Cry Fire
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Cry Fire

Band Rock Pop


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"Pittsburgh Calling: Cry Fire"

A capsule look at Pittsburgh bands making news.
Cry Fire

Band members: Nathaniel Minto, vocals; James Graff, guitar, keyboards; Dan Bozek, bass; James Platania, drums. Jason Kendall joins them live on keys and sax.

New album: The band is releasing "Strangers," a 10-track debut with a crunchy hard-rock sound that relates back to bands like Pearl Jam and Stone Temple Pilots, with a few more guitar heroics. Minto calls it "a mix of straight-ahead rock, blues, and radio-ready pop based around the familiar themes of love, loss, and the struggle between finding hope and becoming disillusioned."

Background: Graff, Dan Bozek and Minto played together in The Known World. Graff also played in the bands Tangerine and Aether. Bozek works as head studio engineer and studio manager at Aardvark Productions in Steubenville. "So you have James, musical scientist; Dan who has the whole technical background and is also an in-demand live and session bassist; and then there's me. I'm just the singer," Minto says.

Influences: Graff, who does most of the composing and arranging, says he's inspired by everything from Led Zeppelin and Van Halen to B.B. King and Wes Montgomery, along with '90s grunge bands. "Still, at the end of the day, I'm a sucker for a good hook. Besides The Edge, and maybe a couple other notable exceptions, I'm not a fan of all the half-baked, angular post-rock guitar work that occupies most hipster iPods nowadays. The music needs space [please see any AC/DC riff]. Guitars need actual riffs (as in 'The Ocean'). I prefer soul vocalists [Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Aretha, etc.] and singers with an actual range to whiney white boy emoting. You get the picture." To that, Minto says, "I don't think I've ever been accused of being whiney. I certainly do my fair share of 'emoting.' "

Are they 'straight-ahead rock'?: "What does that mean?," Graff says. "We have riffs, and they mostly come out of the blues scale. But we also have minor seventh chords. Diminished arpeggios. Weird alternate tunings. Yes, it's most 4/4 and diatonic with drums, guitars, bass, and a loud organ. I guess that's just who we are. We're not trying to ape anything current in rock, that's for sure. I don't particularly care for it. ... Just listen to the record. We have big guitars and big vocals, so I guess we're about as pure a rock band as you're going to get nowadays. What can I say? We had a studio full of Marshall amps and Gibson guitars. We had to use them." Minto says simply that they approach the music "with a decided lack of pretension."

Next move: "We're just now really starting to ramp up the live thing now that the record is out, so we'll be doing other cities," Graff says. "Hopefully, some cigar-chomping record exec will throw us a suitcase full of cash and let us tour around full time. Oh, wait, the bottom fell out of this industry four years ago." - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette; Scott Mervis

"Local band Cry Fire debuts with radio-friendly Strangers"

Relative newcomers to the local scene, Cry Fire recently unofficially released its first effort, Strangers, via the pay-what-you-will Internet model; the official release show will occur Fri., Oct. 17 at the Rex Theatre. The album comprises some Triple-A radio-friendly rock and louder work that fuses melodic emo (think Sunny Day Real Estate) with melodramatic '80s-style balladry (face it -- those two genres were bound to fuse at some point).

Singer Nathaniel Minto's vocals are notably strong, a fact that likely adds to the band's mainstream appeal while perhaps making it sound a bit too good -- too polished -- for an indie crowd used to more wavering and insecure vocals.

At times it feels like the range of the album is a bit too far-reaching; for one record to include vocals-based pop rock, harder-edged guitar jams and just a little bit of jazz fusion (as in the track "For Robots, By Robots") might be a bit much. It's not necessarily a problem for a band to try covering as much ground as Cry Fire does, but as an album, Strangers feels slightly fractious for the attempt.

A little effort to flesh out one particular sound -- even if it means moving onto a slightly different style once that sound has been mastered -- might benefit this young band. But that's not a surprising issue for a first release. To take on the big pond that is radio-friendly rock, Cry Fire will want to hone a bit, but the band's not lacking the talent -- or ideas -- to get it done. - Pittsburgh City Paper (Andy Mulkerin)


Strangers [LP, 2008]

Three tracks from this release are available at



"When you're performing, whether it's to five people or to five hundred, you have to give that audience everything you have."

Cry Fire is a group that doesn't preoccupy itself with fitting into a genre, or cultivating some kind of predefined image or look. They are a band whose focus is, and has always been, performing their music at a very high level. A lot of bands say they're "all about the music" -- usually while they're trying to perfect their faux hawk or fit into a pair of $500 jeans. Cry Fire is made up of professional musicians: everyone in the band earns part or all of their income either performing, teaching, or writing music.

These songs, their original efforts, are their passion, their attempts to interject a note into the pop tradition.

The influences that combine to make-up this band are diverse. Ranging from the hard rock greats (Zep, Van Halen, Hendrix, early Clapton, etc), to blues legends (BB King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, SRV), and jazz virtuosos (Wes Montgomery, Grant Green, John Coltrane, Miles, Herbie, etc). Couple that with a 90s childhood (Pearl Jam, STP, Soundgarden, etc), and a slight taste for prog (Rush, King Crimson) gives birth to the sounds you hear. Still, at the end of the day, we're all suckers for a good hook.

Nathaniel Minto (vocals) and Dan Bozek (bass & production), both Steubenville, OH natives grew up surrounded by music. Nathaniel received most of his vocal training from his mother, singing along side her in church choirs and continuing to perform small acoustic shows while in college. Dan's father was a seasoned blue grass player, but also loved everything from classic rock to classical. Now a multi-instrumentalist and multi-genre expert in his own right, Dan is the studio manager and staff engineer at Aardvark Productions in Steubenville. Peter Wilson (drums) is originally from upstate New York, but now resides in Pittsburgh. He is an in demand live and session player, having previously played with everyone from Joe Zelek to the American Idol Tour (with various artists). James Graff (guitars & production) is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, grew up playing piano and guitar, performing all over the East Coast with a number of different professional groups. In addition to Cry Fire, he splits his time between guitar and theory instruction and playing various professional engagements around the region.

Cry Fire's new record Strangers, came together as sessions for a second record with their previous group, The Known World, fell apart. Bozek, Graff, and Minto hit the reset button, and tucked themselves away at Aardvark Productions for the early winter months of 2008. By the time spring rolled around, the band had emerged with a new name, and a full record of new material completed. While the album was being mixed and mastered by Bozek, the band began a period of rehearsals and small club shows to get their live sound, and line up, correct. The band now hits the road with a record it's proud to stand behind, and a live sound that more than backs up that quality.