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The Sound

Derek Lambert and The Prairie Fires


Like a lot of musicians, Derek Lambert — titular head of Derek Lambert and The Prairie Fires — learned music through his family.

“I started playing guitar when I was 14,” Lambert said during an interview. “My grandpa bought me an acoustic guitar. He was a bluegrass musician and taught me basic stuff, and I kind of went from there.

Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires play at Vaudville Mews on Friday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. Poison Control Center, Mantis Pincers and Wolves in the Attic also perform. $7.

Derek Lambert and the Prairie Fires play at Vaudville Mews on Friday, Jan. 18, at 8 p.m. Poison Control Center, Mantis Pincers and Wolves in the Attic also perform. $7.

“I took to it pretty fast,” he continued. “I was a teenager and a skateboarder, so I was into punk and rock-n-roll. So I wasn’t learning exactly the music I was interested in, but I appreciated that stuff, too, and was able to translate it to what I wanted to do.”

Lambert starting making the musical connections with friends in high school that are still prevalent in his work today.

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“I’ve been playing with Dustin (Harmsen) since high school. We were in a ska band called Slaughterhouse Six, and we used to play with Chris (Ford’s) old band, Stuck With Arthur, so we knew each other through that.”

The Maximum Ames crowd is a laissez faire bunch, with musicians sitting in with any number of bands as time, space and desire allows. This is certainly evident with the lineup of Derek Lambert and The Prairie Fires. Lambert, bassist Harmsen, guitarist Elliot Imes and drummer Ford have all performed solo, as well as with acts like Mumfords and Ford’s Christopher the Conquered. It’s a sharing of talent and passion that allows the individual musicians to flourish without too much regard for time constraints.                

“If one of the bands that I’m in is playing a show, I’ll try to make it work,” Lambert explained. “Like for Christopher the Conquered, there are a lot of people that kind of rotate in and out, so I don’t always play with him. That’s kind of nice to have that flexibility. For example, I’m going to be playing half of the bass parts with Poison Control Center in this weekend’s show, and (Imes), who plays guitar in my band, is going to play the other half of the time.”                

And while the Prairie Fires themselves have kept a relatively stable line-up, that mindset has still helped dictate the course of the band.                

“It’s a pretty set lineup,” Lambert said. “But it’s flexible in so far as, if we book a show and one of the guys can’t make it, I can play it solo. Elliott and I have started playing as a duo — one electric guitar and one acoustic — and that’s worked out pretty nicely, too.”                

The Prairie Fires has also become a kind of amalgam of its individual parts, incorporating Harmsen’s background in punk and ska, Lambert’s folk writing sensibilities, and even some of Ford’s particular brand of stream-of-consciousness genius. The resultant sound is one that’s dynamic and at times capable of extreme diversity.                

“It’s kind of the culmination of all the stuff I listen to,” Lambert said.                

But like any good band, the Prairie Fires is driven forward by its songwriting. That’s a task that Lambert undertakes with more of an eye for the journey than the destination.                

“I write songs, and sometimes they turn into solo songs, and sometimes we turn them into band songs,” He said. “I’ve (written with both in mind), but right now I’ve come to a point where I don’t try and write either way. I just write and see where it ends up. A lot of the songs that we do as a band I wrote for solo performance. I just try to relax with stuff and not have any specific ideas.” CV

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