Dan Coutant—vocals, guitar, songwriting
The New York trio with the explosive moniker of Fireworks Go Up! delivers an appropriately incendiary set on its debut disc You're Welcome. The 10-song album merges punk's liberating adrenaline rush with a deeply-rooted affinity for classic pop-rock songcraft, thanks to the band's punchy interplay and the melodically uplifting, lyrically barbed songcraft of singer/guitarist Dan Coutant.
You're Welcome—the flagship release of Baryon Records, a new independent imprint launched by noted producer/engineer John Agnello—introduces FWGU! with ten impressive originals that are as inventive as they are accessible. Smart, infectious Coutant compositions like "A Glorious Mood," "Stronger As It Goes" and "Say Right Things" abound with irresistible hooks and barbed lyrical insight, offering a bracing blend of head and heart. Onstage, Coutant and bandmates David Fateman (bass) and Scott Treude (drums) channel the same combination of craft and creativity to deliver an irresistibly tuneful punch.
Coutant previously achieved considerable grass-roots success as leader of the highly regarded post-hardcore combo Joshua, which released three well-received CDs for Doghouse Records, played headlining tours of Europe and Japan, and toured in the U.S. with the Get Up Kids and At the Drive-In. "Being in Joshua was an inspiring situation for me," Coutant recalls. "The musicianship was great, the members of the band were great, and people responded to what we were doing. But the band ultimately fell short of its potential due to internal strife, bad career decisions and lack of motivation. The experience taught me a lot about what I really want—and don't want—from being in a band."
Following Joshua's breakup in early 2003, Coutant felt the urge for his next band to address a broader musical and emotional palette. "I didn't want to make sad records anymore, I just wanted to write the best songs that I could and maintain an element of fun," Coutant explains. "I wanted to stop writing songs that just bitched about what can go wrong—where's the fun in that? On this record, even the songs with sad subject matter are kind of tongue-in-cheek.
"There comes a time," he continues, "when you have to stop trying to be someone else and realize that you get very few chances to truly express who you are and what you're feeling. I looked at this record as if it was my big opportunity to write the best music and say all the things that I wanted to say, and to touch on all the great music that has inspired me. You're Welcome is my attempt at making the record of my life. I don't know if that's what happened, but it's as close as I could come at this point in time."
While still with Joshua, Coutant's talents had caught the ear of John Agnello, who produced Joshua's final release. A versatile studio vet whose extensive discography includes work with acts as diverse as Patti Smith, Rosanne Cash, Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, Jay Farrar, Cyndi Lauper, Dinosaur Jr., Steve Wynn and the Smithereens, Agnello recognized in Coutant the same creative spark and star quality that he'd encountered in the aforementioned artists, and volunteered to lend his talents to the singer/writer/guitarist's next project.
The producer also introduced Coutant to drummer Scott Treude, who became the first to sign on to the band that would become Fireworks Go Up! Treude's eclectic resume includes live and studio work with a variety of NYC combos, as well as membership in the noted hardcore-metal combo Iron Christ, a stint as guitarist with D.C. ska legends The Skunks, not to mention his parallel careers as environmental physicist and web programmer.
An intense woodshedding period followed, with band and producer honing the material to maximum sharpness, setting the stage for the recording of You're Welcome at Headgear studio in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Water Music in Hoboken, N.J.
According to Coutant, "The experience was fun, intense, stressful—all the things you feel when you're working hard on something that you truly care about—and very rewarding. John Agnello got more out of me than I could ever have gotten out of myself. A couple of the best songs were written on his couch, while he was in another room answering email or out walking his dog. The atmosphere in the pre-production stage was so inspiring that songs started coming very easily. By the time we got into the studio to do it for real, the songs already had a story and had already taken on a life of their own."
"Making the album was a great time," adds Treude. "It was inspiring watching Dan work with a clear and absolute vision for each tune and each performance. We didn't have a lot of time to get fancy, which was probably a good thing because the songs were already great and we didn't get much of a chance to clutter them up."
FWGU!'s musical arsenal gained added firepower with the addition of bassist David Fateman shortly after the album's completion. Fateman had previously paid his dues playing bass and guitar in a wide assortment of combos, including the notable pop-rock outfits Field Trip and Jetsetera, and the notorious theatrical rock outfit Erl Shibe 5. He's particularly enthusiastic about his new gig.
"I like the idea of being part of a band that blends a great pop sensibility with intelligent lyrics," says Fateman. "I love every track of the album, and I love how the tunes are packed with great harmonies and smart arrangements. So I'm very happy to be involved."
Indeed, You're Welcome suggests that Fireworks Go Up!'s musical horizons are unlimited. "We're not out to prove a thing, we're just out to make music," states Dan Coutant. "It seems to me that the best and most interesting bands, like Spoon, the Flaming Lips and Shudder to Think, are the ones that don't really fit into any specific place in music's subdivisions. Those bands just do what they do and still manage to appeal to a vast audience. That's what I want Fireworks Go Up! to be."
|Baryon Records © 2004|