Smoke Or Fire

Smoke Or Fire

This Sinkin Ship

With bopping, aggressive songs rooted in the heyday of melodic hardcore punk, This Sinking Ship is the finest release yet from Richmond, Virginia’s Smoke Or Fire. Amidst past criticisms of sounding too much like their logical forbearers-bands like Avail, Ann Beretta and Strike Anywhere-Ship successfully distinguishes the band’s unique personality in new and finely-appointed detail. Distinctive hooks, infectious melodies and fist-pumping choruses: It’s all here, and it sounds damn near perfect. Bright and clear production courtesy of Matt Allison (the Lawrence Arms, Alkaline Trio) blends Smoke Or Fire’s gruffness and implicit vulnerability together in a way that makes the band’s catchy songs pop like never before. From the unforgettable and forceful vocal runs in “Melatonin” to the cathartic harmonies of “Life Imitating Art,” This Sinking Ship sparkles with urgency, and makes the band’s previous recordings pale in comparison. Like their contemporaries from the less glamorous, more beard-friendly corners of the punk and hardcore universe, Smoke Or Fire don’t wear makeup and aren’t even the slightest bit sassy. But with This Sinking Ship under their belts, they don’t have to be. Once you’re this good, it doesn’t matter what you look like. (FAT WRECK CHORDS) Ronen Kauffman


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IN-STORE SESSION with vocalist/guitarist JOE McMAHON

You were originally from Boston but moved to Richmond, Virginia-your band bio citing one reason as the bands being better in the South. What didn’t Boston have for you?

Tim Barry from Avail wrote our old bio, so I’m sure he was adding a little bit of that himself. But the main reason we moved to Richmond was that it was just too expensive to live in Boston and be a band that wanted to be on the road. We wanted to move somewhere where we could afford to be on the road full-time and not have to worry [about] being able to afford where we were living. Richmond was perfect for that.

What is it about the South and down-home melodic punk rock?

I think for a lot of people, there’s more of a struggle there. And I think a lot of people are making music for the right reasons. I hope that doesn’t come off as bad toward other bands. In the Boston scene, we didn’t really feel like we had a home. It was kind of cliquey. There were people who just didn’t go to shows, because these people go to this show and those people go to that show. And down South we never felt that; it was a very supportive scene. People wanted each other to do well and it wasn’t competitive at all. And I think a lot of that comes from Richmond being a very working-class town. And being people who work when we’re not on tour, and have struggled for years and years to be able to do this, we fit in real well.

The climate for bands like yours has changed considerably since you started playing together. What’s the biggest adjustment Smoke Or Fire have had to make?

It almost has worked in our favor. We started off being influenced by bands like Avail and Hot Water Music, so being down South was good for us. When things shifted and punk rock kind of went a different way, we kept doing what we had always done. And now, years later, it seems like it’s shifting back. And it’s refreshing for the people that are into our music and coming out to shows, because they weren’t so crazy about that shift and where things went; they’re looking for bands like the ones they used to listen to-like Avail and Hot Water Music. -Ronen Kauffman