FIRES THAT DIVIDE (from l-r): Steve Knight (bass), Marc Harris (drums), Kirk Shuttleworth (vocals/guitar), Steven Norton (guitar)
INTERVIEW by ZAK SLOMAN
PHOTO by ANDREW LAND
Fires That Divide are a rock four-piece from the West Midlands.
The band, formed in 2014, have impressed critics and fans alike with a sound that utilises bulky guitar riffs, thumping drum beats and intense bass lines, taken from a eclectic range of influences, including Led Zeppelin and Alice In Chains, and all held together by the gritty vocals of frontman Kirk Shuttleworth.
Enjoying a growing reputation, the quartet played Fort Fest last year and this December, they will be supporting metal legends Diamond Head, who were an early influence on the likes of Metallica and Megadeth.
Just after finishing their sublime set at the Uttoxeter Rocks festival recently, I chatted to Kirk and lead guitarist Steven Norton about all things Fires That Divide.
How did the band initially form?
KIRK SHUTTLEWORTH (vocals/guitar): Well, me and Steven were originally drummers. We had been in a lot of bands on our local scene where we had had some bad experiences. We sort of lost the fun for it, so we decided that we wanted to start up our own rock band.
STEVEN NORTON (guitar): We had always spoken of doing that, because we hated the bands we were in at that point. It took a few years to get going, but once we had left those bands, we started practicing together.
Originally, Kirk was still on drums, whereas I was on guitar, but then I heard him play an acoustic set on a radio show, playing his own songs and stuff. I was listening to it at home and thought that Kirk definitely needed to be the singer, so that was when we decided to make a proper go of it.
KIRK: And after a few shocking auditions, we found Marc and Steve.
STEVEN: It’s been about three years now, hasn’t it?
KIRK: Yes, it has.
From where did the name Fires That Divide originate?
STEVEN: Me and Kirk had already done a few gigs, with some of our friends helping out on bass and drums. We didn’t really have a name at that point, we were kind of calling ourselves ‘The Kirk Shuttleworth Experience’, something like that.
We had decided by then that we needed a proper band name, so I was on holiday in Devon and I was just putting words together that sounded good. I’d had the name in my head for a week before I told Kirk, because I was worried he was going to think it was shit.
I then told him, and he didn’t say anything for about two minutes, and it was a long two minutes. He then chuckled and I told him I loved that name, and it stuck.
KIRK: That was it, really.
What would you say was your approach to songwriting?
STEVEN: Me and Kirk tend to get together and write stuff acoustically, we’ll just put some riffs together and see whether we can extend them. We then record it, and send it to everyone else. We will then work on it in the practice studio, and it kind of comes together from there.
KIRK: I will then go away and write some lyrics, and then come back, see if the rest of the band are happy with it, and that’s it.
What serves as inspiration for the band’s lyrics?
KIRK: A lot of the songs are very personal, through past experiences with different bands and life in general. What we tend to do as well, the song titles actually have no meanings, for example, one of the most personal songs is called ‘Vector Man’, and that was a Mega Drive game from the Eighties, I think. I suppose you could see it as kind of like hiding behind a blanket.
STEVEN: Although the songs are quite personal with the things Kirk writes about, we always take the approach of taking the music seriously, but not ourselves, so we just come up with stupid names, random comments, an in-joke perhaps, and we kind of go with it. The minute we start to overthink it, we go: “No!”
KIRK: We’ve always had the philosophy, stemming from past experiences of being in other bands, that we never take ourselves too seriously, and if things ever get too tough between the four of us, then we will end the band.
We’ve always said that being in the band has to be fun, and we try and show that when we play live. Luckily for the last three years, it has been a fun experience.
You released your second EP, ‘John Lee, Bullet & Love’ in May. How has the reaction been to it so far?
STEVEN: It’s been good.
KIRK: We have developed a lot as a band since the first EP was released, and we seem to have finally found our sound, because obviously, we have so many influences, and also, a lot more people have discovered us, especially after we played Fort Fest last year.
STEVEN: It kind of felt like that was the EP where we were writing together as a band, and the truest representation of us so far.
You’re supporting metal legends Diamond Head in December. How did that come about?
KIRK: The Robin 2 in Bilston, where the gig is taking place, is not far from us, so when I heard that Diamond Head were going to be playing there, I sent the venue an e-mail and they said that they don’t pick the support bands and that we would have to go to the band directly, so I then e-mailed a friend who is a direct contact, sent him all of our links and said that we were local, massive fans of theirs and would love to support them.
About a month ago, I got a reply, which basically confirmed that we were going to be the main support. It’s probably going to be our biggest gig so far, to be honest.
Actually, one of the guitarists came to see us at one of our first gigs, which was in Stourbridge, where the band are from originally.
STEVEN: I always remember that gig, and I said to Kirk that one of Diamond Head’s guitarists was watching our set, but they never came to see us afterwards.
KIRK: They probably thought we were shit.
STEVEN: And this has come about a few years later.
KIRK: Yeah, we’re really looking forward to it. We’re going to have to up our game.
STEVEN: We have a few months until then to polish our set.
You mentioned earlier that you played Fort Fest last year. How was it as an experience?
KIRK: We really enjoyed playing it. To be on that stage was incredible.
STEVEN: It was a good experience, especially for me personally, because we were on the same bill as Black Peaks and Arcane Roots, some of the bands that I have been a big fan of over the last couple of years.
However, around the same time, Kirk’s twins were about to be born.
KIRK: I was like: “I can’t miss this gig“, but also, I wanted to be there when they were born, so I had my phone next to the pedal board. We were two and a half hours away as well, so I literally don’t know what I would have done, as it was really close to the due date.
How is being a father affecting the band?
KIRK: To be fair, we’ve slowed down with the gigging, but we’re still rehearsing every week. I think it has worked out in our favour. Tonight was our first gig since May.
STEVEN: I feel we went through a phase of gigging loads and we would get tired, but at least now when we play a gig, we feel refreshed and more energised. And in terms of the songwriting stuff, when it’s just us two, I will go around to Kirk’s and we’ll just work stuff out. That way, Kirk can still be a dad.
What is the band’s long-term aim?
KIRK: I think the Diamond Head gig is going to provide a platform for us to sort of get our name out there more. We’re becoming more known at the moment, but we need to push further. We want to release an album, don’t we?
STEVEN: Yeah, we’ve done two EPs now, and there’s a backlog of material that we would like to record, so we would like to bring out an album, make a few videos, stuff like that. We’d also like to play the Civic Hall in Wolverhampton.
KIRK: That’s the plan.
STEVEN: We’ve already played The Slade Rooms and the Academy in Birmingham, so having grown up in that area and watched some of our favourite bands perform there, we’ve always seen it as an amazing venue and it would be a dream to play there, there’s no reason why we can’t.
‘JOHN LEE, BULLET & LOVE’ IS AVAILABLE TO LISTEN OR DOWNLOAD NOW ON iTunes, AMAZON, GOOGLE PLAY, DEEZER & SPOTIFY.
FURTHER INFO ON THE BAND CAN BE FOUND AT THESE SITES:
OFFICIAL WEBSITE: www.firesthatdivide.co.uk