Swedish trio Forest initially appear to be a band shrouded in mystery. That’s partly due to the distinct lack of a press release, and partly down to a fruitless hunt for information on the ol’ internet; trying a Google search on ‘Forest’ and ‘Sweden’ results in a lot of wood and even more trees. So, when TLOBF gets a chance to chat to the band’s creative force Jens Örjeheim, he has to endure an embarrassingly naïve line of questioning. Thankfully, he’s far too polite to complain. Örjeheim – the former drummer with Swedish indie heroes Caesars – has reconnected with a current Caesar (bassist David Lindqvist) on a cunning musical experiment. Can a band make electronic-based music that sounds natural, warm and organic? Well, Forest have just released their eponymously-titled debut album, and it reveals a gorgeous set of languorous dream-pop songs. On this evidence, the answer would seem to be a resounding ‘yes’ – Forest may have just invented eco-electronica.
So, let’s start with some basics – who actually is Forest?
Ha. It’s me plus a bass player and a drummer. We are a three-piece band. We go together in about 2004 or 2005. I have known David for a very long time – since we were kids – and [drummer] Josefin [Hinders] has been a friend of a friend for a long time, since we were about 20. When I needed a band, it felt natural to bring them in. David and I had played in some bands before together.
And which bands were those?
We played in the Caesars together, when they were called Caesars Palace beforehand.
Wow! You were in Caesars? They have had huge success.
Yes, Caesars have had a great success and have established themselves. I was in the band before they went very famous, and I quit the band in 1998. I played the drums in that band and then they went more successful – but I don’t think it was because of me leaving.
Why did you quit the band?
I didn’t really feel like playing the drums – that’s why I left. It was going well even then, but I quit because I didn’t want to be a drummer. It was a long time ago; the current drummer Nino Keller is a lot more established.
What sparked your decision to form a new band with Forest?
I had songs that I really wanted to get out and perform with. I was making them myself and I needed something more. I needed real drums and real bass, to give it a more natural feel, I guess. It was too static with only a sequencer and synthesizers. I wanted to mix live instruments with digital machines. I am very fond of the 70s synthesizers sound and with 70s bands experimenting with synthesizers, than so-called synthesizer bands of the late 70s and 80s. I wanted to make a nice blend and make it not feel like synthesizer music – if you understand what I mean. Also, it is more fun to play in a band than to play by yourself.
I do see what you mean. The album, although dominated by synth-based music, feels rich and organic. It is neither cold nor clinical. I assume this was the effect you were aiming for?
That’s exactly how I wanted it to be. I am not very influenced by electronic music at all. That’s why it sounds how it sounds. I am influenced more by classic rock and pop groups – The Beach Boys are a huge influence. But, I play the synthesizers and programme the sequencers. It’s not that I dislike these things but I don’t view my music in the typical electronic music way.
Is Forest almost a musical experiment, in which you are trying to use electronic instruments in a way that makes them sound warm and natural?
It was like a musical idea from the beginning, but that was a very long time ago. To try and make songs like this, in this style, started around 2000. It wasn’t very usual to do that type of thing at that time – to try and blend all these instruments. It was a musical idea and I wanted to hear what it sounded like.
What inspires your lyrics?
I don’t know if I have any inspiration for lyrics at all. I just want them to fit. It’s the same with the music; I’m only trying to work with things that come naturally. I don’t actively think very much in trying to create music. I try to work subconsciously. If I try and force something I want to say, it feels very boring. It feels like you are trying to be smart. Usually, when I am very near to finishing a song, I usually have something for the chorus. Just a small piece, a few words and I try to build something around that.
You’ve already talked about bands in the 70s using synthesizers to embellish their sound, but which other artists excite you?
There are some pieces of music that have made a great impact on me. A person called Ulf Dageby and a particular song he made really stuck with me and I am always thinking about that song. The song is called ‘Gnistrande Snö”; it’s from the soundtrack of a documentary about drug users and alcoholics in the late 70s in Stockholm. It is a rock song and it is a quite monotonous song, with a very warm string machine just lying there with a phaser on it. It is a very beautiful piece of music. I am not talking about anything very, very avant garde or anything. I’m speaking about the way synthesizers were used in normal music.
What are your hopes for the album?
It would make me very happy if people liked it and if people liked the songs. Up until now, most people comment on the sound and about the music, and about the pace and the rhythm. It would be fun if someone still listened to the songs in two or three year’s time – that would be lovely.
And, finally, what would a second Forest album sound like?
I have some songs –it will sound the same, but better.
The album Forest is out now on Service and comes pressed on highly limited edition vinyl picture disc. Click here to stream in full and for more info on the release.