Words: Jordan Gorsuch
I recently had the idea to interview a band along with the record label behind the band. Not long after I found the perfect opportunity when I heard Have Fun Records’ newest physical release I Lost Myself Again. The album is an innovative marriage of emo and post-rock leanings, culminating in a twisting journey into our self-prescribed worst selves.
Forever Losing Sleep, is an emo post-rock band from New Jersey with a true passion for their craft. Frontman Joe (J.T.) Kelly and his six piece band, sound beyond their years with complex instrumentals, rich production, and insightful lyricism. Forever Losing Sleep will be heading out on their biggest headlining tour yet in March, featuring stops at SXSW and the west coast.
I had the opportunity to speak with Joe about the lingering messages behind the new record as well as the band’s experience working with Have Fun Records.
The Grey Estates: What fueled the ambient, harsh soundscapes on the record? There are songs that sound like they could be parts of a completely different album. Hell, even different genres. ("Take" for example pushes the record into the realm of hardcore).
Joe (J.T.) Kelly: I think what mainly caused such a diverse sound throughout the record and the switch between different sounds/genres is just that we’re all into so many different kinds of music and we wanted to incorporate all those different ideas and feelings into everything that we do. We’re all really into post rock, which is what I think fueled the ambient side of our band, but we’re all also really into screamo, hardcore, or even indie bands to main stream music and with throwing all those different influences together we kinda just came out with a bunch of different sounding songs.
TGE: Was the sequencing of the record a conscious decision during the writing process? It sounds to me that the first track is a smidge happier than what comes afterwards, and the lyrics reflect more desperation as the album continues.
JK: We definitely wanted the record to have a certain flow to it. With having really bright songs and really heavy songs, we wanted to find a way to make the whole thing sound cohesive, even if every song was completely different from the next. We knew we wanted "Esprit D’Escalier" to be the opening track and "Miracle" to be the closing track because they mirror each other. "Miracle" is "Esprit D’Escalier" reversed with a little bit of a different structure and we just always thought even though "Miracle" was such a weird song to throw on our record, it kind of just summed the whole thing up into one song.
TGE: Could you talk more about the themes on the album? It sounds like a lot of them focus on picking up the pieces after a significant emotional trauma.
JK: I’d like to think that I Lost Myself Again has a couple main themes, being 23 years old now, I wrote a lot of those songs when I was 19/20 years old. I was still learning about who I was, how I felt about certain things, what I believed in, common things I guess most young adults think about. I grew up in a Christian home, went to a private Christian school until 6th grade and all my life I had grown up questioning a lot of the things I was taught, learning to think for myself and knowing that it’s ok to simply not believe in religion or any higher being definitely held a huge theme on this record for me personally. Most of the record however primarily revolves around my childhood, my dad was deported when I was 9 years old and passed away when I was 14. My mom had to work 3 jobs, 7 days a week just to pay the bills and sadly most of the time even with working so much, we still couldn’t eat some nights, our electricity and hot water was shut off for months at a time until we could afford to pay the bill again.
It was hard, I watched her struggle with missing my dad and struggle with the feeling that she was letting me down as a parent. No matter how many times you tell a parent how much you love them or how grateful you are for everything they’ve done, I don’t think any parent wants to raise their child in that kind of environment. I found myself thinking a lot about those moments a few years back while writing this record and just wishing I could have went back in time to help her out more, wishing I never would have went through a rebellious “parents suck” phase in my teens and putting her through even more on top of what was already going on.
TGE: Building on that, I was wondering if you all believe in pre-determinism, or the concept of a self-fulfilling prophecy, perhaps. There are multiple moments on the record where the lyrics display a sense of "deserving" the misery that comes your way.
JK: This is something I’ve actually been thinking about a lot lately, especially while I’ve been writing new material. I’m going to go ahead and say I don’t think anybody “deserves” misery that comes their way, sometimes as humans, we simply just make really stupid mistakes that bring on a lot of those feelings and placing blame on ourselves just kind of feels natural. As I get older, I’ve learned to appreciate those kinds of mistakes more though, because you learn from them and then you learn to forgive yourself and I think that ultimately just makes you a stronger person. Regarding the themes of this record, I absolutely made a lot of mistakes, and being so young I felt like I probably did deserve a lot of bad that came my way, that “why me” feeling. Being older now though I’ve learned that life is way too short to stay upset and holding onto that “why me” feeling just keeps you stuck in one place and never really allows you to become a truly happy person. I was definitely stuck in that place while writing I Lost Myself Again.
TGE: Stepping back from the content of the record, could you detail some of your experience working with Have Fun on pressing this record?
JK: Working with Have Fun has been nothing short of an amazing experience. Zack reached out to us randomly one night via email just stating that he really liked our record and was interested in pressing it, I wrote back instantly and said lets go for it. He was the first Indie label that reached out to us that just felt right to work with. Since we’ve been working together he’s been extremely helpful, I probably bother him like 4 times a week asking for help with the absolute dumbest stuff and he always comes through for me. I can’t wait to watch Have Fun grow and put out more releases and even though I don’t know where we’ll be in a year or what other labels we might work with in the future, I know we’ll always be working with Have Fun in some way or another.
TGE: Lastly, what are your plans for 2016? I know you are on the cusp of a winter tour. Anything else?
JK: For 2016 we plan on touring and traveling as much as we possibly can. We just got back from a 2 and a half week tour with our good friends in Arrows In Her and we’ll be leaving for another 3 week-long tour out to SXSW and the West Coast from March 10th - 29th. We’re looking to hit 150 shows this year and really just put ourselves out there. We’ve got a really cool split planned to release sometime this spring, and we’ve been writing for our second full length as well. I can’t say when we’ll be releasing that, but we’re hoping for late 2016/early 2017.
Have Fun Records landed on my radar with their physical release of Dr. Manhattan’s wonderfully weird Jam Dreams. I have followed their output ever since and admire their dedication to physical media despite the small size of their label. I was privileged to directly ask the label’s founder, Zack Parr, some questions about running a label out of one’s bedroom and his experience working with Forever Losing Sleep.
The Grey Estates: You've described that you collected records for a while and the feeling of starting a label gripped you. How did you save up enough to press a record? How did you both meet and decide to to this together?
Zack Parr: To press our first vinyl release, we combined our tax returns and some savings from our shitty retail and fast food jobs to put out Jam Dreams. My labelmate/significant other and I first met each other at my house while we watched Prometheus with some friends. (FYI, I still believe Prometheus is an underrated movie but I feel my movie friends will crucify me if I say that). Anyways, somewhere down the line we were indirectly inspired by our friend, Dan, to embrace “YOLO” lifestyle and follow our dreams. So we unironically followed his advice and went all in and started our record label. It’s been a beautiful money pit ever since.
TGE: Has the process gotten any better/easier since first pressing Dr. Manhattan's Jam Dreams?
Z: Thankfully, it’s always been sort of easy for us starting out. I interned at Count Your Lucky Stars Records beforehand to learn the ropes on how everything operates. Without Keith and Cathy, this label would’ve crashed and burned long ago. Each release teaches us something new down the line. We made the costly mistake of printing 1000 Jam Dreams jackets with a spelling error. Bless the lovely folks at Imprint for making the reprint process a breeze.
TGE: How do you decide to release a specific album? There seems to be a pretty diverse lineup of genres represented thus far.
Z: Our record releases look a lot like our music tastes. We absolutely love every genre. But we also purposely make our label as diverse as possible so it has something for everyone. We’ve talked about wanting to do a jazz or hip hop record down the line but we may be getting a little too ahead of ourselves.
TGE: Where is the label located?
Z: It’s located in the small town of Riverview, MI, out of my bedroom. The only thing noteworthy is that it’s the third safest city in Michigan...so we have that going for us.
TGE: Is there anything that has greatly surprised you about starting a label that you would have never guessed beforehand?
Z: I would have to say that the comradery between labels has been heartwarming. At the beginning, we would’ve thought it was a ‘dog eat dog’ world but it has been anything but. We created a lot of friendships between labels and I love them all dearly.
TGE: Any future plans?
Z: As of right now, we have a few vinyl releases out in limbo with other bands. No tentative release date for those. The only thing that’s happening in our camp at the moment is that we are preparing for a tape release with a really cool band from Michigan. All I can say is that it is gonna be sick.