Rising D.C. indie band featuring former Knoxvillian headline Preservation Pub on July 15
Humble Fire is Jason Arrol, Dave Epley, Nefra Faltas, Xaq Rothman
The band is Humble Fire, the single from the upcoming eponymous album is “Builder” and vivid metaphoric imagery seizes upon the impish rock writer brain so involuntarily and forcefully that it’s already insane. Ok, so … the fire is small. Maybe there isn’t much to start with. Just meager supplies and humble beginnings. Existential kindling, if you will. They do say that they all met through Craigslist in musical transition periods. Several of the members had recently suffered lost relationships or deaths in their respective families.
But in the misty-gray dawn of their new beginnings, the raggedy scene nomads felt a tugging, a burning, a spark inside and began gathering twigs, heading towards a barren hilltop where they started to gently light the first sparks of a … yeah, ok, yep, there it is.
DIY style (as bands from their D.C. stomping grounds are famously apt to do), Humble Fire slowly grew their sound, brand, recordings, live show and multimedia presence. They stoked the fledgling fire with slightly bigger and bigger branches. They lovingly and patiently continued to blow life into it as storm clouds still threatened overhead and the land still lay dewy and desolate.
In 2013, the band released a strong first album, “The Great Resolve,” enlisting guitarist Dave Epley’s sister for cover art design. “The first one, we were focused on just recording it and getting it out there,” Epley says. “This time we realized all the things we needed to focus on along the way.” Things like soliciting professional music video production teams, teasing singles and release dates, conferring with publicists and widening the circle. Fanning the flames, perhaps? Lighting some torches to carry the fire outward to other locales as sonic missionaries?
Vocalist Nefra Faltas wasn’t even really a person who played in rock bands beforehand. She’d received classical training and had played violin for 20 years before deciding to give vocals a try, and her bandmates are glad she did. “Now we’re very proud of Nefra for being able to plug in a microphone and work a loop pedal,” Epley says. ”Eventually the violin was set aside.”
Faltas’ fragile, intense vocals personify their own humble fire; there’s a delicacy, a tenderness, but, at the same time, the fragility belies a bright, smoldering something within. She says, “With our first record, it was a process of learning and demonstrating it was something we could do, but now we’ve found our voice and we are ready to have some fun.”
Along with the video teams, Faltas has enjoyed lyrically and visually exploring the concepts of deconstructing and rebuilding during shoots. “The aesthetic and point of view were very strong, so it was a big act of trust. So we feel like it really paid off,” she says. “We played with the ideas of deconstruction and reconstruction and how chaotic those processes can be. None of us have formal visual arts training … we’re really lucky to be part of a creative arts community in general, so we see arts [as] really interactive and reinforcing [to] each other.”
Guitarist Dave Epley, bassist Xaq Rothman and drummer Jason Arrol spark the fire around Faltas’ voice while continuing to fuel each other. As Rothman says, they are “careful of composing guitar and bass lines in reference to each other so [that] they are referencing each other with tension.”
As the sole guitarist, Epley says, “You’re really exposed, and that’s new to me. So [I’m] trying to fill that space accordingly.” He ends up making more atmospheric sound, he says, while Rothman’s bass fulfills more melodic duties, bringing everything slightly up and out and creating a spacey effect.
Epley spent several years in Knoxville as a rising star in scene darlings Llama Train, and Preservation Pub served almost as a kind of home court. As a result, he says he is excited to be sharing new stuff with old friends. “I’m looking forward to playing Knoxville and getting feedback from folks,” Epley says.
In the surreal, dialogue-free 1981 fantasy/adventure/action film “Quest for Fire,” an early homo sapien-type caveman, Naoh, wordlessly navigates treacherous mountains along with his tribesmen. After their flame expires, they ward off a series of dangers in order to steal fire from another tribe. Along the way, they discover another more advanced tribe, the Ivaka, who have learned to actually start fires on their own. They steal fire from the Ivaka and bring it home triumphantly, only for it to go out again. As Naoh’s tribe despairs, however, he remembers the methods he observed from the Ivaka and builds a new fire for the tribe as the film closes.
It was once said of the Velvet Underground that if their albums sold only 10,000 copies, then at least every one of the people who purchased it started a band. The thing about a fire, even a humble one, is that the light can be seen for miles in the dark. The embers can carry and start their own fires. Ever been to a candlelight service as people light off each other’s candles? The process can be replicated, originating from a single humble flame and spreading to engulf a room. People just have to keep their own little humble fire burning so that others can see their light and be inspired by it.
To finish, I quote a selection from Knoxville-born novelist Cormac McCarthy’s most recent novel, the post-apocalyptic father/son tale “The Road.” In the novel, the father and son navigate a bleak, desolate and dangerous landscape. Throughout, the father continues to remind the son of the humble, yet important and intense fire he carries inside himself, the fire of the promise of the future of humanity and human goodness.
“You have to carry the fire.”
“I don’t know how to.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Is the fire real? The fire?”
“Yes it is.”
“Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”
“Yes you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it. Keep a little fire burning; however small, however hidden.”
“Builder” will be up for streaming July 28 and available for download and purchase July 28. Folks can pre-order now at humblefire.band
Stream the singles “Builder” and “Taliesin” at:
Watch the official music video for “Builder” at: