John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest: "Every Song I Write Comes From a Place of Turmoil."
Over the course of six years, Seattle's The Lonely Forest have released five full length albums, each of the better than the previous and each one filled with solid, emotionally-driven indie rock. 2011's Arrows featured the wonderfully dry "Turn Off This Song and Go Outside" and garnered the band a wider audience. The recently released Adding Up the Wasted Hours mines some darker influences but still features the stunning songwriting that has proven to be the band's strong suit.
On the road somewhere in Oregon and in anticipation of tonight's show at Three Links, lead singer John Van Deusen spoke with DC9 about the band's great new album and how he loves those rainy Seattle days.
You came through Dallas about the same time last year.
Yes, we came through heading to South by Southwest. I think we did our first headlining show in Dallas for like six people three years ago. That doesn't really affect me. Sometimes, it's fun to play to a handful of people.
It's almost a glorified practice.
Yes, it really is. It can be funny.
Is it hard to break through a crowded music scene such as Seattle's?
I don't know if it's that competitive. There is a lot of good will and the bands support each other. It can be oversaturated as far as how many bands there are. But it's not like New York or L.A. or Nashville. At those places, everyone you meet is in a band. I think we are just a basic rock and roll band and there are not a lot of bands like that in Seattle. We found our niche. It's a good place to be in a band.
The Seattle scene has gone through so many changes, from grunge in the '90s to the alternative country/folk thing going on now.
There is definitely some sort of folk revival going on with all these five part harmonies. There is a fair amount of hip-hop. We just have to keep doing what we've been doing, keep working.
Your last album, Arrows, featured "Turn Off This Song and Go Outside," a tune that actually tells people not to listen to it.
I think the idea was to take the focus off of yourself and get outside. Or it could be just to go hideaway and read and write or play a video game or watch a movie. I was writing it to inspire myself just to get up and do something.
You have had several songs used in The Vampire Diaries. For some people, are those songs how they even know about the band?
I'm assuming there are people like that out there somewhere. I think on this next record we will probably have more placement deals that we have ever had in the past. I think people do come to shows just because of a song they might hear on Grey's Anatomy. I have a feeling you will be hearing on songs more frequently in the future on shows like that.
Arrows received critical kudos from major outlets such as NPR. Did that surprise you?
Yes, I think I was surprised. We were kind of rushed in the studio when we were making that record. We weren't sure what people were going to think about it. Some people liked it, but some people didn't. This time, we had more time to prepare and we had a clear vision of what we wanted the record to sound like. I personally like the new one [Adding Up the Wasted Hours] quite a bit better than Arrows. It should be interesting to hear what people say.
Don't all musicians think that their most recent stuff is their best?
I don't know. I definitely don't think that. When Arrows came out, I didn't like it. I like the earlier records better. I don't think it's always the case. I can't speak for everyone, but I just love our new album.
Besides having more time, what else was different about the process of making Arrows vs. the new album?
It was a more relaxed recording session. We had a clear vision of what we wanted. Both those things played a role as did breaking in some of newest influences. We've been listening to a lot of shoegaze music. I don't think the new record is too heavy, but that influence makes the record more interesting. I think we were all in better, healthier spots personally. That just kind of spilled over into the recording process.
Aren't people the most creative when they are depressed?
That's true. A lot of the songs, when I wrote the songs, I was struggling with a lot of stuff. I don't want to be in that place when I am recording them. There has to be a different energy involved. Almost every song I write comes from a place of turmoil. There was a sense of being at peace with ourselves when we were recording. I've been writing some of these songs over the past four years and they all come from relationship struggles. There were also some health issues and having to deal with apathy. I like to think a lot of the new record comes from that place, but by the end of the record, I think we were at peace. That's the general vibe of the record from my perspective.
Sounds like making the album was cathartic.
It was a therapeutic process for sure.
A lot of bands from Seattle mention the weather as influencing the writing process.
I totally think the weather, the mountains and the water influences the general attitude of the people. It lends itself to good, introspective, melancholy thinking. And that's the kind of music I love to listen to. I'm happy when it rains. That means I can stay inside and write a song on the piano and drink coffee. That is a perfect day.
The Lonely Forest perform with Cumulus tonight, October 29, at Three Links.
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