"All About The Album" - If you'd like to feature your band/album, email: urban
Finnish newcomers FORTH released their first album last year, and have scored respectable positions for their songs on the iTunes charts. Are they the next big thing from Finland? We'll see. Meanwhile, vocalist Brian Forth tells us "All About The Album"...
1. How has the reaction to your latest CD been?
Better than we could have hoped for. The first single, “Up Up Away” went up to #2 on the iTunes rock chart for Finland. Already 5 songs from the album have been playing on radio stations all over Finland. We also got to perform live on YLE Radio Vega. And we’ve been connecting with new fans from all over since the album was released.
2.How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
The whole project took about 6 months of solid work (with some unintended breaks in the middle). The first few months were spent sorting through the material and finding the album’s sound. The actual recording was spread out over about 2 months, and then a few more months for mixing and mastering.
3.What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of your mind, prior to entering the studio?
We wanted the album to sound really similar to our live show. So many bands disappoint when they play live nowadays because their albums are so over-produced and layered with studio tricks that the actual live performance becomes a big let down. We definitely didn’t want that.
4.What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
Our producer, Mikko P. Mustonen of Pathos Music had a pretty big impact on our album. First of all, we had a ton of material, written from the previous 5 years, and we gave him free hands to select the final songs that would appear on the album. We were too close to the material to choose ourselves. Some of the older stuff was pretty blues-y, and Mikko helped steer us towards a more contemporary sound with the songs he suggested. Then he also played a big role in arranging the tracks and the instrumentation. One of the big changes he made, which has now become a staple of our sound, was to switch our rhythm guitar to acoustic. So now we have this blend of electric and acoustic guitars that gives a really fat but clear sound, and it kind of ties all the tracks on the album together.
5.And are you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
We were really pleased. Through the whole recording process, finding our overall sound for the album, actually helped us find our sound as a band in general. We kind of “found” band identity through making this album. We will definitely work with Mikko again in our future recordings - he’s become a pretty important part of our band.
6.Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording techniques?
Not really. We tried to keep the sound as “real” as possible, so we stayed away from any unusual recording tricks. Just straight up raw audio, with a touch of plain-old reverb or delay….nothing more.
7.How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound' in the studio, or perhaps you didn’t?
The way the recording schedule worked out, we needed to lay in all our parts individually, so we didn’t perform any of the album tracks together. I think we just tried to keep the recording method simple, and used the same types of basic effects that we use in our live shows. When had to resist the temptation to fatten the sound, or layer it. For example, most lead vocals nowadays have so many layers of octaves, harmonisers and autotuning that it doesn’t even sound human any more. So it took some courage to lay in the vocals basically raw….because most people’s ears have come to expect a more “computer-enhanced” sound, so when it’s not there, it can feel like something’s missing.
8.Please inform us about your favourite songs and lyrical highlights and why?Hard to pick of course - all the songs come from something that happened in my life. I think Homesick is the most personal song. I’ve been living away from home for 9 years now, and it never gets any easier. The line about becoming the “long lost son” was hard to write….especially because I made the choice myself to move away. And Just Drive is the song that I play whenever I just want to get away from it all. I’ve had a lot of tough times in the past few years, and difficult changes in my life. I wrote that song when I was living in California, and I was just fantasizing about driving off into the desert, finding a small town somewhere, taking a new name and starting all over. Of course, life’s not that simple. But writing that song was a bit of fantasy for me….maybe some wish fulfilment. The final song of the album was probably the most ambitious, even though the lyrics and melodies are really simple. The line about “your body’s asleep, but your mind’s awake” is something I think everyone’s felt, laying in bed at night thinking about all the bad things in your life. But in the end, you only find peace if you learn to forgive…it’s a lesson I had to learn myself.
9.Any overall theme of mood that you're trying to capture while writing songs?
I write on a lot of subjects, but relationships tend to always come come up in my lyrics. Relationships are easy to write about because they have so many angles, and for me a song works better when it’s personal. I also try to write about redemption. At heart I’m an optimist, and even when things are difficult, I’m always trying to see the glass as half full. And I think that comes out in the song-writing. Like in Forget About It….it’s about life being too hard sometimes, and people expecting too much of you, but then finding the strength to tune that out, and just be happy with yourself as you are. Come Home to Me is about a girl finding the strength to break away from an abusive situation. So no matter how tough the situation, I think there’s always a way through it, and that’s a big theme in the music. And of course, the album itself is called “Road Stories”. A lot of the songs were literally written on the road, while I have been traveling all around the world - and somehow I think that comes through in the mood of the album.
10.Does your vision for coming up with music get affected at all by time?
We’ve been playing together as a band for almost 5 years now In the beginning we had a really eclectic mix of styles - a lot of blues, mixed with some really cheesy 80’s rock. The longer we’ve been playing the more we’ve been able to discover our sound as a band. We have found this kind of unique blend of melodic hard rock, with some flavours from 90’s grunge that suits all our styles really well. I think our music matured as we did. The themes aren’t dark, but they are more serious. Now that we’ve “given birth” to this album, it’s becoming even easier to come up with new material, because we found the “palette” we’re playing with.
11.Did the record company interfere with anything on your "sound" and songs?
No. We produced this album pretty much on our own with the help of Pathos Music. And Mikko P. Mustonen was more like a part of the band. He helped us find our sound, without really changing too much about what we were doing. He just gave us the focus we lacked because we were so close to the material.
12.Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions that you can share with us?
We all recorded our parts solo….so that cut some of the fun out of it. I can tell you something about my song-writing process that made some people think I was “crazy”. When I was finishing writing for the album, I had no place to really jam out. Our rehearsal place was pretty much booked, and I had these little old neighbours in my apartment who were home all day, and didn’t appreciate the “song-writing process” - which usually sounds really bad before it sounds good. So anyway, I had no other idea but to hop in my car and drive around my suburb looking for abandoned parking lots so I could play my guitar and sing out in full voice to get the right feeling. I remember the looks on people’s faces when they’d be walking their dog past my car, and I’m sitting there in the passenger seat (right handed guitar ;) wailing away to myself in the middle of the afternoon in Espoo. I’m pretty sure I looked crazy.
13.How would you describe the sound of your new CD to any potential new fan?
We make a blend of old school melodic rock with some more edgy grunge / blues flavours. Think about Bon Jovi with a hint of Pearl Jam. We use this line in our bio and I think sums it up pretty well, that our music is like an old friend that you haven’t seen in a long time, but he’s grown up now. It’s familiar, but evolved.
14.Who are your influences and heroes? (music-wise)
My influences come out of the 90’s grunge scene. Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Smashing Pumpkins etc…Still some of my favourite bands playing today come out of that era, like Green Day or Foo Fighters. Vocally, I always took inspiration from raw, colourful singers like Chris Cornell and Eddie Vedder. But when it comes to song writing, I think I have a of influence from people like my fellow countryman, Neil Young. Or then Tom Petty.
15. If there's anything you'd like to add, say, please do:
Just want to add that this is only the beginning. Getting this album out was a dream come true for all of us, but we only see it as the starting point, and we’re looking forward to the next part of the journey.