Band of the Day

2012.11.25

Firehorse

Ethereal electronic flourishes combined with hypnotic vocals
She's as careless as a river, slowly carving through the ground. Only rocks and roots to guide her, til she beats against the dam.
lyrics from She's A River

When Prince calls you a brilliant performer, you know it’s a high compliment. The Purple One was referring to Leah Siegel, the singer/songwriter/instrumentalist behind the Brooklyn group Firehorse, after witnessing a performance of hers. Prince was certainly onto something, as Siegel’s full array of musical talents are on display on Firehorse’s eclectic debut album and so they ran faster….

The gorgeously hypnotizing music of Firehorse references luminaries like Jeff Buckley, PJ Harvey and Florence and the Machine. However, Firehorse makes a world unto their own, complete with ethereal flourishes, electronic beats and Siegel’s smoky vocals. Hypnotic and sexy grooves (“She’s A River”), haunting vocals that recall singers like Judy Garland and Doris Day (“My Left Eye”) and even bouncy pop rhythms (“Machete Gang Holiday”) all figure into the Firehorse repertoire. These seemingly disparate influences can be attributed to Siegel’s ability to design and assume different personas, sparked by a background in theater and singing in and co-writing commercials (Siegel wrote a song for a Topsy Foundation commercial, which won a Clio and an award at Cannes). This chameleon-like ability serves Firehorse well in creating a captivating listen.

The myriad of influences that Firehorse draws from should come as no surprise, given Leah Siegel’s background. A classical violinist from ages six to twelve, Siegel taught herself to play guitar and sing, resulting in her first songs at fifteen. During her teenage years, she became enamored with musical legends like Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, the Velvet Underground, Led Zeppelin and both Tim and Jeff Buckley. Her love for many genres of music continues today. When she’s not with Firehorse, Siegel fronts the vintage soul/R&B outfit Brooklyn Boogaloo Blowout and sings in the Citizens Band (a ragtag cabaret collective that features musicians from the group Beirut).

The name Firehorse carries quite a large amount of significance to Leah Siegel. As she puts it, “When the Chinese zodiac was still determining personalities..., women born under the sign of the Firehorse were an abomination. A female Firehorse embodies all the abhorrent qualities {according to the culture}: independence, assertiveness and a free-spirit.” These qualities are evident in not only Siegel herself but the group’s music. Siegel commented, “As I wrote and so they ran faster…, I challenged myself not to be afraid of my desires, all my desires, and each one seemed potentially in conflict with the next. Firehorse reminds me to be exactly who I am, even if it means I’ll end up destitute and alone.” The writing for the album allowed Siegel to find the courage to write her true feelings and deepest fears, such as experiencing joy after a moment of total surrender (“Our Hearts”) and the illusion of childhood innocence (“Young”).

Even with several side projects (and her own clothing line in the works), Leah Siegel remains deeply committed to Firehorse. As she says, “I spent six years in the trenches barely breathing and built a career entirely on my own. No agent, no manager - just based on the strength of my voice as a singer and a writer. I'm a work horse. I want to work, and I want to work hard. Horses, you know, they run until they kill themselves. That's how I am.” There’s no doubt, based up on the strength of and so they ran faster…, Firehorse will be running for quite awhile.