Originally written by Jordan Campbell
Forest of Tygers‘ debut EP, Bruises, is a brilliant bastardization. As Captain noted back in April, it’s a smoldering, streamrolling mass of a record, as furious as it is genreless.
That latter aspect is one of the most profound takeaways from Bruises. Whether FoT is melding abrasive hardcore-isms with Tombs-style hulksmash or hurling anthemic boulders (see “Wet Death”), these sounds unfurl organically, unencumbered by self-imposed stylistic constraints and PR buzzwords. It’s a standalone work forged by an inimitable creative fire.
We asked guitarist / vocalist Jim Valosik five questions about why his band kicks so much ass. He gave us five answers.
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There’s a storied history of killer duos that were spawned out of both convenience and urgency: Agoraphobic Nosebleed, Inquisition, and most recently, Bolzer and Mantar. Was Forest of Tygers’ spartan configuration born out of a desire to simply get the riff out at all costs? And if so, why these sounds, right now?
Yes, in a way, but we were very deliberate about building it up right. Rachel and I played in another band at the time of Forest Of Tygers’ conception, in 2011. We wanted to play more shows than we were playing, and play music heavier than what we were doing, that had no constraints on style or content whatsoever. Basically, we didn’t want to be beholden to anyone else’s schedules/dynamics/music preferences, or descriptions of what something was or wasn’t. At this point our listening habits had overlapped near identically, and we have our own house and practice there in a soundproofed room, so this just naturally became our main musical project.
I was never that much of a fan of two-pieces simply out of a lack of sonic fullness, but that is something that we addressed from FOT day one, building in the idea of controlling separate guitar parts, without dropping the bass ‘floor.’ We wanted the best of both worlds, to sound like many people, but just be the two of us. With the rig we just toured with, I think think we have accomplished that.
There’s a glut of hardcore / black metal hybrids of late, and most are quite killer–the link between black metal and punk rock is much stronger than most longhairs realize. But the Forest of Tygers sound isn’t part of this new wave of “blackened crust” or whathaveyou. Your blackness is subtle. There are few–if any–overt stabs at stylistic conventions. From where does this element emerge? And what pulled you into the black in the first place?
I personally have never been the type to say “we should start a retro thrash band.” Or a D-beat band. Or a straight-up black metal band. Or any kind of genre band. We were never only into one or two genres of anything at a time. I can’t imagine. It seems incredibly stifling and uninteresting. In film, we like directors that can work in several genres and blend them in new ways to create something unique; I suppose that that has had as much of an impact on our guitar and drum choices as listening to and dissecting a huge array of heavy music over the years. I don’t like for creative processes to live in any sort of confinement. They have a tendency to get very uncreative that way very quickly. Also, waves crash. We plan on doing this a long time and don’t want or need to cling to a fashion. The only convention we hold a part or song up to is: is it heavy, or intense, or crazy sounding? If so, then it stays.
Some of the most historically impactful music on us, from His Hero Is Gone to Sleepytime Trio to Tombs, has always possessed the underlying emotional heaviness to match the sonic devastation. That is the appeal, that feeds the sonic heaviness, and that speaks to us. That’s what we try we try to instill in the music. To us, that is the blackness. More of a mental state than a physical technique or style. There are certain guitar techniques that I have always enjoyed and that are necessary to express certain things: fast guitar picking, huge palm mutes, multi-fingered tapping. Same with the drums. The blast-beating or double bass rolls are born out of a desire to ratchet things up constantly in intensity. But those are just methods to carry the emotional weight.
Your first salvo is a four-track EP; in this age of streaming and near-unlimited accessibility, this is a very immediate, effective way to capture the attention of an ADD-addled metal / hardcore populace. Recently, the aforementioned Bolzer, as well as Enabler, have released shorter releases in rapid succession, to great success. Are quick-hit releases through digital means part of your long-term plan, or was this merely a jumping-off point to a grander design?
I think that the EP format is a good way to experience a band the first time in some cases. Some of my favorite heavy records of all time are EPs, although they don’t often get the critical consideration that they should compared to full-lengths. We didn’t set out to do any particular parceling of songs, the four on the EP are the first four we wrote and at the time we thought they were enough for an EP. We have a split coming up and aside from that we are working toward a proper full-length. If that somehow split into two EPs I’m sure we’d be okay with that too. We just like having physical copies but certainly don’t have anything against online-only versions of things or releases. There is no multi-EP attack plan. We are just writing as much as we can in between shows at the moment.
Samples are used prominently on both “As Flakes of Ash” and “Tigerstripe.” What are their origins, and how do they tie into the record’s themes? (Also, an earlier version of “Wet Death” had a pretty disturbing sampled intro; why was it cut from the version on Bruises?)
The samples do tie into the record’s themes. Most are what I’d call ‘soundscapes’ more than ‘samples,’ just because even the ones that seem like straight ahead samples are usually composed from at least three to four sources. They are designed to try and evoke an emotional mood for the lyric content of the song they precede. They must also fit sonically of course, but typically they are designed around the subject matter of the song, be it overt or very subtle. In newer songs, we have more elaborate and recurring ones. Typically they start with us stitching together lots of found or recorded textural elements in Audacity or whatever, as a bed for a more narrative sample that ties in thematically a little more.
With “Wet Death,” I think that the song indexing and start/end point editing have a lot to do with a record’s emotional impact. It’s not that the sample was cut from the song, it was just not included in the Bruises EP version. We liked the way “Wet Death” begins immediately after the previous song with barely a breath between and didn’t attach it to the beginning. We play it that way live sometimes, or sometimes with the soundscape, depending on how the setlist is arranged. The flow is very important to us, live as well as record indexing.
Okay, you knew it was coming, so here it is: Why is being in a band with your spouse the worst thing ever? And why is it the best?
The main and best part is that we get to share this incredible creative passion together. Most people never get to achieve that level of creative partnership and it is awesome. Plus, we can live and breathe it easily into our lives like any other daily thing such as playing with our dog or cooking meals. We practice nearly every day. If we don’t, she may or I may go play guitar for a while. It’s just what we do.
The hard part is keeping any other marital business out of the practice space. If not, it’s too easy for a disagreement about songwriting to turn into something more than it is. This mentality is just as important on tour. That’s it, there is no worst part. We are both playing music with our lifelong best friends. That rules.