The vibrant music scene in Huntington, West Virginia bring us another band from thereabouts. Friendly Fire has released their first full length album titled Junebug. Named and dedicated to vocalist James “JC” Harless’ grandmother and daughter. His grandmother, June Naoma Rollo, who just passed away, and his daughter who shares the same name as his grandmother are the inspiration for the album. The band is comprised of JC (lead vocal and guitar), Hank Berlin (bass and backing vocals), Colten Settle (guitar and backing vocals), Daniel Beahm (drums), Al Cardwell plays keys, horns, and provides backing vocals. While listed on the album Al is no longer with the band. The band has put together ten songs for this album that blend styles and take from their influences for a potpourri, if you will, of some songs that stick. Songs that rock, that have some soul, and that are just good.
I have been fortunate enough to play and visit Huntington a few times. If Huntington were a sound instead of a place for me, it would sound a little like this. Where we are from is only the tip of the iceberg, as there is so much more underneath the water. These guys certainly bring that. What struck me through my first listen was the crunch and fuzz of the distorted guitar(s). Unsure of what I was expecting this distortion pleasantly surprised me, and then the loudness ensued and was I even more delighted. These ten songs ebbed and flowed sonically through the loud wakes and then they break it down slowly for you. In between the piano and guitar solos, which I found myself equally delighted to hear, was the soulfulness of JC’s voice. Which for the sonics added another element.
JC’s voice led way to listening to the lyrics. The opening track “Reason to Live” I’m going to assume is a track either about his grandmother or his daughter, or both. The title pretty much sums up the songs meaning. It is also a great track to kick the album off with. Even equipped with a punk rock count in which I enjoyed. From there the album stays to true to this form of rock mixed with the grit of JC’s voice. A voice that’s not pretty and polished, a voice that has some grit and rust on it, and a voice that weaves the lyrics around these smooth sonics that seems effortless. The lyrical quality as well is on point. Which for me happened simultaneously while listening to the music. Listening over and over again to find what the songs mean to me has been a fun adventure, and one I thoroughly enjoy with this record.
I didn’t write the songs so deciphering meaning isn’t fair to do to them. Because what I hear someone else might not. I’m not here to judge them either. I listened to them, a lot, and what I gathered were songs about life. Songs that are honest in their reflection of a life being lived. “Turtle” a song written during the downtime of the pandemic is a song I feel might reflect this. To be honest and fair though all of them seem to do so. Plus, I just really liked the imagery of “Turtle,” and the metaphor used. “Mud” a song towards the end of the record is a song where I felt they just sort of let loose. This song made me think of the soulfulness while still staying with the just letting loose feeling throughout the record. This record I feel is them saying in their own way “Hello.”
The band had a great opportunity to record with James Barker at his house. JC has known Craig Burletic since high school and through Craig met James. James and Craig are in Tyler Childers band. It’s simply Huntington giving back to each other. Through this family aspect these songs shine. The album just rocks, and I love that. In all the right ways, whatever that means. It is streaming everywhere and go give them a follow on facebook as well. This band and the music felt like a secret that was kept from me, but now here we are. Ten tracks of a record called Junebug that I feel are pretty great. Happy listening and hope you enjoy them as much as I did. I’m sure they will be playing somewhere at some point give em a follow to stay up to date.
For any booking inquiries of the band if so inclined. Please reach out to Cory Berry at: