After partying through the final diluvian, booze-drenched weeks of 2013, the one lasting impression that remains is that in Taipei’s indie scene, everybody’s favorite band right now is Forests (森林). They stirred up one of the smiliest mosh pits ever on Christmas Day. Then they played again the very next day at the same club, Revolver, maybe just because it was the holidays. Mid-December, they played Revolver’s three-year anniversary. Then on New Year’s Eve, they were still in that same club till 4am DJing a set of 1960s garage, doo-wop and surf rock. It’s hard to remember a time when so many people were saying, “This is the band,” or when there was a band out there gigging all the time and making every time a party.
Last week Forests made the online release of their second album, No Fun, which is now on Bandcamp.com and — praise the Internet! — also streaming on the website of The Chicago Reader, an alternative weekly in the US.
Other than gigging more or less constantly, “We don’t have any big plans or a tour or something planned. It’s just done, and now it’s yours,” says vocalist and guitarist Jon Du (杜澤威).
That is not completely true. The three-piece is waiting for the pressed CDs to come out, and once that happens they are trying to organize a special release party at an abandoned industrial site. So stay tuned.
But in the meantime, check out their recorded music. No Fun is one of the best indie releases in Taiwan in recent memory, one of those my-basement-recording-studio-against-the-world kind of efforts that mixes garage punk guitar chords with doo-wop vocals and psychedelic fuzz. At least two or three songs are unabashedly surf tunes.
Vocals are, however, one of the things that set this album apart. At live shows, lead vocalist Jon Du sings into a condenser microphone, probably not so much because it adds extra range as because it adds a creamy, retro-quality. Against Forests’ crackly power chords and generally noisy post-punk sensibility, he sings like singers sang at the beginning of rock ‘n’ roll. Think of Nashville or Memphis in the 1960s — confident, clear melodic lines meant to soar over the fuzz, but instead of overcoming the distortion of overplayed records in a country store jukebox, he is singing in the milieu of rowdy garage punk. There are lots of “woo woo woos” and “wha wha whas,” and guitarist Guo-guo (Tseng Kuo-hung, 曾國宏) and drummer Zun-long (Lo Zun-long, 羅尊龍) chime in regularly with “ahhhh ahhhh” backing vocals. It is doo-wop and 1960s beach music all over again, only it is not. There is even one song called Woo Woo Woo. The lyrics amount to telling someone to take his clothes off.
Du grew up in Bergen County, New Jersey. “Basically it was suburbia,” he says — and gives the impression that he doesn’t really want to talk about himself. It is almost as if he had never even considered why anyone would be interested, though it is also possible he was being distracted by a cat. We are speaking by cellphone, and the first two or three times I ask about his background, he answers with a string of “huhs,” after which he finally replies, “Sorry, I’m really distracted right now. There’s a cat living upstairs and it never comes down here. But it just came down and now it’s giving me this really weird look. Sorry, what was your question?”