Free Of Limitations

With their new album Captivity released, Forth show that they’re perfectly capable of making their own decisions.

It’s interesting how serendipity can play a major part when shaping future events. Fate certainly had something to do with the formation of alternative hard-rock band Forth when frontman, Brian Forth, decided to pay a visit to his now permanent residence of Finland when a simple holiday turned into a meeting of the musical minds. The connection made was with fellow musician Tim Norrgrann who offered a couple of tickets to attend a reunion concert. This was twenty years ago. Several years later after this initial meeting, and numerous experiments tinkering with styles and band members, Forth finally came to fruition. The line-up as it currently stands today consists of Brain Forth (vocals), Tim Norrgrann (lead guitar), Mikael Söderbäck (bass) and Eric Von Hertzen (drums) who together have just released their new album ‘Captivity’.

Before the release of the album ‘Captivity’, however, there was a surprise package that reached the airwaves via the single ‘Can’t Help Falling In Love’. Sound familiar dear readers? Then yes, you would be right in asking, “Wasn’t that an Elvis’ single?” because that’s exactly what Forth decided to do in the runup to the release of their current album ‘Captivity’; record a cover of the Elvis’ classic but with a punk rock edge.

Once discussion got underway with the band members of Forth, it became clear that they remain a band who like to make their own decisions, despite heeding advice from fellow professionals, and follow their instincts rather than what is considered as trending in the world of marketing. A wise move and certainly a brave one especially if your choice of cover is a King classic, not to mention touting a predominantly 90’s sound (i.e. grunge) when it comes to writing and recording your new record and all the promotion that comes with this. It’s a fascinating start, and one that warrants further investigation. Over to you Forth.

“Forth members are all fans of the King [Elvis Presley]. However, the idea for the cover originated from a 40th birthday gig we played for a friend. The host requested something from Elvis, but there wasn’t anything in our repertoire. We had done a single on our first album called ‘Fairy-tale Princess’, which was a re-write of a Finnish ballad by Tintack, an all-female band. We infused the original with a punk vibe, jacked up the tempo and switched the meter to 4/4. The song performed quite well on radio in Finland and became one of our most requested performance songs. So, we decided to take a similar approach with an Elvis ballad. And the first time it was played at the party, the audience liked it so much they made us play it again back-to-back. Then we knew we were on to something.

“‘Captivity’ is a return to roots for us,” continues the band. “Our first album was a good warm-up, but in retrospect we were perhaps a bit too careful, and maybe thinking too commercially, and that lead to a more pop-ish, rock feeling that wasn’t completely true to our “inner-musicians”. So, with ‘Captivity’ we decided to throw away conventions and deliver the album we would want to hear ourselves. Epic guitar solos, 6-minute songs and lots of cool bluesy, grungy flavours. Most of our industry contacts were warning us that the only thing that matters these days is what is trending on Spotify, and that is not grunge. We were quite perplexed that this once-mighty industry seemed so completely wrapped around the finger of a 12-year old Swedish music online streaming service. So, we just said, “To hell with it! Let’s make the album we want to hear and be proud of it.” So that’s ‘Captivity’; a bit Seattle with a backbone of hard rock and some melancholic moments in between.”

By holding steadfast to their beliefs in terms of the influences and what comes natural to the band when writing the songs that make up new album ‘Captivity’, Forth has conducted their business in what many still believe as “the right way” by building their reputation as a compelling live act after many gigs covering the length and breadth of Finland. Such experience will certainly prepare the band for the promotional push that lies ahead now that ‘Captivity’ has finally been released, but its title alone is further indication that Forth is a band fully aware of the competitive nature of the music industry and the idea of bowing to current trends.

“The overarching theme of ‘Captivity’ is about the choices people make to hold themselves back and become trapped inside their own lives. Brian’s lyrics explore the idea that it’s the bad choices we make and the behaviours we can’t seem to change that keep sending us down the same wrong paths in life. But the prison is a self-imposed one, and the key to salvation is only found inside yourself. So, while the title is ‘Captivity’, the underlying theme is about freeing yourself from your own prison.”

With the new album out there for public consumption, do you have a favourite track yet from ‘Captivity’?

“So hard to choose,” ponder the band before adding, “it’s like picking between your children!  “For me personally (Brian), I probably connect the most with ‘Own Worst Enemy’. That song really brings me back to the feelings [of] growing up in the 90s when I first discovered grunge with Pearl Jam, Nirvana and Stone Temple Pilots. One other stand-out track is, ‘Can You Feel My Love?’ written by Tim.  It’s a very personal song, and it really takes you on an emotional journey from mournful and introspective, to heavy and full of anger and angst and then back to acceptance.”

What inspires Forth when writing your songs?

“Brian writes the lyrics for most of Forth’s songs, and he draws inspiration from situations in his own life.  Many of the tracks are semi-autobiographical and rooted in real stories and relationships from the singer’s past. Although the songs often explore the flaws and failures in relationships, there is usually an underlying theme of self-determination and redemption that drives the music.”

With the band coming together from two different countries, namely Canada and Finland with, as we’re informed by the band, “Tim Norrgrann and bassist Micke Söderbäck being Finns of the Swedish persuasion (part of the language minority here in Finland). So, technically speaking, Forth is ¼ Canadian and ¾ Finn with a dash of Swede mixed in for good measure.” Therefore, it comes as no surprise that inspirations and influences will vary due to some cultural differences, but there will also be similarities that should pave the way for interesting combinations when it comes to writing and recording Forth’s music.

“Our style is best described as hard rock with grunge influences. It’s riff-heavy music with fat Queen-inspired harmonies. But Forth albums are quite diverse with influences also coming from a variety of other genres such as punk, blues, glam and prog blended in like seasoning on a hard-rock steak. Both Forth albums have also featured deeply introspective and melancholic ballads, ‘Forgiveness Comes’ and ‘Never Alone’. However, the driving force behind Forth’s sound is a thick, fat mix of thundering drums, big harmonies, growling vocals, grumbling bass lines and epic sweeping guitar work.”

With such an engaging way to describe their sound which permeates throughout new long player ‘Captivity’, there are moments where Forth know how to slow the tempo with a melancholic ballad or two, not to mention throw up more of a celebratory feel when the need calls for it such as recent single ‘On Top Of The World’.

“It’s about us,” explain Forth regarding the single ‘On Top Of The World’. It’s about every 30/40-something rocker whose friends and families have told them it’s time to hang up the guitar, but who simply can’t quit. The song was inspired by many a glorious gig we’ve had in total s-hole bars in the outskirts of Helsinki to audiences of a couple dozen local drunks. It’s those nights when we get to forget about the rest of our lives and be rock stars for 90 minutes. Those are the nights when we feel on top of the world.”

‘On Top Of The World’ also seems to pay homage to all of those who’ve supported Forth over the years by offering a chance to be part of its recording history. This all came about after a “fan-funding launch gig event” was initiated and then followed by the band entering the recording studio to begin work on the single. Such actions also stretched to the accompanying video to the single, ‘On Top of The World’, where the celebratory feel of the song is evident from both band and supporters alike. In addition, there are clever touches seen during the music video with subtle references acknowledging the uphill climb when faced by the bigger machine of the music industry and the difficult task of balancing the everyday with ambitions of becoming a successful Rockstar. All in all, it’s a touching gesture to their fans and reveals a side to Forth where they never forget their roots.

“The concept for the video was simply to capture the feeling of one of our own gigs in a corner pub. The video was recorded in a small local establishment where Forth has played frequently in the past. The video contrasts the performance with the band’s alter-ego life, depicting scenes from Brian’s ordinary “suit-and-tie” day job. In the end, Brian decides to fully embrace his rocker self when he removes the suit, shaves his head and joins the band for what becomes an epic night of small-venue rock and roll.”

An epic night of performing and recording the video to single ‘On Top Of The World’ was no doubt experienced by all those involved, especially as lead singer and songwriter Brian Forth can now count himself as a local among the Finnish population, having moved to Finland from Canada fifteen years ago and describing himself as a “love refugee” (See From The Tapes as a possible reason why). However, when it comes to the wider populace of Finland, where exactly do Forth see themselves and their alternative hard rock and grunge sound?

“Finland is a small country with a pretty limited spectrum of “mainstream” music. The local popular music scene is dominated by typical electro-pop and rap. Finland is obviously well known for the darker side of rock/metal with some world-leading acts like Nightwish and Him. Forth falls somewhere in between the lines – a bit heavy for your typical radio fare, and too light for the real metal scene. So, we are trying to find our place here. We haven’t had a lot of exposure in Canada yet, but Secret Entertainment [record label] is opening doors for us now with radio play and interviews already lining up for the album release. I don’t think we are trying to change the world, or invent a new genre with our sound, but we are pretty committed to defying the new consensus out there that rock is dead.  We know there’s a whole big generation of people like ourselves who grew up loving this kind of music; music with a real, raw emotional edge that comes from a real place in someone’s life. Music that is powerful, but not too polished, dark but not cynical. That’s the audience we want to find and connect with.”

What’s next in line for the band?

“Promote, promote, promote and gig, gig, gig. Now, after almost 4 years in incubation, we’re ready to birth this baby and hit the road to introduce her. We already have a great distribution partner with Secret Entertainment, but we are also looking out for more new members of the Forth team, including management and a booking agent.”

Any final thoughts of the day from Forth?

“Just a big thanks to FLW and your readers for the opportunity to tell our story. We hope you connect with our sound, and hope we’ll be rocking in front of you in Norway someday soon!”

The album ‘Captivity’ is out now and available on Secret Entertainment

(Photography courtesy of Tomi Rislakki and Taija-Leena Lönnberg)

FLW - From the Tapes

Is there one anecdote from the band that you’d care to share with the rest of the nation?

“Probably the most unexpected recording secret on the album occurred on the final track. That song was written by Brian for his wife on their wedding day. It was never originally intended as a Forth song, but in the final days of song selection it got voted in as a softer, more melancholic ending for the album. The problem was that the band had never played it before – it was purely an acoustic song, originally written on piano and performed at the wedding acapella with an acoustic guitar. So, the band had to come up with ways to add their own “touch” to the final arrangement. In the end the Cajon box drum and extra percussion had to be separately recorded by Eric and Tim at the Espoo city public library and added to the final mix. Even more unlikely, the solo was recorded on a Seagull Merlin Dulcimer inside Tim’s bathroom at his home which, apparently, provided the perfect acoustics for the part.”

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