Smoke or Fire

The big payoff for most bands comes from touring. Not as a money thing -- the majority of small-time outfits come home barely breaking even -- but rather in the inimitable experience of plopping into off-the-interstate Waffle Houses, taking in expansive Midwestern landscapes and playing out every night to a roomful (and sometimes just a handful) of fans. There's another side of it, too, which Smoke or Fire's vocalist/guitarist Joe McMahan details somberly in "I'll Be Gone": "I've spent my life in vans on tours/In rich men's homes/On poor men's floors/I've sold my soul to find a shred of hope/And it doesn't mean shit to me/'Cause I didn't find it with you." It's a modern punk anthem that underscores much of the sentiment on the act's most recent effort, This Sinking Ship, where Smoke treads the same asphalt roads as Hot Water Music and early Planes Mistaken for Stars -- no doubt a favored path to follow.


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