Since 1990, Fat Wreck Chords has been providing punk fans with an endless supply of talented bands. Founder, Fat Mike of NOFX, has given the bands he signs opportunities to tour together in support of the record label and along with that, tons of publicity. Popular websites such as and have been sponsoring the tour non-stop, having contests and previewing new songs by the bands.

This particular tour which featured Against Me!, Smoke or Fire, The Epoxies and The Soviettes was a huge success, touring across all fifty states down South. The tour came to a close mid-December, making a couple stops in Canada, including a show at Club Soda back on December 6th.

Much to many fans dismay, The Epoxies and The Soviettes had to cancel last minute due a family emergency and an illness among some members. As they say, the show must go on. Fifth Hour Hero, hailing from Saint-Romuald, was recruited last minute to fill in, opening first around 8 p.m. During their set, I got a chance to sit down with Joe McMahon, guitarist and vocalist of Smoke or Fire to catch up on how the tour has been going and how Smoke or Fire started.

Back in the day, you would know them as Jericho RVA. Due to a lawsuit threat from another band named Jericho, a decision had to be made. Not wanting to deal with lawyers, the guys decided on Smoke or Fire. The debut full-length album, Above The City, was released on Fat Wreck Chords back on March 22 of last year. Getting signed to Fat Wreck Chords turned out to be a pretty simple process. The band did what anyone else would do: they shopped their record around in hopes the right person would hear it. Well, Fat Mike heard it and the rest is history.

Growing up in Massachusetts, McMahon remembers the lack of shows. “[That area] didn’t have any shows or anything like that, or record stores. There was no punk scene where I was growing up.”

A friend’s uncle that used to jam with Operation Ivy is what sparked McMahon’s interest in punk rock. “[He] gave us a tape of Op Ivy, and we were like ‘this is really great’, what else is out there?” McMahon recalls. “I just wanted every record I could possibly get my hands on. That was it for me, it’s all I wanted to do. Just play music and go to shows.” Eventually, the band packed up and moved to Richmond, Virginia, which had a solid music scene and plenty of opportunities to start a band.

McMahon started to read lyrics by bands such as Hot Water Music and Avail, who are of great influence, which made him realize how important the honesty of the words were. “It’s all about the lyrics. It’s totally what it should be about,” McMahon said.

Smoke or Fire has been together for nearly eight years now, and the greatest thing for McMahon is that he is actually doing what he loves. “We’ve definitely eaten our fair share of shit, but I think it’s probably the best thing that’s ever happened to us,” McMahon admits, as he restrung and tuned his guitar.

Smoke or Fire went on around 8:30 p.m. after Fifth Hour Hero. They played some old tracks, and of course songs off Above the City. With the tour now wrapped up, the guys will be taking a short break, then heading out again in March with Anti-Flag. Don’t worry, they’ll also be working on new jams for their next album to hopefully be released later this year, so keep your ears open.

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