Meet The Backfires, an indie rock band composed of Alex Gomez, Harry Ruprecht, and Matt Walter. Since 2018, the band has overcome the challenges of working both internationally and virtually, and are excited to be releasing their debut EP Consider the Backfires this week. In October of 2020, they released their debut single “Anything,” which has since accumulated over 42,000 streams on Spotify. The Backfires draw influence from a variety of artists, including Arctic Monkeys, John Mayer, The Strokes, Catfish and the Bottlemen, and Oasis. Before even putting out their first full project, the band has received coverage from BBC Music Introducing, Stage Right Secrets, and more.
We got to chat with the boys about what influenced their debut EP, from musical inspirations, life experiences, and national identities. Make sure to check out Consider the Backfires which drops this Friday, February 19!
Where are you each from and what’s your role in the band?
Alex: I’m from the DC area and I currently live out in New York. I’m the front man, so I sing and play guitar. And I’d say the primary songwriter, though we all write together.
Matt: I’m also from the DC area and I play bass. Over quarantine I’ve been writing a lot of songs on guitar. So that’s how I contribute in songwriting.
Harry: I’m from England. My role in the band is that I play guitar and help write songs.
Tell me about how you started making music together.
Matt: Alex and I went to high school together in DC. He started the songwriting club at our school and we were the only people who went. That eventually turned into us making a band called Moran Street, which was like our high school band. Fast forward, about a year, we do the whole trying to write songs together thing.
Then we go off to college, the band kind of dies, but Alex and I go to Lollapalooza the summer of 2018. We saw all of the British rock bands that we’d idolized forever, like Arctic Monkeys and Catfish and the Bottlemen. We kind of were just like, “We’re gonna do this, right?”
Alex: I was in London during my first year of college, fall 2018, and I met Harry at an open mic night. We started jamming and writing together. Matt came over and joined us in the spring. During the summer of 2019 we were in the US, playing shows around the DC, New York, and Connecticut areas.
Tell us about the transition to collaborating on an EP virtually, due to both COVID-19 and Harry being in the UK.
Alex: The virtual creative process has been going on as early as like 2018, when I was in the UK with Harry. Then sophomore year when I was back in New York, we were trying to figure stuff out since we were all separated. We actually kind of got an intro to how working virtually was going to go. We ended up getting back together in London last January and got into the studio. That’s where we recorded the majority of this EP, at least the foundations for it all.
And then obviously COVID happened and we finished up all of the mixing and stuff, virtually. There are some times when we’re on Zoom for, like, five hours straight. I feel like the virtual songwriting, in a way, has been more productive. When we’re in person, I feel like sometimes you can get sidetracked and maybe there’s like a tea break that turns into 45 minutes. Whereas, on Zoom, it’s like, “Go grab a sandwich, and then come back.” and we say, “Alright, we gotta get this done.”
I think COVID actually helped us (as a band) because we definitely had this huge desire to be playing shows, but were limited by when we could all be in the same place. But now that COVID has happened, Matt and Harry are gonna be able to finish their degrees this year. Then the plan is to play shows when things open up.
Tell me about your EP, coming out on February 19th, Consider the Backfires. What’s it about and how does it represent the band as a debut EP?
Alex: The general premise is the idea of trying to figure out who you are, but also exploring ideas of loneliness and long distance relationships. Honestly, a lot of it is based on my experiences being an 18 year old in a foreign country, not knowing anybody. I definitely felt isolated, but thankfully I met Harry. It’s also the exploration of coming of age and coping mechanisms. I definitely turned to going out and, you know, trying to do online dating. It doesn’t always go the way you want it to but that’s also just part of growing up.
As a band we explore the idea of national identity. How important is that, to us as a group or to the future of music? And being associated with a national identity, considering we have two identities since Harry is from the United Kingdom and the fact that we started in London. “The Man” and “Preoccupied” both talk about these thoughts you have, like on the night tube, you know?
We’d love to hear about the making of some of the tracks and what they represent.
Alex: The first song that started this whole thing was “Anything.” It’s had a very long life in the sense that it’s been recorded three times. There’s an acoustic version and there was a full band version, which will never see the light of day, that we recorded in like 2019.
Harry: It almost came out but I persuaded everyone out of it, which was great.
Alex: It’s cool because there’s been a lot of development in the writing of these songs. Like “Anything”, the acoustic version is completely different to what it is now. It’s about being in a long distance relationship that’s not working and trying to force it. That’s also an idea that’s echoed in “Preoccupied.” When you’re separated by distance, whether it’s a pandemic or just time zones or the fact that, you know, the UK and the US are kind of far from each other…I think it can push a relationship to a limit.
That even happens in our band sometimes. We can’t see each other right now, I haven’t seen Harry since last February at this point. So it’s nearly been an entire year. The three of us haven’t all been into a room together since January 2020. It’s insane. This idea of long distance is something that isn’t a new thing, right? But I think that it’s a more permanent thing, based on the pandemic, because of the fact that borders are closed. And if you don’t have citizenship to a certain place, what does that mean?
What’s your favorite track and why?
Matt: It changes day to day at this point, since it’s about to come out. My favorite one right now is probably “Falling.” I think “Falling” has had the most work done to it. I’ve seen it grow over time. It’s also just a unique track, it doesn’t really sound like any of the others on the EP. It’s about falling in love, when all of the other ones are the exact opposite. That’s why it’s my favorite.
Alex: At the moment, my favorite track is probably “Going Gets Easy.” That was the second song I wrote with Harry in London. It’s just a really fun song and I just like the energy of it. It was the first time that I admitted that these coping mechanisms are things that maybe aren’t productive or helpful. I think it’s something that will resonate for anybody who deals with anxiety or depression and resorts to going out or drinking to perhaps forget those feelings.
Harry: My favorite song is the “Before the Sunrise.” It’s the best in my opinion, and I think because it’s the most rock and British sounding is why I’m drawn to it over the others. It’s difficult because I also quite like “Falling,” I’m the most proud of it.
Who is your dream collaboration?
Matt: I don’t want to speak for the other people, but Paul McCartney, right? I feel like that’d be pretty sick to make a Christmas album with Paul McCartney. Or the Strokes.
Harry: I’d say Arctic Monkeys.
Alex: Real album with Arctic Monkeys, Christmas album with Paul McCartney.
What are you listening to right now?
Alex: We try and listen to a record a week together. Right now we’re actually listening to Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. Before that we listened to The Vaccines and The Kooks. Currently I’ve been listening to a French indie pop band called Juniore. They sound reminiscent of the 60s and 70s.
Matt: I literally have my Spotify page open and it’s just Courtney Barnett. I’ve kind of been obsessed with her for a long time and I’ve been listening to her whole discography. I think my favorite album of 2020 was The New Abnormal by The Strokes. I listen to that like every single day.
Harry: Because of the lockdown in the UK, I haven’t been really listening to new stuff. I’ve been listening to old concerts a lot. Mainly Catfish and the Bottlemen’s first album, The Balcony and Arctic Monkeys’ first album, AM. Also a lot of Frank Sinatra that I’d never heard before, I scrolled way down on his Spotify page.
Were there any records or artists that influenced the EP?
Matt: I’d say undoubtedly, the Catfish album that Harry mentioned (The Balcony.) And AM by Arctic Monkeys. Those are probably the big hitters.
Alex: I’m a big fan of John Mayer, and for the EP I was inspired by the way that he writes lyrics. I know that Harry and I definitely relate on this, but I think that there’s definitely some pop punk influences from like the 2000s. I think the 2000s in general, obviously that’s the stuff we grew up on, right? Also indie rock in the UK, like The Kooks. And then pop punk stuff from Blink-182 to Fall Out Boy.
What do you want people to take away from your music?
Alex: I really like the idea that you can go to a concert or listen to a record and just have fun and escape. Maybe it can be a source of happiness or contentment for maybe 20, 30 minutes or an hour, if you’re at a gig. I like the idea of someone listening to the record and feeling like, “Oh, I relate to that. I get it. I feel that way too. And this makes me feel better, because I know that someone else is feeling this way.” But they also think, “I’m going to dance and have fun and blast this in my car and just drive down the highway.” When I was younger and first started to drive I remember listening to Arctic Monkeys’ AM in the car and thinking that it didn’t matter where I was going or what I was doing. And I like the idea of someone being able to take that feeling away from our music.
Matt: I think there’s a couple parts to it. Maybe make people want to dance or lose yourself? Like emotionally or physically mosh to it.
Harry: I agree with them. But I think fundamentally, I just want people to like it and relate to it. That’d be quite nice.
Make sure to check out Consider the Backfires, out February 19th!
Featured Image: Instagram (@thebackfires)