AOTM Spotlight: Fair City Fire

Who is Fair City Fire?

Fair City Fire
From left to right: Derik Kroeze, Joe Valadez, Brett Winning and Brian Wolff. Photo by Ismael Quintanilla

Fair City Fire formed in Austin, Texas in July 2014. In the beginning, they set out to realize their goal of performing groove-oriented, in-your-face, all-original rock and roll. They individually draw influence from rock and roll, blues, alternative, and soul to create their memorable sound.

Fair City Fire’s debut EP “Say It Loud” was released in March 2015 and was followed by the Say It Loud national tour, making stops in Houston, New Orleans, Nashville, Indianapolis, Cleveland and Binghamton, NY.

Fair City Fire’s first full length album, “The Simple Truth”, featuring 10 new songs produced by Benjamin Alan Levy was released April 1, 2016 with a packed show at the legendary Stubb’s. Since that night, they’ve only seen their interest grow and grow!

Their mission is simple – put on the most unforgettable, energetic, and fun show that they can every single time… and ROCK YOUR FACE!

Find out more at Fair City Fire’s Website!


How did you all find each other and form Fair City Fire?

Brian Wolff (Guitar/Vocals) and Derik Kroeze (Guitar/Vocals) met at an open mic they both regularly attended in Austin when they separately arrived to town in 2012. They soon realized that they genuinely and consistently enjoyed each other’s open mic performances and made plans to start a band together. While they made a few attempts… nothing seemed to really click right away and they decided to put the idea on the backburner for a while.
Fast forward a few years… Brian joined a Pop/R&B cover band in town called Hollie and the Hype which included Brett Winning (Bass) and Joe Valadez (drums). While they enjoyed playing the gigs for about a year and explored what they could within the cover band setting… the three of them, after a while, decided they wanted to go for something new. Something original… Something loud… something they really loved and could really call their own with pride. Brian called Derik and asked him to be a part of it. Fair City Fire was born.

You went on a national tour in support of your debut EP “Say It Loud”. Any great stories from that tour? Or memories that stick out to you?

Brian: Well that was the first time any of us had gone on a “real tour”. I can tell you from my perspective. The days leading up to that tour were everything. They were exciting, fun, busy and so, so terrifying… all at once. Then the day came and it all started out as planned. We hooked up a trailer to my Buick Park Avenue and it worked like a charm. Took that thing all over the country. Albeit, not super comfortably, but it got the job done. That feeling of waking up and knowing that night you’d be performing in a city you’ve never performed before (or in some cases never set foot in) is like nothing else. After a few days it all started to feel normal somehow. There are always going to be hiccups, but flexibility and keeping our heads level kept us going. We realized by the end of it the next one had to be bigger and better because we were all ready to keep going when it was time to go home. (foreshadowing, perhaps??)

Derik: Getting to introduce Fair City Fire’s music to friends and family at pretty much every stop across the country. Joe’s family in Houston, old friends in Nashville, staying with Brett’s brother in Indy, going to Swenson’s burgers in Cleveland with my family, and eating some sweet lasagna made by Mrs. Wolff in Binghamton. Other than the music, food was the most important thing.

Brett: It was all such a great memory. I’d have to say going to each person’s home town was really special. You see we have known each other for over a year by that time and to see and meet everyone’s family was such a cool experience for me. The support of friends and family that would come out to the shows really let you know how amazing the guys I get to play music with for a living really are. Being able to see where they get their personalities from and the love they share with their families is such a special bond that I do not take for granted. Looking forward to doing it again (foreshadowing, perhaps?)

Joe: My favorite moment from tour was meeting all the bands we were having shows with. To get support and help from people out there doing the same thing was really encouraging.

You released your first full length album, “The Simple Truth” in April of 2016. About a full year after “Say It Loud”. Who did you work with on that album and can you tell me about that process?

Well we enjoyed working with local producer/engineer, Benjamin Alan Levy so much on the EP that we decided to stick with him. Knowing how much we had progressed as a band and as songwriters especially… we knew we had to do this album right. When you have somebody you gel with in the studio like we did with Ben… you really have to stick with what’s working. Ben is truly incredible to work with and we feel lucky to have come across him. It’s funny how it happened. Ben and Derik went to Kent State together and were in separate bands within that scene. When Ben came down to Austin they had reconnected and we found out Ben had gone to school for music production. We were looking to get serious about recording our first EP when the rest of us met Ben. It was really meant to be.

Are there any records or bands that you listened to while you were writing music for “The Simple Truth”.

Brian: Our process is a little different. We are all contribute to the writing in this band. What usually happens is.. one of us will bring the bare bones of a song to rehearsal. Maybe it’s a bass line or a guitar hook and some lyrics. We just bring those things to practice and let the songs build around it naturally by just simply playing. Nobody is telling each other what to play or anything. We just let it happen. So you get everybody’s individual influence while still sounding like us overall because it always has the same contributors. I, personally, have always tried to immerse myself in my favorite bands (IE. Queens of the Stone Age) and some more classic rock stuff like The Who when it comes down to buckling down to write. This was no different.

Derik: There were a couple of tunes where I was trying to get a guitar tone as thick and nasty as those guitars on ZZ Top’s Tres Hombres. Also, a lot of My Morning Jacket.

Brett: I wouldn’t say there was any Albums in particular that I was listening to while we were writing the Simple Truth. I felt at the time, and still feel that trust in them to bring any ideas to the table and know that they will listening with full intent to turn a idea into a great song for us. The whole process is quite amazing.
Joe: I was listening to a lot of the Arctic Monkeys and jazz and wanted to put more syncopation in my drum parts and put fills that really accented the direction the music was going.

With so many amazing music venues here in Austin, is there any that you just love playing or that you’re dying to play?

Brian: We love playing at Stubb’s so much. The stage there is perfect. The sound crew and security crew are amazing and super welcoming. We’ve had very pleasant interactions with everyone there right down to the promoters we’ve worked with at C3 Presents. I could go on all day about all the great venues here, but for now I’ll stick to the favorite! Goals venues that come to mind are Moody Theater (3 Ten sounds really cool too), Mohawk Outdoor and Empire in the Garage. Those stages are all so amazing.

Derik: Stubb’s has consistently been the best place to play. The crowds are excited, we have a badass backstage area, and it becomes more of an “event” than some of our other shows. Honestly, you can’t go wrong in this city though.

Brett: I really enjoy Stubb’s of course! Maybe one day we will play the outside stage. Other spots I have really enjoyed through out our time together have been The Rattle Inn, inside at Empire Control Room, Lamberts, and there are just so many. Places I’m am looking forward to playing in the future are; Outside at Mohawk, outside at Empire Control Room, Moody Theater, any ACL stage, Cheer Up Charlies, and I’m sure I am missing a bunch.

Joe: We love Stubbs but we want to get outdoors and playing to larger crowds but that takes time. One 2 one has a great sound system and Stubbs has that and an atmosphere that you can’t help but feel

What does being named an Austin Music Foundation Artist of the Month mean to you?

Brian: Fair City Fire has gained so much from Austin Music Foundation. It is one of those things about Austin’s music scene that help make it the amazing hub that it is. I remember when I first heard about it… I couldn’t believe that it was real. Free professional development consultations for Austin musicians? That is unheard of. Not to mention all the panels bringing in experts on various topics within the scene. We’ve personally gained so much insight from those events. So, knowing how much AMF positively impacts the Austin music scene makes this honor absolutely incredible. To see our name next to most of the greats within the Austin scene is quite a thrill too. It just feels good to be recognized, especially by such a great organization.

Derik: It means we are doing something right! We put a lot of time and effort in to making our last album, and if this opportunity/title helps that music reach more people, then I am very grateful. There have been many other great bands that I have discovered through Austin Music Foundations Artist of the Month, and I hope others have that experience with us.

Brett: It means a lot to me because I know we are moving forward. We have put so much time and effort into creating music that we love, and also putting a piece of ourselves out there for people hear whether or not it is received with open ears.

Joe: It’s a very high honor. It is an accolade that shows that hard work pays off! It’s a great achievement for us and we want to keep moving up. It means that what we are doing is being seen by others and that feels good.

What has living and playing in Austin taught you?

Brian: Going from being a fairly big fish in a small pond in my hometown to a tiny fish in the ocean that is Austin’s music scene forced me to realize the importance of hustle. Talent is talent. People can recognize it anywhere, but it takes real hustle to make any moves in this scene. It’s got to be every day. It’s got to be all- encompassing.

Derik: Loving music and being good at what you do has very little to do with your level of success. Networking, resilience, and patience are nearly as important.

Brett: The grind is real! It has been a crazy experience. Just countless hours of playing and countless hours of sending out emails and trying to work our way into better venues among thousands of other musicians. It has taught me hard work and patience.

Joe: I have learned that you need to keep doing it. There are so many bands I have seen make it pretty big in the last six years and it is because they keep doing it. Keep playing and keep moving forward.

Are you influenced by the other musicians that call Austin home?

Brian: How could I not be? One of my favorite things about playing Fair City Fire shows is checking out what other bands in the Austin scene are doing. I am absolutely a student of this scene here. I pick something up every time I go see somebody. Whether it’s what to do or what not to do. It’s all helpful.

One quick story. One of my first nights out on the town when I arrived here… I took a date out to just go check out the music scene on 6th street on a Monday night. We walked into Friend’s Bar and I will never forget the completely emasculating experience of watching Eric Tessmer play guitar. I came into Austin feeling like I knew a little bit about playing guitar. I left Friends that night realizing I knew absolutely nothing. Sometimes it’s good to get your butt kicked. It used it as motivation to make myself get better and I’m actually very thankful for it. PS. I’m still a huge fan of his.

Derik: Of course. I love Wild Child so much. I remember seeing them at Scoot Inn when I first moved to Austin 4 years ago and they had a great crowd, but they have just exploded since then. And those melodies! Everyone you hear or see in this town influences you in some way – it’s either “I should try a similar chord progression” or “this is something I’ve never really thought about” or those stage shows that just make you want to make sure that at you next show, your energy shines through 100 times more.

Brett: I wouldn’t say influenced, but impressed by. There are so many great bands that deserve recognition in Austin. As long as they continue doing what they are doing they will or already have done great things and will do more. That Girl Dre, Canvas People, Finite Fidelity, The Warplanes, Chris Strand, Fierce Kelly, and many more.

Joe: Yes some of the people I have watched get really big in the last six years are people like Wild Child and Shakey Graves and that is just scratching the surface. We are also playing with some amazing musicians that inspire me for sure. Our lineups are usually filled with bands that I pull a lot of inspiration from

What’s something you’ve learned in the last two years, that you wish you’d known in the beginning?

Brian: I attended an AMF panel about a year ago. The topic was “making a living playing music”. One of the panelists said something profound that stuck with me and became a mantra of sorts from then on. “Go where you’re appreciated… not just tolerated”.

Derik: Have someone watch the door money in New Orleans, or someone is going to take off with it.

Brett: It’s forever a learning experience. I wouldn’t use a wish on that. It had to be this way to get to where we are. Maybe eat more pizza.

Joe: Just do it. Not to sound so cliché but get out there and do it. I will say it also helps to have a good band with you but whatever it is, just shoot for it. Don’t let your fears get in the way.

What’s the next step for Fair City Fire?

To Infinity and Beyond!

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *