Fires in the Distance – Pensive Elegance

Saturday, 27th May 2023

Photo credit: Matty Thrash

Having put the metal world on notice with their brand of dreamlike melancholy, Fires in the Distance have worked hard to refine their sound to achieve a higher level of potency. Hard work bears fruit, folks, and this band is a paramount example of where that can lead.

Now on their second full-length Air Not Meant for Us (our review), the hungry four piece has compiled their best release to date, tightening up any potential loose ends and leaning into the key elements that make them stand out from their contemporaries. Thus far, this album has been a proverbial step up the ladder, showing that they can definitively hang with the most established of heavyweights.

We had a conversation with drummer Jordan Rippe regarding a wide range of topics, including the band’s songwriting process, how they’re feeling about the new album, the multi-studio approach to recording their latest, future plans, what’s been inspiring them, and even the possibility for themed baked goods!

Dead Rhetoric: Air Not Meant for Us just released on April 28th, and early indications show the reception to be overwhelmingly positive. How do you feel about the album and how people have been reacting thus far?

Jordan Rippe (drums): The support has been phenomenal. It’s crazy that the album was written, recorded, and mixed over a year ago, but the songs still feel brand new to us when playing for an audience. It’s always invigorating to see new reactions to the music, whether it’s in person or via online reviews. We’re beyond grateful for everyone listening.

Dead Rhetoric: The new record displays a maturation from your first, Echoes from Deep November, especially within the songwriting being more intricate with an impressive level of immersion and flow. What have you learned as a band since the release of your debut and what new aspects have impacted the band’s writing process for this album?

Rippe: We’ve learned to trust each other more with adding the creative bits to the songs. The song writing is done by Yegor and then his demos are sent to the rest of the guys to add our respective personalities. When it came time for the studio, we had several ideas of how rhythms or solos would play out, but the experimentation of musical personality was key. The ultimate goal became showing individuality while serving the songs.

Dead Rhetoric: Emotive piano work is a crucial element of your sound, adding a consistent dynamic that brings considerable atmosphere and melancholy to each composition. Within which stage of the songwriting process does piano come into play, and how important do you feel this particular instrument is to Fires in the Distance’s approach?

Rippe: The piano comes in first in the process before the guitars. It is definitely an essential modality of our music that will continue to evolve into whichever timbre the song calls for.

Dead Rhetoric: How did working with producer Randy Slaugh help shape the sound of Air Not Meant for Us?

Rippe: Replacing the MIDI parts with real string orchestration was the perfect ingredient to bring the gravitas to these new songs. Randy’s production allowed for a more dynamic, human, and nuanced melancholic feel for songs like “Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind” or the choruses of “Harbingers.” Randy added a special substance and new layer to the synths that were already in place and helped elevate the composition to a whole new level.

Dead Rhetoric: Recording and mixing were done with Dave Kaminsky at Studio Wormwood, which was who you worked with for Echoes from Deep November. What drew the band to want to return there for the second album, and how integral is that established working relationship to the band’s recorded output?

Rippe: Our relationship to Dave Kamisky was essential for making this record sound the way it is meant to be experienced. With him having a history with the band, observing how we play, and vision of our live sound made the recording process incredibly painless. We certainly got the beautiful tone we needed in the Power Station New England and Studio Wormwood.

Dead Rhetoric: This album marks your debut recording for the band. Your drum prowess is plainly evident, as your parts of the album are very powerful, with a lot of versatility. What elements have you been able to bring to the band that have pushed the music forward?

Rippe: Thank you for the kind words! I believe that based on my experience in different metal and non-metal genres that I bring a unique groove to the music. I’ll try out different phrasings for recording or live shows to give the music a hint of improvisation. But at the end of the day, I’m just keeping the groovy and doomy atmospheric pressure to these songs.

Dead Rhetoric: I’d be remiss to not call out the phenomenal cover art created by Caelan Stokkermans, which brilliantly captures the essence of the band’s music in visual form. What was it like working with them again, and what does the artwork represent to you?

Rippe: Caelen is a fantastic artist and has been an integral part in creating the visual imagery needed to catch the eye and draw interest in our music. The artwork on this album is meant to capture the moment of complete despair, and Caelan did a masterful job of doing just that.

Dead Rhetoric: Fires in the Distance utilize a lot of melodic and melancholic soundscapes, and with lyrics to match, with every song ultimately carrying significant emotional weight. How important are those elements, and what did the band want to portray with the lyrical theme on Air Not Meant for Us?

Rippe: The lyrics are paramount to tying together the feeling of the music with the words that people read and listen to. With that said, the lyrical themes are meant to be open to interpretation rather than pushing a specific theme on the audience.

Dead Rhetoric: The video for “Crumbling Pillars of a Tranquil Mind” is filled with images of a long decaying building amongst flashes of a man weeping, putting forth a slew of powerful emotions. What drove selecting this particular song for this medium, and what was the aim regarding the overall theme?

Rippe: This was some creative input from Yegor and Jayson Cessna from Astralborne. This is one of the most contemplative and dark tracks, so we wanted to have some footage which reflected the mood of the song and get the viewer to identify with the feeling portrayed.

Dead Rhetoric: You very recently played a few release shows for the new album – one in Connecticut and one in Delaware. What kind of plans are there for further shows and/or tours in the near future, and who would you like to tour with? I’d be all for seeing a one-two punch of label mates Foretoken and yourselves.

Rippe: We’re looking to expand our shows a bit more in the Midwest and South this year. For 2024, we’re looking to add some West Coast dates and Eastern Canada. We’re committed to trying to grow our road presence the best we can before we work on our third album.

Dead Rhetoric: Every songwriter draws inspiration from a vast many things. What inspires you when creating music, and how do you harness that inspiration into creating the complex compositions that make up Fires in the Distance’s music?

Rippe: It’s hard to put into words, but personal experience is the well from which our creativity is drawn.

Dead Rhetoric: What defines success in the music industry is certainly unique to the individual and what they want to do with their creative works. What defines success to you, and where do you aspire to take the band within the next couple of years?

Rippe: It’s hard to quantify, but in broad terms success would be continued growth in the band. Hopefully that means more listeners, opportunities to perform in new markets, and a successful LP#3

Dead Rhetoric: Onto some more lighthearted fare – what does your current playlist look like? Anything that you’ve been listening to lately that you’re particularly enjoying?

Rippe: We’ve been thoroughly enjoying the new Foretoken, Astralborne, and Dawn of Ouroboros records from our labelmates at Prosthetic. Other notable listens as of late have been Enforced, Obituary, Wolfheart, The Halo Effect, Kardashev, Insomnium, Necrophagist, Allagaeon, Rivers of Nihil, Periphery, Bloodbath, Suffocation, Byzantine, and An Abstract Illusion. Some of the other essential bands would have to be Enshine, Exgenesis, Atoma, anything by Jari Lindholm.

Dead Rhetoric: What do you like to do in your downtime that helps you unwind from the stresses of both band and daily life?

Rippe: For me, practicing music unrelated to the band is enjoyable to get a fresh feel. It always teaches something that can be applied to many genres and perhaps even the next album. Other than music, hiking and the gym have proven to clear my mind most efficiently.

Dead Rhetoric: Everyone has talents that they possess that aren’t always all that obvious. What kind of special talent do you have, or activity that you engage in that you’re particularly fond of, that may be surprising?

Rippe: Well, I won’t claim to be an expert at all but I have been working on my baking skills. Maybe one day we’ll be selling our Fritters in the Distance™ after doing some market research.

Dead Rhetoric: Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Rippe: We never expected to be here, and we’re eternally grateful for our fans, friends, families, labelmates, and the CT metal scene for supporting us. Thank you for your time and for supporting our music.

Fires in the Distance on Facebook

Pick up the new album Air Not Meant for Us here

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