Songwriter’s ‘amazing’ tale spurs Tempe rock group’s patriotic ballad

B-17s, like this at the Commemorative Air Force Airbase in Mesa, flew unescorted bombing missions over Europe in World War II. B-17s were legendary for their ability to return home after taking brutal poundings. –Photos courtesy of Chris Fiscus

As we observe Independence Day, it puts many of us in mind of those who sacrificed life and limb for our nation and its freedoms.

As it should.

One band with Tempe connections is in the midst of the national launch of a single that reminds us of our debt to these heroes.

“Granddad’s Shoes” by The Preserve, available now on YouTube, Vimeo and other platforms, is a patriotic ballad, a Southern Rock/Country hybrid with roots both here and in Louisiana.

The band’s first single in a decade tells the story of a teen, whose legacy from his veteran grandfather is the man’s battle-tested combat boots.

Drummer Chris Fiscus discussed The Preserve, “Granddad’s Shoes” and his ties to the Tempe community with Wrangler News (answers have been edited for length):

Wrangler News: Can you tell us about your Tempe background?

Chris Fiscus: I’ve lived in Tempe for about 25 years, almost all of that in The Lakes community. I work at ASU, and my wife works for the city of Tempe. Our boys went to Rover, and my oldest son went to Fees and Marcos de Niza. I’ve been in bands around town since about 2004, playing all over the East Valley, Phoenix and down in Mexico at Roger Clyne and The Peacemakers’ annual “Circus Mexicus” festival.

WN: How did The Preserve come about?

CF: The Preserve formed in about 2007, starting as just four friends who liked to get together and play music. That turned into playing house parties, and soon we were playing around town from the Hard Rock Cafe and Club Red to events like the Phoenix 10K and the Fiesta Bowl Blockparty. We had a unique sound—two of the members were from Louisiana and they introduced us to Southern Rock with a Cajun feel. It was so different, it worked. We were playing songs about bayous and swamps in the middle of the desert.

We played the big Cajun festivals in downtown Phoenix, we opened for The Doobie Brothers on New Year’s Eve in Tempe, and opened for the Gin Blossoms, The Pistoleros, Dash Rip Rock and many more over the years. It was high-energy, sweaty Southern Rock that was fun to see live between 2007 and 2011. We released two albums back then: “The Setup” (2009) and “Golden Opportunity” (2010). We went to Louisiana in 2009 and played a few great gigs there, which were so memorable.

We tried to keep it going after (songwriter) Kyle (Domangue) moved back home to Louisiana but we eventually faded out.

Then during the pandemic, when everything kind of shut down, (guitarist and keyboardist) Jacques (Billeaud) started revisiting some old unfinished Preserve songs that we had recorded back then. Between finishing the old ones and writing and recording the new ones, we created a 7-song album called “Unfinished Business” that just came out.

Tempe rock band The Preserve has release a patriotic ballad, “Granddad’s Shoes,” in time for the Fourth of July.

WN: Tell us about “Granddad’s Shoes.”

CF: We knew it was something special the first time we heard it. Kyle recorded the vocals for it in about 2009 and it moved all of us, the band and the people in studio. Kyle is such an amazing songwriter. He took the concept of “walk a mile in their shoes” and changed the shoes to combat boots. Kyle has some mementos from his grandparents. I have patches and war bond posters and little soldier figurines. That’s what the song is about. You look at these prized reminders of the past that so many families have, and they are passed down to ones who might not know or understand about the true sacrifices made back then. It’s a reminder to all of us about what an amazing sacrifice and commitment that was.

WN: What about the video?

CF: The song’s music video, directed and filmed by Magnetry Inc., blends our recording home, Full Well Recording Studio in Phoenix, with icons of World War II. We found some WWII combat boots to use in the video, and went out to the amazing collection of old planes at the CAF (Arizona Commemorative Air Force Airbase in Mesa), and the day we were there, they had a restored B-17 and a B-25 flying.

Just walking by the old bombers with their engines going, and seeing the collection of old bomber jackets and World War II newspapers and other memorabilia, it reminded us why this song is so special to us. The B-25 was so special to see. My dad, Neal, was a top turret gunner on a B-25 during World War II, and many of the old photos and patches in the video were from his collection.

My teenage son Brady helped us make the video, acting as the teen learning about the old combat boots. It was so special to be able to have Brady and my late father join me in the video.

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