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Making Forest Fires

Gritty and courageous, Brooklyn’s latest musical offering take a moment before their European tour to talk sound and Survival.

Unabashedly coarse, Portland / Brooklyn amalgam Forest Fire – the latest from Catbird Records – have been garnering national acclaim and creating panic across the Atlantic with their dirty frenzy. With a sound as mature as it is raw and their first European dates coming up, lead singer and guitarist Mark Thresher describes coming together, the workings of 'Survival', their latest release, and what makes their sound.

Dazed Digital: Who met who first – and how? And where does the Psychic Love Star EP fit into these meetings?
Mark Thresher: I met Adam through Natalie. And I met Nathan through Adam. Natalie and I are a couple. Nathan and Adam are childhood pals. The 'Psychic Love Star' EP was the first thing we released and showed to our friends.

DD: Survival seems to have been made in the midst of comings and goings, somewhere hazy between Oregon and New York – how long had it been in the making and was it surprising to see it completed?
Mark Thresher: It took us about eight months, with extremely devoted, but part-time attention. Comings and goings is a great way to put it. It was between other tours with members of Forest Fire playing in other bands. Between all sortsof trips really. And I guess I wasn't surprised to see it completed – I always knew it would get there.

DD: The spaces between recording, reflecting on the music being made – was it a chance to consider each sound carefully or did Survival become tedious?
Mark Thresher: It was both actually. We started with these live, and extremely flawed takes. I remember Adam and I spending hours trying to dig the vocals out of the mix and separate them from the piercing tambourine that was recorded way to close to the mic (tedious!). But at the same time we really were striving for something nuanced with this record. So it was perfect to have all this time on our hands.

DD: You’ve been described as callous, sincere, punk-folk, folk-punk, accused of arbitrarily mixing genres and your vocals have been compared to Lou Reed’s enough for Google to relate the terms Forest Fire and The Velvet Underground. What is the most important thing you’re all trying to achieve with your sound?
Mark Thresher: I'll quote Nathan here in saying that we only aim to follow each song to its end. We aren't trying to fill a niche by being lo-fi, or bro-fi, or nu-folk, and we certainly aren't trying to join the 00s digital reverb club. As far as we are concerned, when a song is done it's just done.

DD: How did your name come about?
Mark Thresher: I remember wanting to name the band something that sounded way bigger than we actually were so there was something very immediate for us to aspire to. Big Star kind of nailed it already with Big Star – can't blame a guy for trying!

DD: I challenge you to say the first song you can think of.
Mark Thresher: Bird On A Wire. Can't stop thinking of this one lately.