Though their music will not actually ignite a flame, ERIN AND THE WILDFIRE will certainly make you feel the need to burn up the dance floor and sing your heart out. Based out of Charlottesville, Va., the band, which started in a student club at University of Virginia (UVA), was formed by the president and leading lady of the group — vocalist, guitarist, and banjo player Erin Lunsford.

Recognizing the talents of her male counterparts, Lunsford selected guitarist and backing vocalist Ryan Lipps, drummer and backing vocalist Nick Quillen, and bassist Matt Wood to complete her dream band. Described as a “local treasure,” their presence continues to grow throughout Central Virginia and beyond. We spoke with the band about their current three-song EP that is scheduled to be released this summer, as well as how their experiences together at UVA shaped their identity as a band into what it is today.

I know that Erin is the front woman of the band, but why did you decide to call your backing band THE WILDFIRE?

Erin: When we first got together, I picked the guys, and I told them that I wanted my name to be in front of the band name. I told them that they could pick the second half. The first name that we came up with four years ago was “Erin Lunsford and The Smokey Bandits,” and a year in, we decided that was no good because it was such a mouthful. I think Matt thought of “Wildfire.”

Matt: I was in a diner in Harrisonburg, Va. eating French toast, and there was a TV that had a Smokey the Bear commercial. I was waiting for the punchline, “Only you can prevent forest fires,” but they recently changed it to “Only you can prevent wildfires.” We had been knocking our heads against a wall (figuratively speaking) for at least two or three months at this point trying to come up with a better alternative, and I just thought the word wildfire seemed to fit the type of music we play and the vibe we had been going for. So I pitched it to the rest of the band, and they all liked it enough to roll with it.

How did you pick the guys to be in your band?

Erin: We were all in a student recording group called O Records, and we did a lot of performances and recordings through that organization. So that is where I found the guys and asked them to be in a band with me.

Can you tell me more about O Records and your involvement with that group?

Erin: It’s a UVA contracted independent position, and it is student-run and nonprofit. I was the president of it for a couple years, so I was pretty involved with it. We did a recording once a year where we self-recorded students and put out an album, and we also did concerts throughout the year. We are pretty removed from it at this point. That was three years ago for me.

I saw on your Facebook page that you guys recently played a show on a yacht. Can you tell me about that experience?

Erin: That was super fun. It was for a UVA fraternity party, actually.

Ryan: There’s not really much to say other than we got dressed up in suits and dress and got to play on a yacht for a while.

Erin: A triple-decker yacht (laughs).

Ryan: I think it was in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed at Annapolis. It was just fun being on a fancy boat [dressed] fancy and playing music.

Do you prefer to dress up for your shows or do you like to keep it more casual?

Nick: As far as dressing up, personally, I think we all dress up in one way or another for everything we play. Whether it be formally dressing up or not, I think that everyone thinks a lot about what they are going to wear, and we have talked a lot about if we want to coordinate, what level of coordination. We have had agreements and disagreements (laughs), and we have actually been criticized about looking not like one style, which is what it is. But I think it is a cool thing for people to see we all come from different influences of our clothing styles and musically as well.

How would you say your musical influences translate to that?

Ryan: I would totally love to be just a glam rock costume-level [band] because as far as music relates to outfits, that is the thing that I dig the most, like T-REX, and OF MONTREAL is doing it nowadays too.

Can you tell me about any new music you guys are currently working on?

Erin: We are recording this week actually. We are heading to a studio in Brooklyn, N.Y. that we have never been to before, but we have heard awesome things. It’s called The End, and we are going to record two of our most recent originals. It’s going to be a pretty short recording session, so we are going to be rushed for time, but that’s just how recording goes for us apparently (laughs). We just need a huge donor to give us a ton of money so we can make the album of our dreams, but we’ll do that later.

So are those two songs going to be put on hold until you can record the rest of the album?

Erin: No, they are going to probably be released immediately. We are thinking end of summer because we might add one more track to it, and release three songs at a time.

Do you have a title set for that EP yet?

Erin: Not yet (laughs). We haven’t even recorded yet so we are putting all that stuff together. It’s really exciting because we haven’t recorded since August. Our first recording was released in November [2014], but it has been a while since we have been in the studio.

How did you end up picking to record at The End?

Erin: Our manager, Red Dust Music, and good friend Heather Ellis is based in New York City, and she came across the studio. Actually, The End sought us out and came to one of our shows when we played at Rockwood Music Hall back in January. They heard our music and came out to see us, and they talked to me after the show. I connected them with our manager, and it looks like we are going to be working together now because they really like our stuff.


Do you have any upcoming shows or tours you would like to announce?

Erin: We just did a little tour in the beginning of April for a week, and I think that is all we’ve got as far as official tours. But we will be in New York this week, as I said, recording and playing a show [May 1]. We are going to be in D.C. and Richmond later in [May]. We also just won an awesome battle of the bands to play at FloydFest, which is a pretty big music festival in Virginia. That’s very exciting for us. We are trying to get into that festival scene, and this is a good stepping stone.

For more updates on ERIN AND THE WILDFIRE, be sure to visit their website, “like” their Facebook page, follow them on Twitter and Instagram, subscribe to their YouTube channel, and check out their music on Soundcloud and iTunes.

Joe Fitzpatrick

Joe Fitzpatrick

As editor-in-chief, Joe is very passionate about promoting music and culture in Virginia and DC. A resident of Fairfax, Joe enjoys going to shows, checking out local breweries, and trying new foods with his girlfriend Alex.

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