Fate Under Fire: Prove them wrong

People say SN&R doesn’t give a damn about suburban bands. So I called one up.

Is this tunnel downtown or in the Heights? Or Photoshopped?

Is this tunnel downtown or in the Heights? Or Photoshopped?

Did you grow up in the ’burbs, hate the hell out of it and beg friends to help you escape whenever opportunity arose? I did. Cattle Club, Tower Theatre, Luna’s Café & Juice Bar—when you’re 16 and locked up in the proverbial Roseville State Penitentiary, going to Midtown is like a conjugal visit.

And today at SN&R HQ, the writers know all too well this suburban great escape. So the Club Retros, Boardwalks and Fire Escape Bar and Grills of the world—which are great venues—often get neglected, if anything because of a knee-jerk aversion to all things suburban.

It’s a syndrome, you see? (Don’t worry, we’re on “medication.”)

Still, we do give a damn about suburban bands. Hell, I even phoned one up: Fate Under Fire.

When FUF’s lead singer, David James, answers his cell phone for this interview, he’s with Chris O’Keefe, lead guitarist, at a Kinko’s ordering a banner for their merch table. And this is when I realize that FUF is a very different gang than most Midtown acts: They not only have merch, they also have a banner. Most city bands can’t even show up to their gig on time.

FUF also sounds unlike than any band you’d hear at Old Ironsides or The Press Club. They play straightforward rock tunes, like “The Simple Things”: a mod-rock ode to trouble-free suburban living and polished guitar riffs, the Killers meets Taking Back Sunday. It’s something you’d hear on 98 Rock (and, incidentally, local-music advocate Mark Gilmore, a good guy, recently featured FUF on his Local Licks show).

FUF’s James is a good guy, too, but today he’s not doing so hot. “I went to bed last night and started feeling kind of weird,” he recounts of his bout with food poisoning. We’ll spare you the niceties and instead give you the skinny on his musical genesis: local guy, started playing drums when he was 12, has been in a ton of Sac and Modesto bands. He says things never really progress like you think they will when you’re the drummer in a band, though, so in high school he started writing his own tunes as a singer-songwriter.

In 2007, James met up with Rob Pierce, now FUF’s drummer. “I had my songs and my goal was to have band members learn my stuff, and then in the meantime write songs together,” he explains. Chris Pierce, who lives in Grass Valley, joined the band and rolls down to Antelope for practice—which James says happens about eight times a week.

“He’s pretty hungry,” James adds.

Alvie Gonzalez rounds out the foursome as FUF’s latest bassist; the band’s had some “issues with bassists,” James explains—which seems to be the case with bass players for some reason, no?

Anyway, that’s Fate Under Fire’s origins. Who knows what their name’s all about—“Ask Rob, he’ll give you a better explanation,” James quips—or why, for a fairly new band, they already have a management squad, a rock-star portfolio (see photo) and, you know, Kinko’s banners. But that’s their game: They’re headlining a big EP-release show at Club Retro on Saturday and then will be touring the West Coast, with stops in Las Vegas and Utah.

They want to make it. But not necessarily in Midtown Sacramento.

“Honestly, I don’t listen to a whole lot of stuff that’s out there. I’m in my little cave here,” James confesses, saying he’d go see bands like Shortie back in the day, but never came downtown that often and has yet to gig a grid venue. And this is cool; every band has a different “fire burning underneath them,” as James puts it.

And for him, it’s very personal flame. “Music helps me figure out things,” he says, noting a recent loss but not divulging any specifics. He also cites that his dad’s a cardiologist and that he feels a lot of pressure from his family to be something more than a musician.

“I feel like I have to prove them wrong,” James admits. Go for it, dude.