At the end of last year, Hellogoodbye returned with fourth album, S’Only Natural, a funk-filled record that will have you shimmying into the sunshine. Back in the UK next month for a performance at Slam Dunk Festival and a string of headline shows, we thought we’d catch up with frontman Forrest Kline to go in-depth on the record and talk about the importance of self-love.
Firstly, I just want to say welcome back! It was a long five-year wait between Everything Is Debatable and S’only Natural, why the break? What did you do in the time away, were you always writing music?
Yes I was, mostly. I think it's important to go away. We need time to zoom out and reflect. We toured for a year and half or so on Everything Is Debatable and after returning home I regrouped a bit, said goodbye to my first home studio, (where I recorded most of Would It Kill You? and Everything Is Debatable) and moved. I spent a good year learning woodworking and studio design and built myself a new one as well as rehabbing this old 1950's home. Once I had the studio going, I did a few production projects, writing collaborations and began outlining S'Only Natural. I let myself explore and demo (and re-demo) freely for a while. One song, ‘Close’, incubated for years. I’d wake up and feel this feeling I wanted to capture flutter by and go searching for the right butterfly net.
The new album is quite the separation from your previous records, there’s less synths and a lot more funk and pop influences coming through, was this always the goal when you began writing the record?
There were certain footholds that guided where our hands went, I’m obsessed with those tight and dry nuanced drums of the 70's (ala Prince self-titled) and the short bouncy staccato basslines (ala Chic). Those elements acting as a scaffolding encouraged us to finish the walls with similarly nuanced and organic textures. It was never a hard rule, but there are actually NO soft synths or programming elements on the record, we found it was always better when we played the piece in by hand. Starting out, the game was how I could use technology to fake something real, (I would program jazz drum pieces or large orchestra sections). All art has a component of illusion, but since then the trajectory has always been in the direction of "faking" nothing.
Were there any particular bands or artists you were listening to that shaped some of the sounds on the album?
Ah, gave a few away in the last answer but yes! Honestly, since the advent of Spotify I have been able to go on deep, deep musical explorations, back and forth from Spotify to Wikipedia. I feel like my musical world has opened up exponentially. I followed some of my disco inclinations back in time through funk and R&B and back to jazz and watched as it became groove-based over the 70's.
The title track is very much a self-love anthem, is this the message you wanted to put across?
Yes! I’ve always found self-love/acceptance easy, but I see that for so many, more and more everyday it seems, it’s a struggle. I want everyone to know that there's a time for looking at yourself critically, asking tough questions and working to improve... and there's a time to forgive yourself and act natural. I want everyone today to be a little bit easier on themselves, living is hard y’all deserve it.
Are there any other themes flowing throughout the record?
Allowing yourself to be is a definite through line. There are themes of duality (let it burn/put it out and other examples of opposites all over the record). Songs like 'Stare Into The Black' address a sort of stoicism in the face of our darker sides. 'I’ll Keep On Following You’ is a declaration of commitment, ‘Mysterious You’ is an ode to not knowing being the most exciting part.
Having originally shot to fame via the MySpace generation, how do you think the growth of the internet and technology has helped shape the music scene today?
In the way I mentioned earlier, I think it has fed a massive & eclectic influence back into itself. I see playlisters and algorithms unearth dusty gems from our musical past and upvote them into our collective consciousness again. I see this as good for creators and their creative health. It's also allowed musicians of all sizes to find audiences of all sizes, maybe a transition from Top 40 pop charts to cult icon 13 years later, (yes, I’m being generous with myself), would have been much trickier in another decade. It’s possible this trend will continue and we'll have a dynamic ecosystem of art at every level, but it’s also possible that the attention economy machine will feed those with the fullest plates to the exclusion of all others and we'll wind up with a less interesting, top down controlled, winner-takes-all music industry.
Do you ever look back at the songs you created then and if so, how do you feel about them?
I think I was very honest and charming, but had lots to learn.
You return to play some shows in the UK next month, what’s your favourite memory from playing live over here?
When we returned to play after releasing Would It Kill You?, we played London at a small place called The Water Rats and the vibe was particularly magical! It's always a treat to return, known for one thing but with something new and have it received so warmly. Hopefully a similar turn of events transpires this time!
What can people expect from your shows this time around?
Self-love! I’ll lead by example and if they can't be convinced to love themselves, they can start by loving me as well. We've always kept it very loose, there's no stress or harsh vibes at a Hellogoodbye, there's probably wine and balloons though. More specifically, we'll be playing a handful of songs from each of our four records, slight focus of Would It Kill You? and S'Only Natural.
What does the future hold for Hellogoodbye from now? Can we expect more funky musical delights?
Yes, always onto new territory, even revisiting a previous destination is never quite the same. But I’m hopeful there will always be groove and heart, sometimes groove in the heart.
Want to experience Hellogoodbye's funkalicious new album live? Catch Forrest & co. perform next month:
O2 Academy Birmingham: Tuesday 21 May Buy Tickets
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