Friday, October 16, 2015

Chicago's The Forest of Love bringing new vitality to local music scene

The snarling vocals of The Forest of Love frontman Grant Mooney bring to mind the vocal delivery of another Chicago frontman, Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan.

But the similarities end there, as listeners will soon discover when they take a listen to the band. With an EP under its belt and new music on the way, The Forest of Love is providing an exotic and fresh soundtrack to the Chicago music scene.

The Forest of Love will perform Oct. 18 at Quenchers, 2401 N. Western Ave., Chicago. Bantam Foxes and Paradise Frost also are on the bill.

The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are $7, available at

I had the chance to talk to Mooney about the upcoming show.

Q - Great talking to you. I understand you will be performing some new songs when you perform at Quenchers Saloon. When will you be recording the new album and what should people expect from the new album?

Thanks for having me. We’ve already started the process of recording the next EP actually.

If you listen to the last one we released, "reel_demo_real," the songs are a little more straightforward sounding rock songs, albeit with some weird elements and effects. The samples, the synths, the out of place harmonics, the effects pedals, etc.

But the point being, they’re all a certain type of song on that EP, and with the new one we want to kind of branch out a little bit more so people start getting to know the range of music that we’re capable of. There will be more alternative rock on there, but we’ve also got a ballad, an avant-garde funk/metal/rock song, and a weird acoustic Led Zeppelin-esque song.

That’s the best I can describe any of it right now. It should be out in a few weeks or months.

Q - You released an EP earlier this year. What were your goals for the EP and do you think you accomplished them?

Our goals for that EP were mostly to record the lineup that we had at the time, and to make a serious, cohesive, artistic statement. I’d released other demos, EPs, and other recordings under the name The Forest of Love before, and each one was a big learning experience.

But to be honest almost everything I’ve released up until now was pretty unlistenable. With "reel_demo_real," we wanted to create something that actually sounded semi-professional and would make people start to take us a little more seriously.

We do all the recording, mixing, and mastering ourselves. And "reel_demo_real" was the first release I felt like might be played on the radio and begin to garner any sort of attention from people. And it’s been played on the radio, so mission accomplished.

Q - The Forest of Love has seen several lineup changes over the years. How did the current lineup come together and how do you think it compares with the previous lineups?

Well, I’ve been playing under the name The Forest of Love since I was about 16. With a couple different projects and groups on the side, but this has always remained the one vision I wanted to seriously pursue, for better or for worse.

When you’re that young and playing in a band and writing all your own songs, you don’t really have any idea what you’re doing. So it’s really been just a process of growing and growing up.

I’ve learned after so many years how to write the kind of music that I would like to listen to, and I’ve learned how to work and communicate with others better. Even mentioning “lineup changes” this early in the game feels kind of silly, but without the people I’ve played with in the past, there’s no way we’d be where we are today.

Each lineup was a step closer toward my vision of who we are supposed to be. And at the same time we’re still open to growth and change. I’m really not so into the politics of who’s in a band and who’s not, I just want to play with people I admire, respect, and enjoy playing with.

Our drummer, Mateusz Matczuk, and I actually went to elementary and middle school together, and reconnected a few years ago and started playing together. And Alexsandra Castellanos (our keyboardist) and I went to college together.

We all work together really well and there’s a lot of motivation from all of us to start making things happen. 

Q - Is there a meaning behind the group's name?

Not really, ha ha! At least not in the traditional respect.

We didn’t take it from anywhere or anything like that. One of the first people I started playing music with in high school and I wanted to start a band, and of course one of the first things you do before you even start playing together is to come up with band names.

I came up with seriously hundreds, and just about all of them were awful. One stuck out to him though, and it was “Papa Bear and The Forest of Love.” On my part it was a silly, abstract joke, but he was really into it.

We eventually ended up shortening it to The Forest of Love, and something about it felt perfect. Maybe just the combination of the words or how they felt saying them.

And how ironic it felt having a name like that and playing dark, moody music. It just felt like it fit, I don’t know how else to describe it.

Q - The Smashing Pumpkins, Radiohead, and The Mars Volta are among the band's influences. What kind of impact have those bands had on The Forest of Love's music?

I don’t know if I can fully explain their importance to me. To me, those groups are more than just about the music itself.

What I’ve taken away from all of them is an uncompromising artistic vision that I can relate to. The Smashing Pumpkins were kind of like my Beatles.

I had a real strong emotional connection to the group’s music that I hadn’t gotten from anywhere else in my life up until that point. In fact, the entire reason I started writing my own music and why I even wanted to play in a band was because of that connection.

I felt like I had something I had to give back in a way. Then that spotlight started to shine on other groups: Radiohead, The Mars Volta, Queens of the Stone Age and Wilco.

I’ve spent countless hours not just obsessively listening to them, but reading about them and watching interviews with them, and getting to know who influenced them, and so on. I’m not only interested in their music, but what drives all these people to do what they do, and how their careers change, evolve, and grow.

It’s all part of the bigger picture to me. And of course Matt and Alex have their own influences that shape our sound in different ways, but at least from a songwriting perspective, there’s some of all those bands in everything I do.

Q - What are the band's short-term and long-term goals?

Our short term goals right now are to just continue to expand our audience. The past few shows we’ve played have been amazing, and we’ve been making a lot of connections with people who really enjoy our music and our performances.

The main issue is getting them to keep coming back to more shows, or to like us on Facebook and all that. I think it would be cool to play a place like the Metro, but we have a lot of work to do in getting more people outside our immediate circle of friends to come to our shows. But it’s worth the challenge.

I think our big long term goal is to make a serious career out of this. If it’s possible.

Again, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s been a lot of hard work up until this point, and it feels like we’re only still just getting the ball rolling. But I don’t think there’s anything any of us want more than to be able to make a living off doing what we love.