Wes Chiller brings the heat of battle to his new EP.
The Orange County singer-songwriter (real last name: Miller) is a firefighter who spent a chunk of 2020 combating California wildfires, including the Lightning Complex blazes up north. He channels those experiences and pays tribute to his comrades on his new four-song release “Buffalo John & The Rainbow Crew.” The EP, premiering here, is officially out on Friday.
The follow-up to his 2019 EP “Chiller Instinct,” his new songs are imbued with vivid imagery and a working-class stoicism. As frantic as the events that inspired him must have been, Chiller immortalizes them in sweeping, burnished Americana — a warm sound that owes to the fact the songs were tracked live at Matt Wignall’s Tackytown Studio in Long Beach.
A mini-documentary (premiered below) sheds light on both the EP’s inspiration and its process, mixing Chiller’s footage from the wildfires with Britney Cherry’s images from inside Wignall’s room.
“The idea for this EP was to illuminate what kind of crazy stuff can happen out there on the road,” the songwriter says. “I bring a ukulele out with me, in case I’m struck by inspiration and can get a voice memo down to revisit when I get home.”
Not only a firefighter but the son of one as well, Chiller is also an avid surfer. The EP’s opener “Buffalo Highway” was inspired by the juxtaposition of battling a blaze on PCH with the ocean below. And “No Good Luck” refers to danger — he and his partner had a near-miss where a huge tree crashed to the ground where they stood just seconds before. “The redwood trees were falling way less often than the firs because the would grow near family, around other redwood roots, whereas the Douglas firs were loners and toppled easily,” he says. “That was full of the magic and purpose of life, to me. I took a lot from that.”
Chiller turns such moments into songs that leave an impression. During “Golden Tones,” the sound that backgrounds the short film, you can almost see the glow in the distance.
||| Watch: “Buffalo John & The Rainbow Crew,” the mini-documentary
||| Also: Stream the EP
||| Previously: “Mo Nothin”