Firewater was birthed in a Brooklyn basement in the long, hot summer of 1997. Depressed, broke, and desperate, ex-Cop Shoot Cop leader Tod A tossed away a major label deal and a free meal ticket to launch what--at the time--was a crazy proposition: a punk band fueled by gypsy and klezmer tunes. Tod had stumbled upon a dusty box of records and cassettes in a Russian junk shop on West 14th Street, and had fallen in love with the happy/sad conflict embodied in Eastern European melodies. He wanted to combine the mystery and melodrama of these tragic-comic sounds with the energy of his first love: punk rock.
When Firewater's first record, Get Off The Cross (We Need the Wood for the Fire), came out, critics and fans were excited—and confused. The press was enthusiastic—but between the lines lay a lot of questions: How can we pigeonhole this? What is this all about?
However, ten years (and five records) later, Tod's crazy idea doesn't sound quite so crazy anymore. Bands as diverse as Gogol Bordello, Balkan Beat Box and Beirut owe a debt to his early adventurousness. In the meantime, the Internet has opened the ears of millions of people to music from around the world. Firewater's music has never fit very well into pre-fabricated boxes. A compulsive traveler, Tod has always been inspired by the stories, people, and music of the places he has visited. The records that followed (The Ponzi Scheme, Psychopharmacology, The Man on the Burning Tightrope, Songs We Should Have Written) were musical mash-ups that threw together flavors as seemingly disparate as spy jazz, ska, classic Bollywood, salsa, cabaret, Mexican banda, and Russian folk—to create a distinctive brew that was always 100% Firewater.
After three years of touring and world-wandering in the wake of 2007’s The Golden Hour, Firewater ringleader Tod A finally touched down in Istanbul, Turkey. “The city is fascinating. It’s a melting pot—a lot like NYC,” Tod says of his new hometown. “And with the revolutions going on all around, I knew we should record here.”
International Orange!, produced by Tod A and mixed by Tamir Muskat of Balkan Beat Box, carries on from where their previous collaboration, The Golden Hour, took off, slipping across new borders into uncharted territory. Created in Istanbul and Tel Aviv during the 2011 Arab Spring, their latest release captures the frenetic pulse of a world in the state of flux.
International Orange! continues in the proud Firewater tradition of cultural and stylistic mash-ups. High-energy Turkish percussion drives jagged guitars and horns on eleven anthems of frustration and hope, movement and transformation. The songs tap into grooves as disparate as Turkish maqsoum, Punjabi bhangra, Jamaican ska, Greek rebetiko, classic punk and old-school mambo. Muskat’s mixing aesthetic draws on everything from the Bollywood excess of '60s-era R.D. Burman to the early dub experiments of King Tubby. Yet the team manages to meld all these flavors into a cohesive whole, as only they can do.