AN INTERVIEW WITH SMALL FORWARD
Tagged as ‘bangers,’ Small Forward’s latest EP Affections lives up to the label. A product of Michael Stevenson and Rounak Maiti’s experiments in genre-crossing while still in college, the band later added in Campbell Scott and Nick Waldram to flush out the arrangement. Well-versed in bedroom recording after the release of their debut EP, the band recorded their first album, The Moon You Stand On, entirely in their makeshift studio at their shared home. Opulent and astral, the album left listeners beyond just the west coast wanting more. Releasing their latest mini-album Affections in early October, Small Forward once again proved their innovative style.
TELL US ABOUT THE BIRTH OF THE BAND! ROOTS IN LOS ANGELES?
We all went to college together in Los Angeles. Initially, it was just Michael (lead guitar/vox) and me (Rounak) (rhythm guitar/vox) doing "bedroom" recordings, where we played all the instruments and -somewhat sloppily- explored the intersections of indie pop, 60s/70s rock and folk music. We were listening to a lot of George Harrison, but also channeling the modern sounds of people like Cotton Jones, Jim James and Mazzy Star. After writing enough songs for an EP, Nick (drums) and Campbell (bass) helped us round out our full-band sound and Small Forward became a bona-fide band.
WAS THERE A SPECIFIC FEELING OR TIME IN YOUR LIFE THAT AFFECTIONS WAS SUPPOSED TO EMBODY? WHAT REALLY PUSHED YOU TO MAKE THIS ALBUM?
It's so hard to pinpoint a specific sentiment that goes into writing something, but the great thing about writing as a team is that Michael and I can broaden Small Forward's vibe and aesthetic with flexibility and adventurousness. We can play off of each other's styles. We'll be writing satisfying, melodic love songs with lots of dense instrumentation and lyrical passages one day, but then the next day might want to write a more succinct, tongue-in-cheek song about boredom, clarity (or the lack thereof) and the need for self-reflection. Uncertainty and yearning are both strong themes in Affections. Additionally, I think the instrumentation was an important part of writing Affections, in that we spent quite a bit of time thinking about how each song should build and unfurl. We experimented with some weird structures, new sounds. We're still figuring out what Small Forward really means or embodies, so I think Affections is simply a part of this process.
WHERE IS “6TH AVENUE?” SOMEWHERE YOU’VE BEEN? SOMEWHERE YOU’VE MADE UP?
6th Ave is more or less about a cityscape invoking memories of someone close to you. I think everyone has their own 6th avenue that means something to them. Whether it's a real place to us remains a secret! (it's not).
RECENTLY YOU GUYS STARTED RELEASING A SERIES OF DEMO VIDEOS. HOW DO YOU THINK THESE IMPACT THE LISTENER? WHY DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO GIVE PEOPLE ACCESS TO THOSE SONGS/VERSIONS?
Making songs, especially in the comfort of our shared home (where we recorded most of Affections and all of The Moon You Stand On) is perhaps our favorite part of this project. Since we spend so much time making demos, I think letting your audience in on the fun is a totally underrated part of doing music. It's nice for us to try different methods of getting music out there too, like making videos or using found footage to portray our ideas in different ways. It's not that we want everyone to hear every single demo we're ever going to make, but as a music listener, it's fun to get a short glimpse into how bands do what they do. Plus, people that listen to us online give us a lot of love so it's nice to give back.
WHAT SONG MEANS THE MOST TO YOU PERSONALLY? ONE THAT REMINDS YOU OF A CERTAIN MOMENT OR PERSON ETC?
ROUNAK: “Ancient Flows” is a jam for me and it was really fun making that song, so it brings back good memories. But I think my favorite song, overall, is probably “6th Ave” just because it was a labor of love to write and record that song, and I was really happy when all the effort paid off super well.
MICHAEL: “Grounded” is up there for me because it was so self-reflective. The version that made it on to the EP was the only one I made - the first demo. Lyrically, it's about a sentiment I feel often, the uncertainty that comes with growing up and deciding to stay in LA. I've never experienced truly living in another place which is something I sometimes envy, but then again everyone's moving here so there must be reason to stay.
WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A BAND IN THE 21ST CENTURY?
It's horrible and exciting. On one hand you have to compete for the ears of an audience with a million other bands. And what comes with that is this sense of obligation to 'play the game' -- hit up blogs, stay active on 6 social media accounts, 'network'... But in reality, and as corny as it sounds, writing/recording music and creating things are the only things I care about, and the 21st century has made that easier than ever. Because of the internet and ability to make fun, weird content like demo videos and constantly put out music, it's a blessing for people who just want to make art and put it out into the world. Of course, that's not to diminish the difficulty of actually getting yourself out there as an artist, touring, playing shows etc. can be very hard...but we're gradually doing things step by step. We're excited for everything that's in store.