He swims like a song in the deep of the sea, billows smoke to the bloom of the tide”



“Fire Whale came splashing in on a strong wave to land into the psych rock scene with something powerful.” – Psyched! Radio SF

"Fire Whale brings a profound message ... roars to life with sonically alt-rock riffs that blaze during the breaks. Fire Whale shares a bit of his vulnerability … touching on the personal feelings of existentialism as well as hope." – ai love music

"Sonically swelling ... builds mood and fervor while still clutching its core alternative sound." –Altered State of Reverb

“…ability to take from assorted genre tropes and imbue them with a unique sense of identity.” –Sleeping Village


Oakland's one-man Fire Whale (James Utterback, PhD) releases a masterpiece debut album with The Fiery Surf, out March 25.

After 12 years of carefully crafting a seamless debut album from the tapestry-covered landscape of his bedroom, Fire Whale is finally releasing his long-standing vision. Inspired by the likes of Queens of the Stone Age, Built to Spill, Radiohead, Explosions in the Sky and Pink Floyd, James has always aimed to create an immersive experience to pull you deep into an altered mental state. And by god did he succeed.

The gapless album was expertly crafted to be experienced from start to finish, documenting a coherent personal journey of heartbreak and accepting change. “The Sounds of the Giant” sets the stage with the wonder and power of the mighty ocean. In a three-part suite, “Breathe Smoke” sees our hero facing unrequited love, “Sinking Ember” hints of a festering unwillingness to let go, and in the building dark surf epic “From a Fiery Surf” the fire whale slips to his darkest depths before rising with a burning passion to the surface. The subsequent four-track suite starts with the fire whale breaking through the surface and we join the peaceful steam floating up to the clouds in “Ripple in the Sky,” entering a new chapter to breathe fresh air again. James learns to adapt like a stream to life’s changes in “Serenity Within Chaos,” embraces the fact that “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost,” and commits to acceptance despite echoes of pain in order to finally “Emerge Victorious.” Relieved after this period of growth, Fire Whale nonchalantly flows back to the sea in “Of Water” and moves forward in life with the newfound serenity to accept uncertainty in “So It Goes.” “Wave Paradox” blasts forward through the waves at high speeds with a psychedelic surf punk ride. In conclusion, “Luminescence” offers an ethereal plunge into the imagination in which Fire Whale shares something about creative process itself, leaving the listener with resolution to go out, live life and create.

“Fiery Surf” perfectly describes Fire Whale’s signature sound and limitless energy. Musically, The Fiery Surf demonstrates Fire Whale’s “ability to take from assorted genre tropes and imbue them with a unique sense of identity.” Each track brings something new, ranging from post-rock to eastern jazz-rock fusion, surf, modern psych rock, prog, punk and even lofi hiphop. Fire Whale’s bread and butter is weaving catchy fuzz-laden vocal melodies with emotion-filled guitar hooks and progressively building each song to visceral heights. James also expertly incorporates Indian and middle eastern percussion based on his time living in India, creating a unique and compelling soundscape. James’ lyricism emphasizes imagery that harkens to literary works by Melville and Vonnegut. James’ human touch and emotive nature are apparent in the LP’s storytelling, synthesizing years of existentialism and aimlessness but also growth and hope. 

Fire Whale has made a strong statement with several pro music videos. James captained a successful crowdfunding campaign to fund a beautifully dark and surreal animated music video for the lead single “Breathe Smoke”—an international project. James wasn’t timid about dunking himself in the cold ocean for the sake of filming the groovy and surreal music video for “So It Goes.” Accompanying the album’s release is the captivating psychedelic underwater music video for the opening track “The Sounds of the Giant” made in another international collaboration with a divemaster and scuba videographer. Fire Whale’s respect for fans has become apparent, where recent social media posts have seen James sending polaroid pictures by international post to crowdfunding supporters, and doing a raffle for Indian wall hangings sentimental to the era when he wrote the album. Stay tuned, because, after the album’s release, Fire Whale promises many more high-quality music videos to roll out over time.

The Fiery Surf has arrived; brace yourself for this massive wave.

The Fiery Surf

Fire Whale


The Fiery Surf

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