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Smoke Or Fire Releases This Sinking Ship

Life’s been a wild ride for Smoke or Fire of late. First off, the band had to miss several dates on a recent Western tour. Having noticed some oddness in the steering mechanism, the band sought advice from a mechanic. They were duly alarmed to discover they were dangerously close to abruptly losing the ability to steer. Soon hereafter, the van was given its last rights when its transmission failed.

“We gave it our best shot” declares frontman, Joe McMahon, in reference to the band’s attempt to make their Denver, Colorado date. “We seriously arrived at the venue 30 minutes too late to play.”


Back on the road, Kaffeine Buzz catches SOF in San Francisco, where they put on a blazing show opening for tour mates Love Equals Death. Culling equally from their first LP, Above The City, and the latest, This Sinking Ship, the set is almost a best-of for Smoke or Fire.

Of course, with most of the tracks on both albums being notable standouts, a great set-list isn’t too hard to assemble. Nonetheless, the band plays flawlessly and energetically, clearly happy to be back on the road and on stage.

This Sinking Ship is a remarkable sophomore release, and is polished with the same wax as Above…, but it spells out a remarkable shift lyrically for McMahon. The songs are more clearly political. The previous recording has its undertones, but this shift is one of overt-ness. In the case of “What Separates Us All,” McMahon’s political inclinations are clear and bristling, despite seeming a bit centrist, if not defeatist:

One nation of division and conformity.
Divided we stand, united we’ll fall.
So where’s this land of equal opportunity?
Divided we stand. United we’ll fall.

McMahon admits that part of his current frankness stems from spending more than three months on last year’s Fat (Wreck Chords) Tour with outspoken bands like Against Me! Though there are certainly other influences. “Tim Barry (Avail) also has had a lot to do with that. We’re huge fans of Tim, and Avail.” In any case, seeing the group play songs from the new album live, it’s clear that they are confident in flying their flag and getting their point across in no uncertain terms.

This tour’s glory only lasts so long, however, as the tour makes its way to southern California. Love Equals Death bassist Dominic Davi had been met by police at the venue and arrested on sexual assault allegations. With Davi carted away and jailed awaiting extradition hearings, Love Equals Death was abruptly not on tour. “It was the craziest thing I’ve ever experienced on tour,” declares McMahon.

While much of the evidence in Davi’s case is being kept private due to pending hearings, the information that has leaked thus far certainly questions the validity of the charges. Of course the outcome rests in the hands of the courts, but it is difficult not to form opinions. McMahon takes the high road, saying, “If he did it, fuck him. I hope he gets what he deserves. If he didn’t do it, I wish him the best.”

As of press time, the situation is pending for Davi. As for L=D, they are no longer under the Fat Wreck wing, which is certainly fallout from this whole debacle. But this is another article entirely. For McMahon and his band, the world keeps turning.

Smoke or Fire have just wrapped up a slew of dates with the adored Tim Barry, and are poised to get back out on the road through the end of May with a roster rotation of Good Riddance, Sundowner, No Trigger and others. Throughout August SOF will busy themselves touring with Rise Against, Silverstein and Comeback Kid.

In the meantime, the band will make up dates missed due to their vehicular troubles. They will play Denver’s Marquis Theater with Sundowner on Sunday, May 20th.


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