Backyard Tire Fire played the Redstone Room in Davenport Iowa on December 29. I talked to them before they went on stage. The band consists of Ed Anderson, his brother Matt Anderson and drummer Tim Kramp.
Billy Rose: Nice to meet you guys. I’d like to start off with the obvious question. Were did the name Backyard Tire Fire come from?
Ed Anderson: Ah yes, the most commonly asked question. It came to us in a dream (laughter)…no it’s a redneck nod to The Simpson’s, Springfield tire fire…that coupled with living in the Southeast…where a backyard tire fire wasn’t all that uncommon.
We lived in Asheville North Carolina in the hills for a while and then we lived in Athens Georgia for a while.
Billy Rose: Lots of music in those areas. You guys have been compared to Neil Young, Drive By Truckers, Wilco, Tom Petty and Uncle Tupelo among others. Which of those comparisons flatter you the most?
Ed Anderson: Neil (laughter). All of them are fantastic…I mean they’re all bands that we dig.
Tim Kramp: I don’t know much about Drive By Truckers but any comparisons mean they’re listening…
Ed Anderson: I know a little…and what I’ve heard I like…
Matt Anderson: Comparisons to anybody who has made it is cool…
Tim Kramp: I like Backyard Tire Fire better (laughter)…
Billy Rose: Are there any comparisons that you really like or don’t understand?
Ed Anderson: I like the one about Randy Newman (laughter). In a weird interview that I did they compared me to Kris Kristopherson…Jackson Browne…I thought that’s pretty cool. Kris Kristopherson it doesn’t get any better than that. I mean he’s done everything…he’s been around the block a few times.
Tim Kramp: I think one I heard was R.E.M. I thought were did that come from?
Ed Anderson: I think that comes from some of their early indie stuff…I don’t like when people say we sound like jam bands. Like someone said you guys sound like O.A.R., I go like what. I mean nothing against those cats…but we don’t sound like them in the least bit. After shows sometimes people will say you guys remind me of so-and-so and I go oh that’s cool…as long as you dug it.
Billy Rose: How about influences, are you all influenced by the same people?
Matt Anderson: I listen to a lot of Frank Zappa. I don’t know if he was a heavy influence or not…and Flaming Lips…Talking Heads…
Tim Kramp: Flaming Lips, Talking Heads, Art Blakely…The Jazz Messengers…Jimi Hendrix…just rock and roll…
Ed Anderson: Stones, Beatles, Kinks…American rock and roll…like the Byrds, Buffalo Springfield…even though Neil Young is Canadian…I love the Beach Boys…
Matt Anderson: Tom Petty…ever heard of him (laughter).
Ed Anderson: Creedence…I mean we have a huge amount of music and bands that we deeply respect. We try to listen to as much music as we can.
Tim Kramp: I think we try to listen to as much different stuff as we can…like jazz, I like Waylon and Willy…stuff like that.
Billy Rose: Your music is a cross between several different styles. How do you describe your sound? What musical category do you place yourself in?
Ed Anderson: Oohh…a very hard question to answer. I’d just say rock ‘n” roll…
Matt Anderson: It’s pretty broad but I’m proud of it…we’re a rock and roll band.
Ed Anderson: I mean there’s country, jazz, bluegrass and other stuff in our music…but we’re a rock and roll band.
Matt Anderson: We’re like the Stones, Metallica and Paris Hilton (laughter).
Tim Kramp: Oh no don’t mention Paris Hilton again (laughter). Whoa the whole last minute or two should be taken out (laughter).
Ed Anderson: We try to be a lot of different things. You can’t just slap a label on it…because we’re a lot of different things. We try to be diverse…with such diversity we try to play what’s cool to us. None of the songs really sound alike…all the songs sound different. It’s more…what I listen to…I’m just writing what I’m living…it just comes out.
Billy Rose: Pieta Brown said she doesn’t like labels. She said good music is good music no matter what you call it.
If you were not playing music today what would you be doing?
Matt Anderson: Refueling airplanes…and moving them around.
Billy Rose: Are you a pilot?
Matt Anderson: No I was never a pilot, just worked at an airport for a long time.
Tim Kramp: I don’t know…the place I worked just closed…so I would be unemployed…I’d be a bag-man or something (laughter).
Ed Anderson: I think I’d open up a venue or something and run it the way is should be run. I have a couple degrees and I could teach…but I don’t see myself doing that. I would much rather be around music. At least I could be playing, myself…like acoustic. I don’t want to do anything else…it’s a hard question for me to answer.
Billy Rose: What do you do in your spare time? Are you into sports or what?
Ed Anderson: All of us love baseball…Cubs.
Backyard Tire Fire: da Bears! (laughter)
Tim Kramp: Not fair weather fans either!
Ed Anderson: We grew up thirty miles west of the city… a couple hours south. But we’re all die hard bear fans. When we’re not on the road…I’m sitting at the piano trying to come up with something. Trying to write…record stuff.
Matt Anderson: I’m gonna quit smoking and start working out again (laughter).
Ed Anderson: It’s on tape…no backing out now.
Matt Anderson: I did pushups and sit-ups the other day (laughter).
Tim Kramp: I practice drums…and draw.
Billy Rose: What do you draw? Comics?
Tim Kramp: I draw everything. Comics, a little bit of everything.
Ed Anderson: He did a flyer for this show…out in the lobby. Take a look at it.
Matt Anderson: When we’re home we don’t know what to do.
Ed Anderson: Yeah. We been home for almost a month…and it’s been kinda strange.
Billy Rose: You’ve played all across the country. Is there any one place that sticks out as being really cool? Somewhere you definitely want to go back.
Ed Anderson: There are a lot of places like that. Chicago is great…Fayetteville Arkansas…
Tim Kramp: Bolder Colorado…
Ed Anderson: Sacramento…Denver is always good for us…
Matt Anderson: Baltimore…
Ed Anderson: Boston was really cool last time…Carolinas…Athens Georgia was fun…
Matt Anderson: Florida is great. Anyplace warm in the winter…
Ed Anderson: Seattle was good ’til our van caught on fire…we got stranded.
Tim Kramp: San Francisco was wonderful.
Ed Anderson: San Fran was cool…we were there a couple days last summer. My favorite place though…Chicago Illinois. We know so many folks in Chicago. Anyplace people want to come out and hear our songs…we’re happy to be there.
Billy Rose: Anyplace you’ve been…and said wow I never want to come here again?
Tim Kramp: We try to forget those.
Ed Anderson: Even the worst place, we try to give a good show. It can be a challenge when there is nobody in the audience…but we try.
Billy Rose: When you’re playing an empty place, do you experiment?
Tim Kramp: Sometimes…
Ed Anderson: Sometimes we’ll play new songs or try different arrangements…or just jam (laughter). Are you familiar with Malcolm Holcombe? He’s a wonderful song writer…we were at a show…an intimate little place where people sit down and listen. There were these kids with dreadlocks…and hippies. Malcolm has soul beyond belief…he was trying to decide what to play and he has this Tom Waits voice. This kid says just jam man…jam by himself…Malcolm looks at the kid and in his Tom Waits voice says…got any pot (laughter). The whole place just busted out laughing. Everybody in the place knew this kid was on something. I’m a songwriter man, I’m not the grateful dead (laughter)…his songs are too structured to just jam ya know.
Billy Rose: Susan Shore once told me that it is so different to play a coffee house instead of a bar. At bars people are there to party and have a good time. The coffee house crowds are much more intense…all hyped up on coffee.
Ed Anderson: Coffee houses are tough gigs…when I was doing solo stuff, I did coffee houses and it’s really hard to be there all alone on stage and everyone in the place is wired drinking coffee. It’s a whole different ballgame. And when you’re by yourself…it’s a lonely experience.
When it’s the three of us up there it’s cool. Even when the crowd doesn’t know who we are. We’ve been opening for some bands that draw people. There’s an established crowd and we just won them over. I mean we play a forty-five minute set and then sell fifteen CD’s…that’s great.
We’re about to set out on our first headliner tour in February were we play about fifty places that hold about two hundred…all over the country…and we’ll see how big our buzz is.
Billy Rose: That sounds exciting…good luck on that tour.
Who have you guys been listening to?
Ed Anderson: All vinyl records. I listened to Bing Crosby today…Tom Waits…Frank Sinatra. I listen to Alfred Hitchcock (laughs). My wife and I have a bunch of vinyl and that’s all we listen to.
Tim Kramp: I love vinyl. We need to do something on vinyl.
Ed Anderson: I think we’re gonna. I think our new album is gonna be available on vinyl.
Tim Kramp: I’ve bought new vinyl in the last year. I got a Tom Waits four LP set, brand new on vinyl for like twenty bucks.
Ed Anderson: We’re gonna release our new album on vinyl…I’m psyched about it…I grew up listening to vinyl…my sisters played lots of Stones and Boston on vinyl.
Matt Anderson: can’t go wrong with old rock ‘n’ roll. Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits was the first cassette I ever bought for like 2.99 at a convenience store. Chuck Berry…great stuff.
Billy Rose: Thanks for your time guys and good luck tonight and on the upcoming tour.
Backyard Tire Fire: Thanks Billy.