Forest Ray experiments in the analog and psychedelic, combining guitar driven psych rock with elements of raw synth-laced post-punk, americana, garage and organ-laden pop. Following in the footsteps of Pacific Northwest greats from The Sonics to The Kingsmen, Forest Ray brings a new spin to the classic garage lineup but with the same youthful punk spirit. The songs regularly feature flute and vibraphone which have become staples of the group’s brand of psych. Their uninhibited performances and analog recording process have bred dark, nostalgic and intimate recordings that almost feel as if they’ve come from another era.Their first two full lengh LPs, Musical Witchcraft and Laughing, were released to vinyl over 2016-18. They have recently toured the US and played SXSW 2019 in support of their 7″ split record with Lasso Spells, released Spring 2019 on Nashville’s Cold Lunch Recordings label. In the fall of 2019 the band released a new LP, Faded Reflection, along with a collection of basement recorded analog tracks titled the Wedgwood Tapes.
Now they are gearing up for their fourth full-length album Black Pine, recorded at The Croatian American church in Anacortes, Washington in a fully analog recording process tracked live to tape. The album is marked by an unusual circumstance in the life of lead songwriter, Peter Sumić. Recorded on the heels of Sumic’s return from Croatia, where he was not only visiting family for a wedding of his close friend and to help with the annual olive harvest, but was also tasked with the unfortunate duty of laying his grandfather to rest.
The name Black Pine, is borrowed from the english translation of “Crnobor”, the autochthonous trees of Sumic’s native region, Dalmatia, symbolic of Sumic’s ties and lineage to the mediterranean coastal region. The title of the album is an homage to his late grandfather but also to his roots in the Balkan peninsula and to fate forcing him to live far from home. The songs all have a nostalgic quality and some lyrics can be distilled to some type of retrospection and nostalgia, which coupled with the aged sound and analog production, adds an additional layer of mystique and longing to the tracks and themes. Currently the album is set for physical release and digital release in fall of 2020 and will be available on premium 180g vinyl via the group’s self-run, Forest Ray Records label.
Today Glide is excited to share an exclusive premiere of the band’s video for their single “Honesty.” The video takes place in a smokey, and dimly lit restaurant and bar, after a lonely bar regular stumbles in for a drink. The bar is filled with unenthusiastic patrons either disinterested with the event, or too consumed with themselves to pay any attention to the bar band on the seemingly delicate night. The song’s mid-tempo drive takes you on a nonchalant stroll through the video that starts to unfurl into a more chaotic and distorted scene as the patrons grow progressively drunker and more raucous. The music fills out and seemingly takes the bar crowd into a progressive state of delirium.
Taking some jabs at satirical rock n’ roll tropes and also playing to the psychedelic folk rock aesthetic reminiscent of The Byrds, we see some bottles start to crash and some fists start to fly, all surrounded by hazy steel guitar, reverb drenched vocals, and lush flute accents. Sonically, the chime of the 12 string electric-guitar complements the jangle pop influences of the 1960s that eventually crescendo into an epic freak-out filled with harmonicas and bending guitars masked in a surreal wash of tape delays, something of a signature for the group. Honesty marks one of the more cohesive expressions of the groups eclectic influences, showcasing a lush instrumentation that highlights the early era of psychedelia while simultaneously channeling their innate drive and garage rock/punk roots. Forest Ray’s Honesty, while being a product of turmoil and joy, manages to simultaneously uproots these feelings in the same smokey room, bottle in hand.
Most of the actors are members of the Seattle music community affiliated with the Forest Ray Records label. It was filmed on location at Wong’s Kitchen and Bar in Seattle, WA on Super 8 film, complementing Forest Ray’s entirely analog music production process.
Watch the video and read our quick chat with the band below…
Talk to us about your latest single “Honesty” and the new LP it’s off of, are there any themes musically or lyrically we should know about?
“Honesty,” being one of the first songs written for this record, was actually an unfinished track from a previous period of writing. We had been playing it for a while, and I had a few lines worked out. But after a turn of events prior to a scheduled tour, the lyrics just kind of pulled together and we went to a festival in Missoula and played it live that weekend. We had just gotten back from a 23 day tour across the United States, for a record release show in Nashville with Cold Lunch Recordings, SXSW and various stops along the way, and as tours often go, when we returned I was left with completely depleted resources and no job to come back to. Luckily, I pulled some things together, and after finding work, I eagerly booked the next tour. The plan was to get out of Seattle to play with some good friends in Spokane and make our way to Missoula, Montana to play a festival.
Because of its phase in the writing period, “Honesty” kind of stands on its own in the larger thematic context of Black Pine. A little more upbeat musically and lyrically, it kind of serves as a lighter shade compared to the rest of the album; representing a different side of the coin before the turning point in the album’s composition. The album broadly explores personal themes of separation from home and hometown, fate, and the loss of my late grandfather as well as his legacy as the last surviving founding-member of the Yugoslavian Anti-fascist navy, which later became the National Navy of Croatia. “Honesty,” on the other hand, stands as a more general commentary on human nature, tendencies and inability to do what’s best for ourselves or see through our own realities. At the time that I wrote the tune, when lyrics pulled together right before that tour, we had a lot planned and all this shit happened, potentially jeopardizing our tour. Unfortunately, part of the catalyst was a member’s spiraling drug addiction but my attitude is always to try and bring light to situations, even when they are dark and depressing. Maybe it has something to do with my background…
You guys were all set for SXSW this year. Tell us what is was like to see it shut down and have your plans changed?
We were definitely set for SXSW this year. We were excited to pair up with some great bands and labels we had been working with for months. Shout out to Mas Music Records, Cold Lunch Recordings, Dreamy Life Records and all band affiliates! We had pulled together and helped book some showcases that included bands like Seattle’s Naked Giants, Los Angeles’ Hoover III and TripTides, and even Flyying Colours of Australia just to name a few.
Honestly, when we learned that the city was shutting down the official festival we worked harder to try and keep the unofficial shows alive. It was before we fully understood the severity of the pandemic. Nevertheless, it was heartwarming to connect with bands who had scheduled tours based around the festival and began to double-down their efforts to continue to provide live music for people. We wanted to be a part of that. It was poignant as even the die hard bands slowly surrendered and dropped their tours and canceled their slots at the shows. I’ll never forget what that was like. We still plan to play SXSW next year and we still made some excellent connections, so we’ll be back bigger and better than ever! Obviously, financially we were affected – we had plans in motion to tour this record, but it seemed right to let this thing make it out into the world, even if we can’t necessarily safely tour it just yet.
And obviously, everyone’s plans are up in the air for the rest of 2020, but tells us what goals you have as a band and where you think things are heading?
Our plans haven’t changed. We have a full-length album set to release in early fall, looking like a soft September, as you know. But dates carry very little meaning at this point as we’re essentially waiting for guidance on when it is safe to bring our live performance back on the road. We have plans to record a new full length’s worth of material we had been writing this winter. I’ve expanded my basement space from a modest antique recording set up into a fully functional analog studio and we are really excited to be refining our recording chops and releasing lo-fi demos similar to Wedgwood Tapes. If you haven’t checked that out yet, please do! We recorded that EP ourselves with the help of our close friend and engineer Erik Takuichi Wallace. Suffice to say we are looking into the future optimistically and with a lot of ambition for the band. The drive for creativity for us has always been unhindered. I believe that creativity and expression is needed now more than ever as way to bring people together. I hope to see new vistas for the music scene in the time after the pandemic as we all reconnect and move forward in a positive direction. There will be a lot to process but ultimately I think it will serve all of us and will bring a deeper sense of community and appreciation for what we have in Seattle.