The Fire Organ: The way it should be

by Rodney Lotter

Formed in late 2010, The Fire Organ have worked tirelessly to bring guitar pop to Bellingham music fans. Having gone through several line-up changes, the trio are set with their best yet, having taken their sound to a whole new level.
“Immediate, hard-hitting and aggressive” are words that the members of The Fire Organ use frequently to describe the direction of their band.
“Before I ever started this band, I would just record songs by myself, many of which are on our albums,” frontman Alex Minneker said. “But, all the songs were just spaced-out. I really wanted to start a musical project that was more violent sounding, but still accessible.”
Minneker holds down guitar and vocal duties for the band. Bassist Charlie John Walentiny and drummer Brendan Silk round out the rest of the line-up. The band began when Walentiny answered a post that Minneker put up on a Western Washington University website. Walentiny eventually recruited Silk, as the two of them previously played together in a jam band in high school.
“It was a great situation because I already had a cohesive rhythm section pre-made for me,” Minneker said.
The current line-up has been together since the Fall of 2011 and they have recorded two EPs, the newest one being The Hick’s Lake EP, which was released on Nov. 15. The new release finds the band pursuing a jangly guitar-filled, blues-punk kind of sound.
Silk said the first EP they ever recorded, The Fire Organ EP released in November 2011, was made in their Make.Shift practice space in about two hours.
“It was just a rough demo that captured what we sounded like live at the time,” Silk said. “It’s not so much a lo-fi recording, as it is maybe a mid-fi one or something like that.”
Minneker added that the newest release is much more representative of where the band wants to go sonically. “The songs are just more forceful and impactful now. The guitar amp is cranked more. The sound is just fundamentally more violent.”
With the jarring guitars and booming bass and drums, the music can definitely be described as violent and energetic.
“For me, playing live is a healthy outlet for my self-destructive tendencies,” Minneker said, who slashes open his hand while playing guitar at every show. “It comes down to trying to destroy our songs every time we play live and also very bad technique when it comes to playing my guitar. Usually the other members also get hurt some way or another when we play live.”
A little blood on the stage never hurt anyone. But, hearing how the band describes their music would suggest they are in some kind of hardcore or metal band, which is not the case. The Fire Organs’ influences range from the pop-friendly tunes of bands like Big Star and the Beatles, to the heavier, yet melodic tunes of bands like Queens of the Stone Age and Mastodon.
“Our sound is really just a convergence of schizophrenic influences,” Walentiny said. “We try to write really catchy pop-punk songs with dark lyrics and then play them like we are doing our best fucked up impression of the Who or something.”
Currently, the band does not have any shows scheduled in the near future, but the members said they will likely stay very busy with booking shows in the Spring.
“It’s kind of tough to book shows sometimes,” Minneker said. “I feel like we don’t really fit into any of the scenes, and we don’t really sound like any of the other bands in Bellingham, so we always have to do mixed bills. We don’t really fit in musically with any of the small scenes in Bellingham, but we fit in with the overall scene because we are all friends and we all support each other.”
“Really we are just playing music to have fun,” Silk added. “We are fine with being three regular dudes that play music together.”