Just over halfway through Fireball Kid’s “Be Friends” (with Magi Merlin, Ura Star, and Big Friends) a distorted guitar solo rips through the production. Sparkly pop textures, autotuned falsetto verses, and Magi Merlin’s lush, commanding hook suddenly fall off, and, for a second, it sounds like someone tripped over a cord. Out of nowhere, this shimmering, SoundCloud object becomes oddly physical. Just as quickly as this uncanny revelation hits, though, Fireball Kid reassembles his toolkit, and the guitar riff is cleaned up, looped, and inserted neatly back into the beat.
“I used to play in bands, little baby boy bands, through our teen years,” Fireball Kid, otherwise known as Colin Ratchford, said in an interview with The McGill Tribune. “Then, I got all edgy and bitter because we played in so many for so long and I was all like ‘Man, guitars are over. Guitars are done.’”
“Be Friends” is the second track from Fireball Kid’s previous EP, Speedrun, released at the end of last August. On Jan. 20, alongside his best friends and close collaborators Ura Star and DvD, Fireball Kid celebrated the release of Starfire. Though the project bears only Ura Star’s and Fireball Kid’s names, Ratchford insists that all three friends contributed equally. Stepping onstage after a slew of openers from all corners of Montreal’s pop scene, including Margo and Magi Merlin, as well as Rare DM, a touring artist from New York City, the trio opened with “Be Friends,” an ode to the awe inspiring power of friendship, guitars, and beat pads.
“We made beats for a few years, and I was like ‘I wanna put some guitars on this,’” Ratchford said. “Like, I want to subvert using guitars. But it’s not a subversion at all, it’s just, like, good pop music where I’m not scared to use all the tools at our disposal.”
If the gnarly solo tearing “Be Friends” in half indicated a shift in Fireball Kid’s approach to music production, Starfire finds him and Ura Star straddling these superficial boundaries in bold, cowboy-like fashion (“I’m a heartsick cowboy,” he croons on “Whole Body Mood”). They followed “Be Friends” with “Starcross,” Starfire’s opening track, which features real drums, bass, guitar, and an unmistakably pop-punk lyrical flare. But, in Fireball Kid’s energized landscape, these archetypes are teeming with new possibilities by virtue of their unification. He and Ura Star pepper their lyrics with images of cowboys alongside dancers alongside wrestlers.
“Our vision of a cowboy has nothing to do with what cowboys are supposedly all about,” Ratchford said. “Cowboys are people who are honest about their feelings. They are open with people. Cowboys cry. They tell their friends they love them. Cowboys pick up a flower and smell it once and then shed a single tear. A cowboy is whatever you want it to be as long as you’re open with yourself and true to yourself. Same with a dancer. All cowboys and dancers are kind of interchangeable for me. A cowboy would fight you, as would a dancer, if you fucked with their friends.”
As tempting as it is to term Ratchford’s music “Boybandcamp” (or “ROCKHampton” as he called it in our interview), Fireball Kid and Ura Star aren’t trying to build a metaphorical bridge between Bandcamp and SoundCloud. For Ratchford, honesty, earnestness, friendship, collaboration, and good, fun pop music can overcome any boundaries.
“Pop is just fun, that’s it,” Ratchford said. “It’s pop because it gets you goin’. It gets you fired up. I just want to write a fun, happy, pure song. I think at its most peak and distilled form, pop is just going to be fun.”
Starfire is available on Apple Music, Spotify, and SoundCloud.