Q&A with Peter Wilson of Four Trips Ahead: "The Key is Always Being Sincere in Your Approach."
It's no secret that art imitates life, and Four Trips Ahead's new full-length, ...And The Fire Within is a perfect example of just that. Whether the songs were inspired by the diverse music scene in New York City, the strangers they encounter on the subway coming to and from rehearsal, the current political climate or their own personal struggles, each track on ...And The Fire Within is carefully crafted and incredibly honest. With the album out now (and the first vinyl pressing coming on April 22nd) the band are continuing to dig deep with their new video for "Bring Me Down." Read about ...And The Fire Within, the band's plans for the coming months and more below!
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about Four Trips Ahead for any readers who might not be familiar?
Four Trips Ahead is a hard rock band from New York City. We are not afraid of strong melodies and harmonies living within harder sounds. Lyrics are important to FTA songs and aren’t an afterthought. Storytelling is something we embrace in our music. We are very dynamic and progressive within our compositions yet are cognizant of the importance of groove. We grew up loving hard rock and metal but we listen to and experience many different genres of music. As a result, I think those diverse elements naturally creep into our music more often than many of the current hard rock and metal bands that I hear. Our new album, …And The Fire Within, exemplifies that fact. And our music is best experienced live and loud.
You guys have been writing together in New York for about 15 years. How would you say the music scene in NYC has affected you as musicians and songwriters?
All of us are from New York City, so unless you’re close-eared or close-minded, you have to be influenced by everything. I grew up on reggae, dancehall and jazz, metal, rock, hardcore, punk, pop and hip-hop—everything was open to take in and devour. And though we are definitely a hard rock band, our tastes are quite varied. The key is always being sincere in your approach. NYC allows you that freedom to openly explore without abandon. Having so much great live music from so many different cultures at your disposal daily and hearing it in studios, concerts, clubs and literally in the streets builds who you are as an individual and as a musician. Four Trips Ahead has a unique sound where there are lots of different elements blended together within the context of hard rock. I can’t imagine that chemistry and our sound being developed in the same way anywhere but in NYC. At the same time, the bar is raised and you know if you plan to hit the stage, you better come correct and make sure what you’re sharing is worthwhile.
What are some of the most important lessons you’ve learned while writing together?
FTA has become a tight almost, family unit with a shared vision. I think we’ve grown naturally as songwriters, musicians and performers. There is an immense respect and trust we have in each other’s abilities, which allows us to step on stage with confidence and share ideas freely in rehearsals. We always welcome challenges and have tried not to play it too safe—organic artistic exploration is key to musical fulfillment. I also think everyone plays an important role in the band and recognizing that fact has made our music unique and memorable as well.
You guys just released your new album, ...And The Fire Within. What inspired the songs on this album?
…And The Fire Within is our first full length release in a bit—we felt we had a lot to say and many great songs to choose from that would make a true statement. …And The Fire Within lives within a backdrop of individuals maneuvering within their particular social and political realities. The songs are heavy and dynamic without sacrificing melody and harmony—this is ultimately our band’s mission. Music was written during late nights in the heart of Midtown Manhattan at our rehearsal space, lyrics were often written and rewritten on subway trains, going to and from these sessions. All of the people we live amongst and the urban jungle we live within inform the music and take root in the themes presented. …And The Fire Within is a big, vibrant album that shakes things up while you sing along. It’s a fully realized work—musically, lyrically and conceptually, like how records should be in my opinion. There’s a lot to dig into.
Did you have any major goals in mind or any stories you wanted to tell on ...And The Fire Within?
We identified songs that shared common themes and told stories of how people faced and either overcame or succumbed to challenges. The idea was to reflect how we all rise above hard times or lose the plot so to speak. But there wasn’t an overall “goal” per say. We follow the muse and it organically develops from there. As thinking individuals, these stories naturally came to life in our music. …And The Fire Within is ultimately an optimistic album that demands that we strive for better, no matter what may come our way.
How do you feel you’ve grown with the writing and recording of this new album?
…And The Fire Within is a fully realized work—musically, lyrically, conceptually, the arrangements and production. Even the artwork truly represents the full vision of what we hoped to present to our fans and a greater audience. Sometimes, usually due to budget restraints, we had to make difficult decisions in order to get our music out. We really worked hard in pre-production to make sure the songs were great and that our performances were on the mark as soon as we stepped into the studio to record the album. The goal was to keep the tracks organic and energetic while capturing the essence of the songs and the magic when we all play together. We also took some chances in the mixes, allowing our creativity to truly shine through on the tracks. It’s also the first time that we mastered one our releases for vinyl, which takes everything to another level altogether—it’s the ideal way to listen to this album.
The songs and music from …And The Fire Within were definitely inspired by our environment—each song delves into individual stories, some personal, some from what we’ve read and seen while others are fictitious. Our world is in a tumultuous state and as musicians, we do what we know how to do—create artistic ways to help ourselves and listeners rise above our circumstances and strive for better. Playing music and writing these songs with Four Trips Ahead brings about a certain loud catharsis that is most definitely needed now perhaps more than ever. I think that …And The Fire Within has captured a particularly fulfilling artistic moment in our band’s creative history during a truly tumultuous time socially and politically on the world stage. No coincidence to me.
You guys recently released the music video for “Bring Me Down.” What does this track mean to you?
It’s an anthem! “Bring Me Down” is a song for listeners to turn up and release their frustrations, letting music give them hope and inspiration in the face of tough times. “Bring Me Down” is a collective of short observations of regular folks being forced to sacrifice their dreams because of social expectations and repression. And one day, these same individuals decide they won’t be held back any longer—it’s a song that resonates with people who don’t want to remain voiceless or powerless at work, school, in their families or when confronting so-called authority. I always loved hard rock and metal songs that inspired me or made me feel that all is not lost and that I could stand up for myself and believe in my abilities.
What was the inspiration behind the video?
We wanted a stark, in-your-face approach, like several older videos we enjoy like Bowie’s “Heroes” or older Devo and Talking Heads videos, however, the subject matter is significantly darker so the video had to echo themes of frustration, isolation and suppression. Because we were going for a closed in, claustrophobic and ominous feel, we were stationed in one corner of our studio space under hot lights for many hours. It was raw because of the ultra close-ups of my face. I had to project emotions tied to the lyrics without physically moving too much—a welcome challenge indeed. To The Bitter End Productions did a great job.
With ...And The Fire Within out now, do you have any other big plans for 2017? Could we expect to see you out on the road soon?
Four Trips Ahead will be shooting a new video, for “December,” in the coming weeks with some hopes of doing an interesting visual project with several songs from …And The Fire Within. We intend to be on the road promoting this new record for as long as possible. We’ve also been writing some terrific new music that you’ll hear debuted at shows in the future. We should be recording again in 2018.
Thank you for taking the time to chat with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
And thanks for taking the time to speak with us--I hope your readers will buy …And The Fire Within digitally or on vinyl and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Everyone can hear samples of the songs on our website—www.fourtripsahead.com—and also watch the video for “Bring Me Down” on YouTube to see and hear what we’re about. We appreciate the support.