09 March 2011

Scots Way-Hay #50 - Silent Forest

photo by John Need

How can you not love a band who's lead singer is called Squirrel?! Even after the traumatic events of last year when one of the pesky fuckers came down our chimney, got stuck and pissed and crapped everywhere I still can't not like the wee buggers. That might purely be down to my Kid Canaveral T-Shirt that has a giant squirrel on the front. Aye, so squirrels, they're alright with me. This really wasn't how this introduction was supposed to start, but it's getting late and my mind has gone slightly west. I was planning on making a big deal about hitting the half century of Scots Way-Hay posts, but that would just sound like I was blowing my own trumpet and us Scots aren't very comfortable doing that.

Anyway, Silent Forest, who be they then? Well kiddie winks, they're a six piece folk-pop outfit who reside in sunny Glasgow and from the sound of things these kids have the potential to move on to much bigger things, I know it's considered a bit of a dirty word nowadays, but there is certain touch of Final Straw, Snow Patrol about them. No bad thing in my eyes and ears.

Would you care to introduce yourself?

Hello I’m Squirrel (Graeme Macdonald) from This Silent Forest, the founder and singer/ songwriter / guitarist (I say this but I’m the worst musician in the band).

How would you describe the music you make?

The music we make is like a pot of soup, ingredients just kicking about in the fridge but taste great when left in a pot for hours and boiled. Jamie (Lead Guitar) and I write most of the tracks acoustically on our own then he adds swells and dynamic lead guitar. Kev adds the bottom end (Bass) which drives its own counter melody, then the girls add the strings and keys. Iain does more than it seems by drumming off rhythms and time changes, which confuse me.

Our songs always start and end in two different places; I feel very strongly that a good song must sound great be it played on an acoustic or stripped to just vocals & strings or as a full band. So we try to make each track progress through those points. Songs either start huge or small, then the dynamic shifts and by the time it’s reached the outro of the song its become massive again and more and more has been added.

How did you come together as a band?

The band started as just me, attempting to be a singer songwriter in Glasgow and realising that I was significantly miles behind the rest. So I enlisted my sister Lesley (Violin) to add some more vocals and strings, then originally Buddy Goldie (Jousting with Dracula) on lead, Stuart Caldo (Pareto) on bass and Iain Stuart (every band in Scotland).

The line up changed with Jamie Sturt replacing Buddy then Kevin Smith replacing Caldo and Iona Bain (Cello) joining. From there everything seemed to click. Jamie and I’s voices work well together and his guitar playing just fitted how I imagined the tracks to sound.

How did you start out making music?

I started making music the old Emo way. I would write books and books of lyrics in coffee shops when I was at university and then started a band in Perth. From there all I wanted to do was sing things I had wrote.

What process goes into the way you write songs?

I have always felt that you need to really know why you sing a song and why those words and why those chords are there. If its one line of lyric or two chords then bloody well mean it! And that’s what we do (with more than two chords and more lyrics of course). Usually Jamie or I write the tracks alone, on an acoustic. Then finish the song and give it to the rest of the band who say “this is nice or this is shit” and 3 hours later (more or less) they give you something back that you are insanely happy with and significantly better (and different) than what you would have achieved on your own.

Who are your big musical influences?

I cant speak for the whole band but Lesley and I grew up listening to two things; 1) Dad Rock so a diet of Queen and other more acquired tasted such as Runrig and Classical music. Great Melodies (lyrically and instrumental) and great lyrics. 2) I then spent my teens listening to Bowie, The Cure and embarrassingly enough Trance music.

The rest of the band will not agree at all. Iain would pick something significantly heavier and Jamie would curse my name for saying anything above. But neither of them are writing this.

What kind of influence do you feel that where you come from has had on the music you create?

Being Scottish is a significant influence. None of us are from Glasgow. Traditional Scottish music and attitudes flows from our songs. Like most of our “dreech” lyrics and often celtic riffs. But even the swells and drones of Jamie’s guitar echo bag pipes often.

What can people expect to see/hear from your live shows?

People can expect to see a show. They can expect to see 6 people on stage who actually want to be up there. Who when they are playing a chord or singing a line mean it with every fibre of their being.

They will hear music which creeps up on them, builds around them and by the time they are four minutes into a song the dynamic will have changed so much they will have forgotten where it began. Hopefully after watching us play they will not only be trying to work out which was the best bit but they will be left with something more than a standard gig. We give a lot on stage.

Has there been a particular gig that has stood out for you so far (good or bad)?

I think our gig with an orchestra in the Old Fruit Market stands out for me. It was the first gig with Jamie and is where we met Iona. Also it was the first time we actually sat down and thought how we wanted these songs to sound. What 16 other instruments would be doing and where the music should go. Should the chords remain the same, what about a key or timing change? Should you take your listener on a journey? The end result was us being able to actually write and hear our songs as we wished them to sound.

What are your plans for the rest of the year and beyond? Do you have any new releases planned for any time soon?

Well first of all we have our first single Falter Discover being released on the 7th March 2011. Beyond that we are hoping to have a busy festival season in Scotland and beyond, release our second single The Fight. Finish our first EP and hopefully have the album written by near the end of summer.

Silent Forest released their debut single 'Falter Discover' out now through Never Make Friends Records, it is available on both CD and download. The single was produced by Chris Gordon of Union of Knives and Baby Chaos fame, I should really tell my sister about that one as she had the biggest crush on Chris when we're younger, ah those were the days..

The release of “Falter Discover” will be supporting the charity Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, with 10p for each unit being donated. More information on Nordoff Robbins is available at www.tartanclef.org or www.nordoff-robbins.org.uk.

The band have also made their live EP available to download for free, featuring tracks recorded live at the Brewhouse and the Mill (RIP), you can find that here.


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