DFW Music News

The Lonely Forest's Tony Ruland On Meeting Lady Gaga, Sounding Too Much Like Death Cab

Hailing from the small, waterfront town of Anacortes, Washington, The Lonely Forest is a four-piece outfit that specializes in a quirky brand of power pop that is not much different from that of another band from that same region: Death Cab for Cutie.

As a matter of fact, Death Cab's Chris Walla produced Arrows, The Lonely Forest's most recent full-length, and it's easily the best album of the band's short career. Songs like "Turn Off This Song and Go Outside" and "We Sing in Time" show a band with humor and pop smarts to spare.

Speaking from the band's tour van while in route to Washington, D.C., and in anticipation of Tuesday night's show at The Granada Theater, guitarist Tony Ruland talked with DC9 At Night about Walla's influence on the band and how growing up in a rural area made these guys less worried about being cool.

This is the second time the band has been to Dallas in the past six months. I guess you must really like it here.
Well, this tour is different since it is our first as a headliner. We've come through as support for other bands.

But at the show here, you guys are opening up for Minus the Bear.
Yes, and we are really excited about that. I am a big fan of them. We played with them before on a New Year's Eve show in Seattle.

During the summer, the band played on Jimmy Kimmel's show. Was that your first time on national television? Were you guys nervous?
We played on a local show called The Daily Habit and that was kind of our warm-up for playing on Kimmel. And that was our first big TV thing. It was very surreal. The day we were there, Lady Gaga was there as well. She was the guest for that night and our performance was being prerecorded. It was weird being there with essentially the biggest pop star in the world. She seemed really nice, though.

Why did you leave the band for a while?
It was for about a year. I had some issues with stomach ulcers and things like that. I had to go take care of myself.

When you making your most recent album, Arrows, did you feel like you were in the process of something special?
Yes, I think Arrows is the sound of us growing into our clothes, like we have grown up. I think it is record one of where we are going. I don't know if that makes sense.

I laughed when I saw one review that said your songs scare and sadden at the same time. What is scary about your music?
I suppose we intend to do that. I am so bad at describing our music. We are really just four dudes that play in a garage together.

Your music seems to appeal to a wide demographic. Why do you think that is?
I don't know. I know at shows, I see kids, teenagers and people with gray hair. Maybe it's because we write basic, catchy melodies. They are almost like nursery rhymes.

One of the best songs off Arrows is "Turn Off This Song and Go Outside." Not too many bands advocate the listener turn off their music.
We're kind of funny like that. I don't think we take ourselves too seriously.

Everybody in the band is from the small town of Antecortes, Washington. What is there to do in that town?
Our drummer [Braydn Krueger] likes to go fishing. [Bassist] Eric [Sturgeon] and I ride our bikes a lot. There are a lot of cool trails. It's a very low-key, quiet kind of place. We're used to a slower pace.

How much did growing up in such a place influence the band's sound?
I think so, for sure; sometimes in ways that we are still figuring out. Bands from places like New York and L.A., they have this competitive thing about them. They always have to see who is coolest. That's certainly nothing we have been concerned with or even thought about. Playing music is fun. We are friends and it's what we do.

How important was Death Cab for Cutie's Chris Walla's production on the new album?
Chris was vital. Everything was so crisp and clean. There are very minimal overdubs on the record. We play it live because we want it to sound like what you are going to hear at a show. I am a big fan of that. When you record so many overdubs, things get too complicated. Chris is not bossy. He is really good at helping you subtract.

Were you worried about sounding too similar to Death Cab?
We've been called Death Cab junior. It was nice when we opened for them because when we play back to back, you can really hear the differences between the bands. Live, we are pretty active and hyper. We are always knocking things over and running into each other.

You guys should cover a Death Cab song.
I don't know. That might be taking it too far. We've joked around and played some of their songs during sound check. I don't know how well even that has worked.

The Lonely Forest perform with Minus the Bear on Tuesday, October 25, at the Granada Theater.

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Darryl Smyers
Contact: Darryl Smyers