Q&A With Firewater’s Tod A

Firewater frontman Tod A likes to travel. The ex-Cop Shoot Cop leader and longtime New Yorker spent almost three years on the road following the release of 2008’s The Golden Hour, finally settling down to live in Istanbul. New album International Orange! (Bloodshot) was made there and in Tel Aviv during last year’s Arab Spring. Of course Tod hit the road immediately to promote the LP, but a couple weeks ago he tripped on a cobblestone, breaking his kneecap and forcing the tour to be postponed. Tod will, however, be guest editing magnetmagazine.com all week, writing about the things he can’t travel without. We recently caught up with him via email.

“A Little Revolution” (download):

This is your first record since 2008. How did your time off affect or inspire International Orange!?
Firewater toured the world for about two and a half years following the release of The Golden Hour. Both during and after that time I was traveling a lot, for work and fun. I helped out an NGO called Wildlife Alliance, based in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for about a year. We were based in the Cardamom Mountains, trying to provide alternative livelihoods for people who were cutting down virgin rainforest and hunting endangered animals. Everything I do apart from music inspires me and keeps me from getting bored. I hope that having a break from music allowed me to make a better record.

The context of recording was during the 2011 Arab Spring, correct? International Orange! seems to reflect a tell-all political and religious message throughout. Does an interest in politics stem beyond your work as a musician?
Yes, we recorded and mixed the record in Istanbul and Tel Aviv during the Arab Spring. The underlying thrust of International Orange! is probably the same message I have been broadcasting since I first got behind a guitar: “I won’t mess with you if you don’t mess with me” (i.e., I believe in everyone’s right to be wrong, just don’t breathe down my neck).

“A Little Revolution” is on the same wavelength; What’s the story behind the song?
“A Little Revolution” was initially inspired by the unresolved situation in neighboring Iran. But it could just as easily have been about the flagging Occupy movement in the U.S. I’ve met many Iranian dissidents here in Istanbul, and a lot of frustrated people in America. Revolution can come from many angles, not necessarily violent. Sometimes it just takes a little extra breeze to fuel the fire.

There are some cultural and style infusions throughout International Orange!—what was your inspiration for the instruments and style for this record?
The record was recorded here in Istanbul, with the collaboration of local Turkish musicians. Istanbul is a happening town—lots of energy. I’ve been hanging my hat here for two years now. Turkey is a young country: The median age is just 28. Youth equals change, and that’s a good thing, in my opinion.

What is your favorite track from the album and why?
I like “Up From The Underground.” It’s the bastard child of a Broadway musical and a soccer anthem, and its ‘ll about the inevitable democratic revolution in Iran.

There seems to be a sense of humor in some of the lyrics. Was that intentional? How does it work with International Orange!?
There has always been plenty of black humor in Firewater’s songs. But the times we live in seem especially absurd. Accordingly, some of the lyrics on International Orange! reflect that.

Looking back on Firewater over time, what was the driving force that got the band to International Orange! today?
We’ve always been easily bored and hungry for change. It’s a great time to be alive.

—Megan Matuzak