Since releasing its locally lauded sophomore record We Sing the Body Electric! two years ago, the Lonely Forest has transformed from a young, friendly and awkward local band capable of crafting earnest-if-erratic pop songs into a road-tested cartharsis-inducing pop machine.
It's been a dramatic shift and one that will be on display when the Anacortes four-piece releases Arrows, the band's Chris Walla-produced major label debut, on March 22. And that's not all these guys have to worry about; two of the members will be getting married this summer while the band takes a mid-summer break from its harried tour schedule. We sat with frontman John Van Deusen -- who took his vows last summer, making him the first-wed in the band, as well as its youngest member -- to talk about the new record, love, ADD and the business of music-making.
City Arts: What’s your favorite song on the album?
John Van Deusen: It’s called “I am the Love Skeptic.” I think it represents in a clear way what we want to become — I think — as a band.
Does it have any clear influences?
I think musically, it has a little bit of XTC and, originally when we started playing it, it sounded like a Modest Mouse song. I think after the band got a hold of it, and we went into the studio with it, it took on a more Lonely Forest vibe, which is usually just a straight-forward pop rock.
What’s it about?
I actually had this conversation with my buddy Kyle, who plays in Land of Pines. We were having this debate about whether or not love is something that is spiritual or metaphysical, or if it is a chemical reaction. Is love something that scientists can grab a hold of or is it something only Buddhist monk can explain to you? The song was named after Kyle, who at the time was like, “I don’t believe in love, I don’t believe in love at first sight. Sex is just something sexual — something we just do as humans.’
What are you?
Well, there’s the song after it called “I am the Love Addict,” that is from my side.
What don’t you like about the album?
When I first heard it finished, I felt as if we had left a lot out. Sounds. The reality is that we wanted to do a lot of more experimental things, but we had to maintain this accessibility. I mean, it’s a pop record. For us, it’s fairly minimalist, compared to other records where I was overdubbing twelve vocals in every song.
But what I didn’t like about it, I’ve kind of started to like. There’s nothing trendy about it. And now I’m feeling, more and more, that’s what it needs to be. It’s gimmick free, it’s straight-forward, it’s song-writing, it’s guitar music.
Last year you told me that you had the next four albums written, and that you even had titles for them. Do you still have the next four albums planned in your head?
I still have a lot of material that could make up four or five records. I have an idea for the next record and there are a lot of water, ships and sailboats, islands and fog — things that I lay awake and think about, I kind of want it to be like sleep. I still have half a dozen titles for the next four records and I wanna bring the other guys into the process of helping me come up with titles. I want to be better at that. I don’t want to be some dictator, you know.
Do you have a grand plan or just a little ADD?
I think it’s a little of both. I am very ADD. For example, Arrows, this new record, comes out March 22. We’re going to be playing it for a year and half. That’s going to kill me, because I’m already on record five. I’m so far down the road but I do think that, in the last year, I really disciplined myself. It’s a business and if I want to do this for the next few years, I need to be strategic. And you know, that’s where the master plan is coming in.
The Lonely Forest plays with the Oregon Donor and the Violins at the Vera Project Thursday, March 3. Arrows will be available on March 22