Gothic dream-pop, alternative R&B, experimental hip-hop and many more sounds show up on the expansive double release of Classics and Death is a miracle from Brisbane experimental act FOREVR. There’s so much going on across these demanding 18 tracks that it makes sense they emerged from an inspiring setting that the band placed themselves in for the making of the album.
Needless to say, it was a taxing experience creating a work so large, living inside its unsettled emotional state. Lead vocalist and lyricist Sam George-Allen gives some insight into their musical points of inspiration, as well as the external and internal influences coming from the culture of Hobart and the circumstances of the band themselves.
“We all went to really weird places emotionally,” she admits. “2016 was a really weird year for all of us, personally. A lot of the work of the album was done in very strange hours and on very little sleep. Often we’d go into the studio the whole weekend without seeing the sunlight, and we’d drink too much coffee and take a lot of Modafinil. All this sent us to some strange, aloof yet connected headspaces, which allowed for some weirdness to come through.”
As hostile as that may sound, the band were united in their desire to bring together every disparate musical influence that its members are drawn towards. The keen-eared listener could potentially catch Gorillaz, Slowdive and Nine Inch Nails embedded in the record’s atmospheric embrace. “We wrote a couple songs and upon finishing them would be like, ‘yeah, this kind of sounds like Nine Inch Nails’,” George-Allen laughs.
“In terms of the production, we all listen to lots of hip-hop, especially this producer BOOTS: he’s incredible,” she says. “The boys who did the production admire him a lot. The entire thing is self-produced and they handle quite a lot of that. My role in the band is to write the melodies and lyrics, and writing some riffs. The production is a collaborative process, and that’s where the sound really emerges.”
The process of recording was a bit scattershot, but ultimately still felt like a joint effort. “It was interesting experience doing such a big project,” she says. We started recording in March last year. We went down to Hobart and recorded nine tracks down there, and the whole recording process was spread out over the next 18 months. We set up satellite studios, one at Donnie [Miller]’s studio and one at Tom [Roche]’s, so the parts got made separately but brought together in one studio.”
Dark Mofo … is a celebration of the dark, strange and challenging, and I feel like that kind of vibe influences our music.
FOREVR were granted a significant level of freedom in the creation of their LP, both in timeframe and budget, facilitating their venture into such left-field experimental territory. When an investor comes into the picture, however, some compromises can potentially be forced – but the band didn’t let their council funding interfere with their vision and overall enjoyment in making music that satisfied them.
“We had this idea for a double album for a while. We had funding from the council which gave us pressure to get the project done within a deadline, but afforded us a lot of freedom having money behind it, which made us feel very lucky,” says George-Allen. “We have fun making this experimental music, we had freedom to explore it from the council and didn’t feel constrained – not that we’d ever feel obliged to make anything clearly commercial. Obviously I want people to like it, but the main goal was to make stuff that we like. But I really don’t know what to expect.”
There’s a thriving creative scene in Hobart that focuses on and celebrates art on the darker side. Sam explains how this blackly vibrant setting seeped its way into the formation of the album.
We’ve all spent so much time with these songs that I find it really difficult to get any sense of objectivity about it.
“We went to Hobart twice during the recording process. Hobart is awesome. To me, as a mainlander, it has this slightly spooky vibe, from places such as MONA – which has completely changed the economy and the reasons for people to go to Hobart. There’s also festivals like Dark Mofo, which is a celebration of the dark, strange and challenging, and I feel like that kind of vibe influences our music. I wouldn’t be surprised if, given some distance from the album, we notice an influence from the setting.”
Once you’ve spent so much time and given so much of yourself to a musical project, it’s extremely difficult to take a step back from it and look at it through the perspective of the listener. Gaining a sense of objectivity towards your own creative output is near impossible, so when asked about her expectations upon release, Sam gave a great answer as to why it’s very hard to have any.
“It’s been such a long time coming; we’ve all spent so much time with these songs that I find it really difficult to get any sense of objectivity about it, which makes it really hard for me to think ‘who might like this music?’. I hope it finds an audience. I like challenging, experimental music and weird production that’s a little intricate, so I hope it falls into those categories and other people can like it for those reasons. Give it a year, though, then I might be able to get some objectivity.”
FOREVR’s debut records, Classics and Death is a miracle, are available now through Super Duper.