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The Bonfire Set

Most, but not all, of The Bonfire Set: Ryan Widmer, Denise Julian, Patrick Zbella, Nathan DePaoli, Jamil Apostol, Casey Frasca. Not pictured: Kirsten Crom.

Most, but not all, of The Bonfire Set: Ryan Widmer, Denise Julian, Patrick Zbella, Nathan DePaoli, Jamil Apostol, Casey Frasca. Not pictured: Kirsten Crom.

Photo/Kent Irwin

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Life, the longest amount of time available to us, is framed by an eternity of nonexistence. A small window encompasses all we will ever know or experience. Music, as with all forms of artistic expression, is an attempt to saturate each moment of our passing lives with meaning and feeling.

The Bonfire Set approach this concept in the first words of their new EP, the Jack Kerouac-inspired On The Road, by singing: “In a few years, we will all turn to dust.” This meditation on impermanence is the prologue to the EP, which, far from a morbid elegy, is instead a celebration of life and love–our brief moment in the sun.

Singer and songwriter Jamil Apostol recalls his first time reading On The Road as a life-changing experience. The Beat Generation classic has inspired many generations afterward to live in the moment and see as much of the world as possible, and it still finds relevance today in the hands of young musicians.

“I read it, and it just made me wanna tour, travel, live the life, you know?” says Apostol.

Apostol admits the members of The Bonfire Set are rookies as far as extensive touring is concerned, but the band is optimistic about their prospects abroad. Their music is joyful and adventurous, with the drive of rock music making it a perfect companion for a long road trip of any kind.

The Bonfire Set offers the vibe of modern indie folk, but through the lens of a Cold War-era rock band. Anti-war protest, themes exploring the survival of love in an increasingly bleak geopolitical landscape, and guitar solos are The Bonfire Set’s currency as much as the melody and songwriting focus of indie folk.

On The Road was recorded by local heavyweight producer Tom Gordon, and mastered with his help by Ed Brooks, who has worked with big names like Pearl Jam and Bright Eyes. The Bonfire Set’s fascination with '60s and '70s rock ’n’ roll is evident in the recording process, as they used vintage equipment to forge their own retro sound. Vintage microphones and recording equipment, and a bonafide Hammond organ are a few artifacts the band employs on its recordings. The idea behind the recording style is to meld past and present, to bring new meaning to some of the past’s most memorable sounds.

“I wanna redefine our generation’s view of music,” says Apostol. “We have to think about how pop music affects our culture. Everything is mass-produced and cheap. I think our music has the potential to be a breath of fresh air.”

The Bonfire Set was formed when a group of friends from high school decided to take a road trip together to Coachella. Inspired by the energy of the festival, they decided to start their own band.

The songwriting is influenced by indie rock and classic rock, but several members are also admirers of hip hop, which influences the band’s hierarchy. The Bonfire Set often feel more like a collective than a band. Members Denise Julian and Casey Frasca often provide the lead vocals of the songs. The ego distribution of the band is communal, as opposed to the traditional structure of “frontman and back-up players.” Songs explode in choruses of many voices, like a choir, giving the impression that you’re listening to a big group of friends making music together.