Flashbulb Fires tours old-school style

By Sarah Simkin

Four musicians on a cross-country road tour in a 15-year-old van sounds like a romanticized image from the past, but one indie-rock band, Flashbulb Fires, is traveling in exactly that fashion. Flashbulb Fires

The Shadow Lounge

5972 Baum Blvd.

Tonight , 9 p.m.

$5 general admission; $3 with college ID

Appearing with In The Wake Of Giants, Larken Mayberry IV

Four musicians on a cross-country road tour in a 15-year-old van sounds like a romanticized image from the past, but one indie-rock band, Flashbulb Fires, is traveling in exactly that fashion.

The group has toured extensively since releasing its debut album, Glory, in December 2009 and will perform a show tonight at the Shadow Lounge.

“We’re no strangers to [touring]. We toured nonstop for the first part of 2010. It’s always been a focus of our band, since we started, to get out on the road and get our music to as many places as possible,” said Michael James, electric guitarist and vocalist.

The band does all of its own booking and press, which James described as a mixed blessing.

“It’s a lot of work, so at some point we’d like to have a team of people helping us so we can focus more on what it is that we actually do, which is play music. But at the same time, the bonus of [doing our own booking] is that we care about what we’re doing and we’ll do whatever work is required to make tours happen. We care more than anyone else because it’s our band,” he said.

Based out of  Denver, the band often had a full day’s drive before they could start playing shows, but after that experience they tried to break up the drive with concerts as much as possible. After booking a show that required a drive from Kansas to New Hampshire in a single day, the band has “learned [its] lesson in routing: Try not to drive more than a manageable four to five hours between cities,” James said.

“The way we route our tours is to try to hit major cities that we think are kind of cool. Pittsburgh is new to us. We’ve never been there, but we’ve heard nothing but good things about it,” James said.

“It’s rare that we come into a town and don’t know anyone. Usually between the four of us we know somebody or know somebody who knows somebody,” said Chris Sturniolo, drummer and vocalist.

“If we didn’t have those kind, kind people in every city that we go to who offer to put us up or cook us a meal it’d be even tougher than it already is and probably practically non-‘really doable.’… [Still], we definitely have those nights where we just kind of pull off to the side of the road and crash. It’s definitely not U2-style touring with chartered jets,” James said.

With a suitcase and instrument-laden trailer towed behind them for more than a month at a time, getting along is essential. “We kinda have to. You can imagine everybody has their moments on a five-week trip in a van, but we’re in it together so we make it work. We love being out on tour,” Sturniolo said.

Flashbulb Fires formed more than a year and a half ago when James was in-between projects and came across some of pianist, acoustic guitarist and vocalist Patrick McGuire’s recordings on MySpace. He reached out to him and the two found Sturniolo and bassist and vocalist Brett Schreiber on Craigslist.

“Its not that good a story, but there is an amazing randomness to it that we were able to get together and have such great chemistry and be as successful as we’ve been able to be,” James said.

Sturniolo is a trained audio engineer and owns some of his own recording equipment, which allowed the band to record its album Glory at its own pace without fearing the high cost of studio time. The members rented a house in Denver and converting it into a makeshift recording studio.

“It’s nice to have that time to let things grow a little more naturally and have time to get things exactly how we want them,” Sturniolo said.

The band members spent several months finessing the album before having it mastered in Los Angeles.

“The biggest thing for us with the album was that we wanted to make something cohesive, not just a bunch of songs on the same CD. Call us old fashioned, but we like the idea of a complete album that goes together and tells a bunch of little stories and a larger story too,” James said.

As for its concert here, the band recognizes that it might not sell out the show, but it’s confident that its music will reach the people who do attend.

“We’re not above starting in a coffee shop just to get in front of some people and earn being in that city and earn the respect of the people in that city. We know at this level we’re not always going to play to a packed house, but even if it’s only 10 people in the audience, if those 10 are totally into it and we’ve affected them, then that’s a successful show,“ James said.