Expectations are weird. I’d seen Forest Fires a few times, exchanged the briefest of words with them after a show to let them know I wanted to talk to them soon, I listened to their demos on Bandcamp, so on and so forth. Based on the information I received from these interactions, I was primed for an encounter with five dudes who were super serious and mighty mysterious. Theirs is a thoughtful, lots-of-feels kind of sound, one that has its toes in the waters of Deathcab while reaching up for the sonic aurora borealis of Iceland’s Sigur Rós. Personally, that’s right up my alley – cool soundscapes, some solid jangly guitars, vocals that stick in you heart like good cholesterol, oozing with a sense of mystery. Maybe it’s those beards of theirs. Whatever it was, I had it in my head that these guys were on a different level and so I braced myself as I drove to meet them. One look at our rendezvous point and suddenly I found myself questioning what I was getting into. Nothing says “Unapproachable Mysterious Indie Rock Wizards” like a townie bar by the airport.
“I thought it would be quiet!” drummer Brad Caetano, shouted over the crowd at Track 84, where everyone had piled in to watch the Sox. I wasn’t bothered by it. In fact, it took some of the pressure off.
We, along with bass player Dan MacKnight, managed to work our way out to a deck no one was taking advantage of and I got to learn a bit about the men behind the mystery.
Between the five guys in Forest Fires, there’s an age span of about a decade. All of them have been going at it hard in one band or another for years. The band had started as a project with Dan, guitarists and singers Mike Sweet and Calvin Cadoret, and a couple of other guys who left last summer, making room for Brad and yet a third guitarist, Ian Van Opijnen.
“It was a natural thing,” Brad says, not just of coming into Forest Fires, but of how quickly the five members gelled.
“That was one of the most important things when we got this lineup together,” adds Dan. “We’ve all been in bands where personalities were clashing and we didn’t want to waste our time doing that. We took our time to find the right people.”
With the right people in place, everyone got a job. Mike and Cal became the principal songwriters, Brad and Dan the guys who dealt with the business side of things, and Ian was the producer and engineer. From there it was about establishing a list of goals: Rock Hunt, play a show at Lupo’s, Summer Concert Series. The first two have already been checked off the list, with the Summer Concert Series achievement trophy set to be unlocked on August 14, followed the next day by a show at The Met where their set will be filmed for Rhode Island PBS’ Meet Me At The Met. All of this lines up perfectly for the release of their new EP, To the Sound of…, which drops on August 1 from Midday Records.
To the Sound of… continues in the tradition of their previous, proof of concept recordings and live performances. Teasing the edge of ambient without tipping into noise – though certainly not afraid to get loud – dreamy, lovelorn soundscapes fill the five tracks with all of the mystery we talked about at Track 84.
“We have a lot of people describe us as being very mysterious,” Brad says, smiling. “We feel like we’re a bunch of goofballs.”
Goofballs. I guess it’s naive for me to think that it’s outside a goofball’s wheelhouse to create something that sounds like Forest Fires. Goofballs have their mysteries too. Or maybe the whole goofball thing is a ruse, at once disarming people who think the band is too mysterious while simultaneously raising new questions. Maybe Forest Fires is a rock band wrapped in a mystery wrapped in five goofballs wrapped in a smoke screen of other false mysteries. Or maybe I’m just having too much fun ignoring the men behind the curtain when the Wizard is coming through the speakers.