The Barrel Fires Wake to the American Dream
The band, which is composed of Jay Carlis ’99, Mike Kay ’00, and Josh Meyer ’98, released a new EP that combines a lighthearted rock sound with politically charged lyrics.
The Barrel Fires didn’t start at Haverford, but it was school ties that brought the band members together to play original music and have fun doing it.
Made up of Jay Carlis ’99 on guitar/vocals, Mike Kay ’00 on lead guitar/vocals, Josh Meyer ’98 on bass/vocals, and non-Ford Dave Rodbart on drums, the group got its start in 2013 when Kay, then working in marketing research, reached out via LinkedIn to do some professional networking with Carlis, who is executive vice president at solar developer Community Energy. The conversation turned to music, and led to Kay (now in graduate school for social work) and Carlis pulling out their guitars and getting together to jam on shared blues and classic rock influences. Meyer, who had stayed close with Carlis through a Haverford alumni group, came on board after Carlis convinced him to dust off his bass. “I hadn’t played much for about 10 years,” says Meyer, a radiation oncologist at Fox Chase Cancer Center. “This renewed a part of my life I thought was over.”
Carlis was writing songs that everyone dug, and they worked up enough material to play Philadelphia-area gigs and record a 2015 self-titled EP. It all happened one low-pressure step at a time. “We all had the same expectations,” says Carlis. “We weren’t trying to make it big as rock stars. We just wanted to have fun.”
As a songwriter, Carlis blends some serious stuff into the good times. The Barrel Fires’ recent Run Around Years EP has lighthearted rockers like “Old Flame,” but the six-song collection is anchored by “One Day I Woke (to the American Dream),” which takes a sober look at life in 2019.
The song was a finalist in the 2017 Philadelphia Songwriters Project songwriting contest, whose theme was “Songs of Our Time.” The lyrics touch down in Indiana, North Carolina, West Baltimore, and San Jose, sketching common feelings of alienation and fear. The band puts a country-rock groove behind the soaring melody, giving Carlis’s words an extra lift.
Five years in, the Barrel Fires continue to be focused on writing, recording, and playing for friends, family, and fans, including performing at Haverford’s Alumni Weekend in June, alongside fellow alumni groups Dingo and the Shameless Impersonators.
"We’re having fun, getting music out to people, and we’re really proud of the EP,” says Carlis. “What else could we ask for?”