Bio

Debut homemade album 15 years in the making

After 15 years of carefully crafting a seamless debut album from the tapestry-covered landscape of his bedroom, Oakland’s one-man Fire Whale (James K. Utterback, PhD) is finally releasing his long-standing passion project. Inspired by the likes of Modest Mouse, The Mars Volta, Built to Spill, Radiohead, Tool, and Pink Floyd, James meticulously melds psychedelic, prog, surf, desert, and post-rock, seeking to create an immersive experience from start to finish that sonically coaxes the listener into a tailored mental state. While the world will have to wait just a while longer for full-length The Fiery Surf LP, the unique singles that Fire Whale has released thus far provide a glimpse of the epic and diverse journey to come. 

Driven by understanding how the world works, and passionate about doing good in the world, James did a Ph.D. in chemistry, and is now doing research involving lasers and quantum mechanics to study the fundamentals of solar-energy conversion. He is also curious about consciousness, spirituality, and the human experience—all of which dictate his songwriting, overtly or subconsciously. Fire Whale’s human touch and emotive nature is apparent—indeed, Rose Haze of Psyched! Radio SF has described this project as “powerful, twisting and turning through an emotional chaos.” Echoing this sentiment, Josh Graham of Altered State of Reverb remarked that James’ work successfully “builds mood and fervor while still clutching its core alternative sound."

"Breathe Smoke," Fire Whale's lead single, features comfortable fuzz-laden vocals and surf guitar hooks, leaning wholeheartedly into James’ inclination for earworm melodies. This track was popular enough with listeners to inspire an internationally crowdfunded dark and surreal animated music video. While this preceding release shows James in the midst of heartbreak, the new single "Serenity Within Chaos” (November 19th) sees him learning to move on and accept even bigger life changes. "Serenity Within Chaos” takes us for an immersive journey down a winding river of sound and personal growth, sharing insights—and musical influence—gained by moving away to India. Musically, this track brings a fusion of indie rock in the vein of old Modest Mouse, alongside Indian classical music. The tabla drumming under the acoustic and surf electric guitar create a unique soundscape, and the vocals are vulnerable and introspective, rising to a raw and belting anthem.

"Breathe Smoke" and "Serenity Within Chaos" are just the beginning, marking the first glimpses of Fire Whale's continuous concept album that is carefully crafted with as much focus and determination as a mountain creek returning to the sea. The Fiery Surf approaches. Brace yourself for this massive wave.