Leah Castile

How Fireworks’ Return Naturally Happened

As fireworks exploded for the new year, Fireworks exploded into the new year.

New Years Day, a time for rejoicing and celebrating fresh starts. A new year has come, bringing new challenges to be had and memories to be made. You may innocently open Spotify, hoping to turn on a festive tune, but instead you have to double take for what you’re seeing.

Fireworks, the hardcore band that hasn’t been seen in nine years, had fearlessly dropped a new album, Higher Lonely Power. There was no promotion, no pre-orders, no real warning. It just arrived. The band that had originally disbanded in 2014 had seamlessly, almost unknowingly resurrected with a new album that is quite frankly their best.

If you’re anything like us, upon first listen you were simply stunned. More than any other emotion, you were frozen as the music played. Who knew that a band dormant for so long had this monster brewing inside them? Had the Fireworks just released an album that is brooding, ominous, and also a blast to listen to?

The answer is yes, and these songs have all the fun elements of classic Fireworks combined with a gloomy atmosphere. This dichotomy makes the album feel like an instant favorite – already a strong contender for some fans’ album of the year. 

We had the amazing chance to talk with Adam Mercer from the band to discuss the new album, the hiatus, the tour… just everything. Fireworks not only justifies their absence but returns stronger than ever imaginable. The band captures lightning in a bottle on this surprise release and achieves a level of emotion on Higher Lonely Power that most artists go their whole career never finding. We had to talk to them about that.

Higher Lonely Power is available now. What’s going through your head now that it’s finally out there in the world?

It’s great to have it out there. It feels good on one hand because we’ve been working on it for a long time. On the other hand, it’s kind of weird because when things get put out now, they just go out into the vast world of the internet where it feels like this is one of a billion pieces out there. It’s good to have it out. We’re really proud of it. 

I know you’ve been working on this record for a really long time. The original release date was 2020 and then you guys said, “No we want to make this perfect.” How was that process of trying to perfect the record?

It was mainly the pandemic that ruined everything. We started working on some songs, we started recording them, and when we were getting on a good roll it was probably… I don’t remember when this was, but we basically wanted to give ourselves a deadline. “Let’s put it out there there. Hold ourselves accountable to it,” because we were doing it all ourselves. 

Run For Cover [Records] obviously helped put it out, but there wasn’t any deadline or timeline of when we needed to do it. It was just us doing it, so we gave ourselves that deadline. “It’s going to be out in 2020.” That kind of delayed it. Then we would slowly get back together in pieces. Two of us would go out to the studio with masks on – everyone had been vaccinated and stuff – just kind of as people were starting to integrate back into the world. 

Also, the thing that was different about this one was we didn’t all go somewhere for a set amount of time and just do the record. We would go for a day and do drums for three songs or something and then go home. It’s in Michigan – the studio we did it in, which is where most of us are living and from. We would go little bits at a time and then be like, “I don’t know, when can we do it again? Next month there’s a weekend we can all do it? Let’s go then and do it.” A lot of it was pushed back because of the pandemic, but a lot of it was also, “Let’s just do it whenever we can as much as we can.” We had the luxury of that, the luxury of, “We’re not ready to do this yet so we don’t have to. Let’s wait until we’re ready to do it.” We finally got to a point where it had been long enough where we were talking about doing it and it couldn’t happen, so that [turned into], “Let’s just not say anything again until we know what’s happening.” Then we decided because it’s been such a long drawn out thing, “Let’s not do the thing where you put out a song and tease something else. At this point let’s just drop it all and just have it out there.”

That’s a really interesting method of doing things. I definitely wanted to ask you about this. There were no pre-orders, there were no singles, there was no “Coming in three to four months.” I’ve even seen bands do, “Coming in nine to 10 months!” and it’s like… God! One day didn’t exist and one day it did exist. 

Yeah! Everyone has their own reasons for doing things […]. Sometimes you get so many singles and clips – and there are advantages to doing it that way for sure, I’m not knocking anyone for doing it this way. As a listener, I’m excited about an album coming out, but when the album finally gets here and you’ve heard half of it already because of all the songs pre-released? Especially knowing that even with very active bands it usually takes a couple of years to get the next record? If you’ve been waiting for an album from anyone for however long and then you’ve been given bits and pieces at a time and then you get six songs that are new at that point… it’s exciting to me to just get everything at once. There are times when, if I’m excited for a record, I don’t even listen to singles until the whole record is out and I’ll take it all in at once. We like that as fans of music. Also, it had just been so long. It felt weird to have said, “It’ll be out in 2020,” oops! Then we said it’ll be out in 2022, technically, and it wasn’t even out in 2022, so we’re not going to keep saying these things that are not true.

I get it! Going back to what you said, I’ve had this happen and I’m sure you have, too, where a song will drop as a single and you’ll hate it. Then you hear it in the context of the record and it’s amazing. That’s another reason why I’m a huge fan of the album. 

Yea, that’s important to us, too. It is weird – I think there’s certain strategies as to why people put out certain songs. I’m sure some people want to just be like, “We think this is the best song that represents everything, so let’s put it out,” and sometimes it’s like, “This is not necessarily the one, but is going to be one that is maybe more representative some of the different vibes of the album.” It is not like you’re trying to throw people off, but maybe set a certain kind of expectation. It’s like, “Here’s something to get the gears turning and get you thinking about it in that way before you get hit with something totally new.” It’s also weird to have something specifically made for being part of an album and you get it totally divorced from that with no context or anything. It can go both ways. We definitely like the idea of people being able to hear everything in the context of the album. It was purposefully laid out with the juxtaposition of sounds. We were very purposely like, “This is the first song…”

I was just about to go there – yup. The most hardcore song the band has ever written is “God Approved Insurance Plan.” Brutal. Then that slow shift into the upbeat “I Want to Start a Religion With You,” is such a great way to start this album off. When you were writing this? Tell me a bit about that first song. 

We don’t do the thing where it’s like, “Let’s write this kind of song.” It’s just a natural thing. Usually it starts out with Dave coming up with some riff or melody and sending it to us with, “This is what I was thinking.” Then, “Oh shit, yeah! That’s going to be cool.” We’ll just develop it from there. When that one came together we were pretty much immediately like, “This is just going to be the first song.” We didn’t even think about that too much. We were just going to open it with this and it felt like a statement. I don’t know what the statement is, but it’s like whiplash coming back into everything. It’s certainly, I’m sure, not what people expected. It’s very possible that is not people’s thing at all, but interestingly enough, despite the catalog, that kind of stuff is still very much us. Everyone’s been in hardcore bands. Fireworks was a little bit birthed out of that scene in one way or another. It was just fun. It felt good. That doesn’t feel like a middle of the album song, really; it’s just a cold plunge in the morning. “I’m woken up! Now, what’s about to happen on the rest of this record?”

Especially after this nine year gap – almost a decade of no Fireworks music. Then, that song is the first song on the album? That’s got to be an exciting feeling. Seeing you evolve your sound is really exciting. 

That was definitely an exciting thought. People have been waiting this long and this is the first thing they hear? It’s not like I was saying before, it was an exciting idea to have that be a thing. That’s not what we’ve been up to necessarily. That isn’t the kind of record you’re getting either. 

Yeah, but it’s still a Fireworks record. I get what you mean. 

I’m sure there are people hearing the first song being like, “Whoa, is this going to be this kind of record?” To us, it all fits together, just in a different way. Part of the reason we did this album is because these songs naturally started being written. We weren’t like “Hey, let’s do a Fireworks album again.” We all write music all the time and it’s just something that, even when we were not doing Fireworks and everyone had other bands and other music projects we were doing, we have it in mind. Dave had a bunch of these song ideas. I know him and Chris were starting to work on things. They were just like, “This might just be Fireworks.” Everyone kind of talked about it and said, “Yeah, this sounds like Fireworks. Let’s just do it.” The very beginning of it was just, “Here’s some songs,” and that’s what happened. We’re all friends and some of our side projects are together. We all share stuff with each other, anyway, so it just naturally happened. 

It’s unique that it wasn’t this massive, planned comeback reunion. Sometimes I feel like when bands do that it can almost feel like an ego stroke… not all bands, just a few! I like hearing you say, “Well, we’re always writing music! At some point it just kinda feels like a Fireworks album.”

Yeah, it does! The tour in fall of 2022 with The Wonder Years was something that just came after. “Let’s just make this album and I guess shows kind of come with it!” There was no big grand “Fireworks again!” discussion. It was just, “These are some Fireworks songs. We will just put out an album without any sort of expectation or plan. Let’s put out this album because we love it. We made these songs, we love it, this album is coming together great, let’s put it out, and that’s it. I guess we’ll do some shows and let it roll from there.” It was definitely about the music, for sure. 

It was great just seeing the band live again. Even if there was no new music at the time, it was like,”They’re back!” To not have the band for almost a decade and to see you guys live again, it was really something, even before there was a thought in our heads that new music was on the way.  

That’s nice you say that, too. There are probably people that are like, “What the fuck are these guys doing?” It’s nice to hear you represent people who are just like, “That’s ok! It’s just cool to see them again!” That’s awesome.

It was like seeing an old friend you haven’t seen since high school – that emotion of hearing these songs live and thinking that Fireworks is back. I want to ask also, now that we have the new album, do you guys have plans for a tour?

We’re starting to get together some headlining shows. We’re still in the process of figuring that out now. We’ll definitely do something. We’re all at a different place right now. We’re not going to be doing big, long tours anymore. Everyone’s got their jobs and their lives and their families and kids around in their families. We’re definitely not going to be a full-time touring band… probably ever. Part of what comes with putting out music is being able to play it for people. We’ll do some of our own shows. I’m sure we’ll eventually hit everywhere that we could hit – just not all at once.