic in a sense. That’s just all I was doing, it’s just a little more literal in it’s presentation, because I write from a very cinematic perspective. When we release the album we want to release it from a cinematic perspective. It’s what it is.
NM:I remember how you wanted to make movies but you wrote songs.
DD:Well both, because I write the songs. That’s true. There was a desire to write stuff that was kind of catchy as a accessible as possible without losing integrity, there was no compromising on quality on our end, its just that kind of style on our end that we write with lends itself for that kind of song. That’s just the kind of way that record went.
NM: What is the “Body Holographic?”
DD: I don’t know. You’ll have to ask my brother, he came up with the title, I think it’s some type of Walt Whitman thing.
NM: I was trying to figure it out. Some mysterious unifying theme?
DD: Why not?
NM: Let’s talk about the new album. What’s going through your head? You seem like you have a lot of alternatives, so what’s this new album going to be like?
DD: I wish I could. Right now, I have no idea. Like you were saying, I’ve got so many different things hanging around my head and it’s very difficult to decide what it’s going to be. I mean, there’s a lot of doo-wop songs that I want to do, and a lot of the new stuff is more Americana than anything else. None of it is the way the last record was, I’m in a decision right now actually, I was up all night thinking about this, and thinking what exactly it is that we’re planning on doing and trying to figure out if its going to be beneficial to the band or what.
NM: I heard “Blood of our Fathers” and “Julie,” two tracks released online.
DD: You can’t really listen to anything I do acoustically and determine how it’s going to be in the future. I’m finishing up a record right now where it’s very dark, acoustic, lots of instrumentation to it and its pretty out there. Probably the most diverse and darkest thing I’ve ever done. I’m putting the finishing touches on it right now and trying to mix it.
There’s about ten songs there, and we’re doing some pretty interesting things for it, in how we’re going to present it, and the videos, the artwork. It’s all very exciting for me,
because I think its one of the more important things I’ve done in a long time, that’s something I’m trying to work on some closure on right now.
NM: Will that be released with N.L.F. or a solo thing?
DD: It could be N.L.F., Sleep Station, I have no idea where it belongs. I’m going to finish the record. That’s the only goal I have, to finish the record and make the best record imaginable that I can make and just put it out there. The same goes for anything that we work on, we want to make the best record we can and record the best songs we have. We aren’t trying to make it sound like anything in particular.
(CONTINUED FROM PAGE 1)
On New Marketing and the Traditional Music Business Model
NM: You marketed this album  pretty differently with the free EP being released far in advance, it doesn’t seem like you are afraid to give away music, can you talk about that, and how that’s worked with your label?
DD: Well it was their idea. I agreed with it, we weren’t going to get anyone to buy it so we might as well give it away.
NM: Good response?
DD: Tremendous response, I’ve got a lot of material so I can put out an EP and give it to people for free and then hopefully they’ll listen to things and buy them in the future if the opportunity comes up. I mean we gave so many of the Von Cosel’s away and then we would play a show and these people who loved the EP and then they would buy a T-shirt or pay to get into the venue. Eventually, if it’s good and people like it, they’ll spend money on it, in some way shape or form. Record sales are not the way they used to be. I’ve never gotten paid for one record in my life.
NM: Never gotten paid?
DD: Not a dime, and I’ve done like 4-5 albums. I’ve never made a profit from one.
NM: The free EP is how you got me.
DD: I figured how else are you going to get people. You’re competing with so many different people and marketing angles that everyone’s trying to take to sell things, you figure, why not try this way? It doesn’t hurt to listen to something when it’s free.
I’m strongly considering never putting anything to retail again. I want to just sell things online and have physical copies made but only available online. Retail is a dying breed and it’s not going to be around much longer. People don’t buy records like they used to and most places you can’t find a good record store to go to, I mean you’ve got Best Buy. To get your stuff into those stores you have to move units rather steadily and its just a huge pain in the ass to do retail. … I’ve taken it on myself to record everything for free so I won’t be getting behind big recoups. Money I make back before I start making a profit. So now if I sell 2,000 records and it cost me nothing to put the record to make a profit. If I sold 50,000 of the things, and if it cost me a couple hundred thousand to put it out, I don’t make anything.
I don’t think it’s imperative for a band to have a record label, I think that if a band can have its stuff distributed anywhere you can go online. They can record it themselves, promote it themselves, there’s not much more a lot of bands need. They could do a lot for themselves without going on a record label. I know that a lot of bands are holding on for that hope that their going to get signed but I say screw that, they don’t even need to bother trying.
A Day in the Life
NM: So, day job?
DD: I own a store with my wife and we just kind of go there during the day, we own a line of makeup and massage, waxing, stuff like that.
NM: How is that balancing those two things?
* air Siren goes off in the background *
DD: Apparently like it’s 1945 and the fucking Germans are about to bomb my town. What the heck is that all about. Let me get somewhere where I can’t hear this.
NM: Is it a battle having to go back and forth between the band and the real world?
DD: I’m always working, I just got out of the studio last night. You talk about a day job, I’m still doing music as a day job. I spent the last two days in a recording studio.
NM: How was the album received? Did people know the stuff?
DD: It was okay, we had people there to see us some nights and were pretty excited, we were just going up there and playing our songs.
NM: Putting time in?
DD: We just thought we’d tour the country and see about the results, and I wasn’t thrilled with the way it came out, it’s hard to get a really good tour you’re happy to be on. We were on a couple tours that it didn’t make too much sense to be on, even though we adored the people we were on tour with, the other bands. The tour wasn’t planned very good, we lost a ton of money, and I’m not sure how much more of that we can do.
NM: You had your van destroyed?
DD: Yeah, it got destroyed by a tree and we don’t have insurance so we’re out $12,000. Getting another van and getting out on the road is posing a huge problem. We’re
sitting around going, “how the hell are we supposed to do this anymore?” You have to have a van and be able to physically get on the road and go. And that’s money we’ll never get back, and that’s gone. We’ll be pretty hard pressed.
NM: What’s the process for you writing a song? Inspiration?
DD: Living, just life, just situations that come up in life that you go through. Sometime you’ll see something on television that touches you, or you’ll be walking down the
street, I don’t know depends where you’re at. There’s times in my life that I’ve been put through situations and then I’ve written from the feeling I’ve had at those times.
NM: How long have you been writing?
DD: I remember my mom had a piano and the first thing I did when I saw it, was run over to it and try to write my own song. I was never interested in learning how to play the piano right, or technically, I just wanted to utilize it to write my songs.
NM: So a lot of it is telling stories?
DD: No I just wanted to create something. You know an artist wants to create, they want to paint their own painting. They don’t like to just paint what’s there, some of them want to paint what’s in their head.
NM: So there was never a question of what you wanted to do when you grew up?
DD: Um no. It really took me a long time to figure out what that was. I knew what I was, there’s a part of me that thought I could never do that, I could never go through with that, I wrote songs for myself and just never thought I would have the opportunity to share it. I never thought I would get to play with a good band.
NM: Music doesn’t seem like a side thing in your life, not just something you’re messing around with. What is music to you?
DD: It’s me. My whole life, it makes me a human being. It’s the only thing I’ve ever had in my whole life, it’s like breathing or drinking water. It’s just part of who you are, your chemistry, makeup. If you can picture yourself doing anything else, then you should do it- period.
NM: What is that you love most about, if music is being you, then what do you love most about being you? What do you love about music?
DD: The only time I’ve ever liked what I saw when I looked in the mirror was when I was holding a guitar, that’s pretty much it.
NM: Is it more important for you to put out good art rather art everyone appreciates?
DD: Its nice when someone can appreciate it and can see where you’re coming from, from the beginning of our conversation it’s been obvious that you appreciate music and that’s a nice feeling because it’s good to know that you can spend all that time creating, and then that someone gets that connection. There’s people out there who I’ve never met, never see, but could be listening to the record right now, that’s the kind of connection you want to have. Every record represents me personally and represents me as a human being and that’s the most important thing to me, to do something fulfilling and not necessarily have to be accepted by anyone.
NM: My brothers really dig you, just FYI.
DD: Really? Crazy, I hope we don’t weird them out too much with the next record.
Nathan Martin is an assistant editor at Patrol.
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