By Dennis Cook
For some folks, music is the greatest thing in the universe. It moves us in ways no church, politician, or even most personal relationships ever have. It is the most direct, consistent access to things poetic, universal, joyous, and enlightening. It's what sustains us when we feel too weak to go on, and it makes a good day a great one. Concert halls and record stores are holy ground, and we genuflect with reverence every time we enter. A few minutes with Ed Anderson, leader of sublimely perfect rock trio Backyard Tire Fire, and it's clear he's one of these folks, a servant to sound armed with a battered guitar, a broad grin, and the kind of songs that make life worth living.
Backyard Tire Fire by Dan Fischer
"I don't know anybody who doesn't like music. Even people who suck, cultureless idiots, will shake their ass to something that sounds good to them. Music is universal," says Anderson. "I've been brought to tears seeing music. And, maybe it was too many beers or something, but on a couple of occasions been brought to tears while I was playing. It can be intense. I've gotten so lost while playing I've fuckin' drooled all over myself. [Recently] at B.B. King's, I split my pointer finger open. It was like I dipped my whole right hand in a bucket of red paint. There was blood everywhere – all over the guitar, the pick-ups, my hand. People were walking up to the stage to take pictures of it. My blood is still on that stage. All of us in Backyard Tire Fire are like that."
Just a few years old, Backyard Tire Fire has the feel of a genuine classic. They have the dusty abandon of Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Guess Who's knack for beefy pop, XTC's craftsmanship, and the universal bonhomie of Tom Petty. They swing gracefully between widescreen guitar workouts and intimate ballads, infusing everything with the kind of soul you can't fake. Based in Chicago, Anderson, his brother Matt (bass), and Tim Kramp (drums) make records that transcend time. You can imagine their tunes sharing a jukebox with Buddy Holly, R.E.M., and The Raconteurs AND sounding natural next to all three.
Backyard Tire Fire
(Tim Kramp, Matt & Ed Anderson ) by Dave Vann
"My earliest musical memories are being in the basement listening to 8-tracks by people like Linda Ronstadt, Seals & Crofts, Steve Martin, and KISS, and, of course, vinyl and AM-radio. My mom drove a Pacer – the Wayne's World car – and anytime the Beatles came on it was turned up loud," recalls Anderson. "Think about what was played on radio! People like Neil Young ruled radio in the early '70s. Harvest and After The Gold Rush were bonafide hits. When I scroll to the back of Rolling Stone now and see what's charting I'm perplexed. Who's buying these records?"
"All of our songs don't sound the same, and our records sound different than we do live. I like writing slow waltzes on piano just as much as power chord rock tunes. It's hard for people to say we sound like one thing because we dip into a lot of stuff," offers Anderson. "We have a MySpace page, and I hadn't really thought about who our friends were so I looked and it was Alejandro Escovedo, Townes Van Zandt, Lucero, Mother Hips – all bands with really good songs. We're into a lot of stuff but I think there's a unity in that we're all about good tunes."