Localized: Forest Feathers
Experience odd time signatures, progressive rock and jazz harmonies with three local indie-rock bands at this month’s SLUG Localized, featuring co-headliners Your Meteor with Forest Feathers and opener Mortigi Tempo. Sponsored by High West Distillery, KRCL 90.9FM, Spilt Ink SLC and Uinta Brewing Co., this 21-plus free show happens at 8 p.m. on Sept. 15 at Urban Lounge.
Forest Feathers, a dynamic group that incorporates the dreamy space of prog-rock into the technical elements of math rock, initially started as a solo project by Camron Sackett in 2013. Sackett had no idea that the project would eventually evolve into the atmospheric sounds, sampling and shredding that currently represents the local trio. Built upon the foundation of minimalist guitar harmonies, delicate keyboard experimentation and ambient bass lines, Forest Feathers have carved out their own niche within the once-saturated pond of prog-rock—and do so successfully.
Since their inception in 2013 and the release of their debut album, Hush, Forest Feathers have been a presence within the Salt Lake music scene, thanks to both the post-rock elements of their music and the band’s technicality. “I really like metal and minimalist music, so I wanted to make something that was musically technical like metal but had a ‘hushed’ atmosphere,” says Sackett.
The result was Hush, a self-described mixture of “dreams, childhood memories, the concept of time and outer space,” says Sackett. The technicality of the music, combined with its intense involvement of different instrumentation, made it initially difficult to play shows. “Eventually, I had some friends help me out,” says Sackett. “The live versions had to be stripped down. But after playing a couple of shows here and there, the band took a hiatus because members were going to grad school or finishing undergraduate degrees and stuff.”
Hush is an album interlaced with the subtle albeit complex ambience of prog-rock bands like Maps & Atlases while retaining a minimalist style guided by angular keyboards, billowing, asymmetrical guitar riffs and an unassuming tangibility that immediately makes the album simultaneously intriguing yet accessible. Its layered, conservative style reveals new insights with every listen, ranging from graciously placed references to Norse mythology or delicately chosen musical accompaniments. “Sounds that include the piano, harp, vibraphone, music box and cello are all played on the keyboard,” Sackett notes. Hush is a fully fleshed-out album that delivers a fresh take on the prog-rock movement while retaining critical elements of the movement’s instrumentation. It’s a difficult balance to maintain, but the band does so with grace on their debut album.
After the release of Hush, Sackett pursued other musical endeavors for a while—including an R&B project with friend Jake Burch—but eventually cycled back to writing music for Forest Feathers. “I had an itch to write more Forest Feathers music, so out of the blue, I wrote this song called ‘Ghost’ and decided to work on the album LULL,” says Sackett. As a result, bassist Andrew Harris joined the band. Drummer Ian Francis also joined for a brief period during this time; however, no person would become a permanent drummer for the band. Alternately, the band decided to add a keyboardist to the mix, Brandon Kohler, and the band played its first show on July 1, 2016 at Kilby Court. Although Francis would move onto other projects (namely, local groups Soft Limbs and Indigo Plateau), the band went ahead and decided to record their most recent album, LULL, which released Aug. 27.
Lull follows a similar musical trajectory as Hush. It’s an atmospheric, exploratory album that represents subtle hints of math rock, including odd time signatures and asymmetrical guitar riffs and drumbeats. “We tried giving songs odd time signatures,” says Harris. “It’s kind of a tangent that we believe is worth exploring. It’s also just for the fun of it, too, however.” Yet the album also embraces a post-rock quality on par with Sigur Rós and Caspian while retaining the underpinnings of metal bands such as Iron Maiden and 3 Inches of Blood. “We use a lot of samples from nature that have been manipulated to create soundscapes: children’s choirs, waterfalls, thunder, rain, trees swaying in the rain, etc.,” says Sackett. Still, the album retains an elemental quality that focuses heavily on the metaphysical—death, dreams, time, nostalgia and existentialism.
It’s difficult to ignore some of the prevalent themes pervading LULL. Sackett and Harris agree that many of the lyrics and the mood of the album are influenced by topics including Norse mythology, The Lord of the Rings (“Wizards, Gandalf, Gandalf’s beard and skills, Fangorn Forest,” says Harris), His Dark Materials, Harry Potter and overarching themes of nature and outer space.
“LULL is an album about courage and exploration,” says Sackett. “I love math and odd time signatures, so it just sort of fits. It’s something we’re exploring.” LULL inevitably builds upon the foundation set forth by Hush while simultaneously introducing newer, diverse influences that serve to propel Forest Feathers even further into the chambers of both the prog-rock and math-rock genre. “It’s just the atmospheric quality of prog-rock that I like about it—the dreamy space of it,” says Sackett. Atmospherically compelling, dreamy and intricate, Forest Feathers are a breath of fresh air to the prog-rock and math-rock scene—and definitely worth a spin.
Don’t miss Forest Feathers when they co-headline at this month’s SLUG Localized on Sept. 15 at Urban Lounge. If you can’t wait until then, check out the melancholic, atmospheric vibes of Hush on forestfeathers.bandcamp.com.