To subdue wildfires, firefighters dig a fireline, a cleared pathway to hold back the fire. In 2002, a blazing year for wildfires, rhythm guitarist Shane Preston met lead guitarist Dave Young through a mutual friend and decided to form a band. Both Billy Hardy and Johnny Slapinski, on bass and drums, respectively, played for local band Station Man, and keyboardist J. Schmidt also plays with Sound Advice. Together, they became Fireline.
“We wanted a name that represented West Coast country,” says Preston, a Nevada native. “Wildfires are usually a West Coast thing.”
In addition to working with local talent, Hardy has shared the stage with Elvin Bishop, the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys. Schmidt has performed with members of the Trammps and the Dixie Dregs.
Though definitely West Coast, there is nothing contained about the cowboy rock and blues band. Fireline’s song list rocks the country/rock spectrum, including tunes from Johnny Cash and Dwight Yoakam to the Rolling Stones and ZZ Top. Fireline’s rendition of Hank Williams’ “Move It On Over” features Preston’s roguish vocals backed by solid driving rock. The group is equally adept at capturing the haunting intensity of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Simple Man.”
“I think we definitely have our Southern rock/blues roots, but I’d like to think of us as being a little progressive,” says Preston of Fireline.
A friend’s attempt at bull-riding catapulted him into a two-week hospital stay and into one of Preston’s first songs, “Bullhonky!”
Preston admits to taking artistic license with some of the names and places: “That’s why it’s called ‘Bullhonky.'”
The song remains on Fireline’s song list, and its “inspiration” made a full recovery. On the band’s original songs, Preston writes the words and progressions, then the other band members bring their ideas for their own parts.
In “Dog Days,” a young man comes of age on Parr Boulevard. The song is based on a summer Preston spent with his best friend, Marcello Lopez, who was later fatally shot by police at age 19. “It was hard to deal with, but it was really nobody’s fault,” says Preston.
J. Schmidt’s piano accompaniment smoothly weaves through the Southern rock.
“There are a lot of beautiful things and beautiful people in places you might not expect … if you look,” says Preston.
An encounter with a lovely but unavailable lady led to a strange dream and another original tune. “All the Tools” is not an ode to Craftsman, but a wink at the extensive necessities stuffed in a woman’s purse. “I’m always glad/To see that, little bag/'Case we break down or get stuck/I know she’ll come through with the clutch.”
Preston says that local band Clear Blue 22 recently signed a record deal, raising the bar for the other country groups in town. The band hopes to someday head to Los Angeles or Nashville to lay down an album. Preston says both cities “just have an ear for what things need to sound like.”
In the meantime, he continues to write and record songs. Currently, Fireline has a full summer schedule playing local venues like Fallon’s farmers market and Pure Country Dancehall and Saloon in Sparks.
“I think the Reno country scene is the best right now it has been in years,” says Preston.