By: Lindsy Carrasquillo
The Forum is an indie rock band from Gainesville, Florida who released their sophomore EP, Illuminate, in November. We spoke to singer and guitarist Michael Higgins about the release, how he first got into music and more.
Can you talk about how you first got into music?
I first got into music as a young teenager, I listened to a lot of classic rock that my dad would play in the car and wanted to know everything about each band. Eventually I started joining my friends as they tried learning guitar, and have loved trying to create things musically ever since.
What was the writing and recording process like for Illuminate and how did it differ from your first release?
The writing process for Illuminate was pretty spread out. I’d say about half of it came around early last spring, and while fine-tuning it over the course of a few months, the other half was written with it through the summer. The writing process generally begins with a single guitar riff, usually from Nick. Sometimes I’ll have written short poem verses in my phone about topics that come to mind while I’m driving or working, and eventually I try to put those to rhythms that fit his riff ideas. Then we will piece it together before bringing it to Jake and Alex, and it will change a lot from there while rounding out. (Sorry, I’m a little off-topic.) The writing for Illuminate was much more deliberate than the last EP, because we had all summer with this crop of 7-8 ideas, and we wanted to take our time to fine-tune the best 5 or 6. There was nothing rushed, and a lot of thought went into each song’s composition. There were a lot of rough drafts that were scrapped. So I’d say the writing was much more of a patient effort from all of us, and by the time we recorded, we knew exactly how we wanted everything to sound.
Recording was done over the course of 6 weeks at Goldentone Studio, the only place we’ve ever gone. Rob is a great engineer and he challenges us to really know what we want to do with a song, because when he is piecing it together, he makes it known that every idea will come from us, and he will take care of the technical aspects. He is intentionally distant with the musical idea piece of recording because he wants us to use that space as a chance to really complete the ideas we have started on our own. Like with the writing, the recording was much more painstaking than the first one, and every detail of every melody and tone was thought about. I think I started getting cabin fever in there. But it was well worth the extra time.
Rain/Shade was music we were proud to record, we did it quickly, and it worked. But by the time we were writing and recording Illuminate, we really knew what our goal sound was. The lyrics on Illuminate also reflect what we are all going through at this point, which is the anxiety that comes with the unknowns of the near future. It was much more thematic than Rain/Shade.
Lyrically, your songs focus a lot on interpersonal relationships. Can you talk about your song writing process?
I take a different approach than most people. I don’t usually use music to explicitly state things that go on in my life, I use it as an opportunity to create a story. So a lot of it is actually made-up, but it’s all made up based on things that have happened to me and those around me. Each song idea starts with a personal thought or feeling or experience, and then I make a fictional work of it from there in the song. Especially lately, all those interpersonal relationships you mentioned that are described in the songs, they are based on real stuff and then I let them take on a life of their own within the song. So by the time it’s done, I usually can’t say, “this one is about this person.” (Our opening track, ‘Father Hunger’, is probably the only one on Illuminate that is written entirely about one specific topic.)
Do you ever have trouble sharing more personal topics?
I don’t usually have trouble sharing them, because I am careful to word things in a way that I am proud of in a lyrical sense. Like I said in the previous answer, it’s half fantasy much of the time, so I like putting words to those feelings I have when I’m just driving in silence or doing homework or something. The most personal stories that I share are tough to write when I first write them, because I want to word them in a way that people can relate to. But I don’t think I am afraid to write about those things, because lyricism is my favorite way that people express themselves and their inner thoughts.
What do you hope listeners get out of the EP?
I hope that listeners can enjoy the chill indie nature of it, and maybe relate to the topics. If anything we create is enjoyed or re-visited, that means the world. If one person tells me that they really admire a song, in the same way that I’ve told artists that I enjoy their work, that makes my week. Music is very powerful and personal, and I hope people can have that sort of attachment to the songs on Illuminate.
You recently played a few shows with Flipturn including a sold-out show at The Atlantic. What was that experience like?
Oh man, it was fantastic. I absolutely love Flipturn, they are very nice people and I am a huge fan of their music. Their upcoming release is going to blow people away. Those shows were really great, because the energy in each building was palpable. People are there to enjoy music and have a good time, and it was really contagious. Playing for fans of indie pop is great for us because we know that both band’s sets will be enjoyed, and we meet a lot of cool people. Gainesville was insane, I’ve never played for a crowd that into a show, and then going on the road to Tallahassee and seeing that turnout of our friends mixed with theirs, in a city quite far from us, was really special. We went to Jacksonville the next day to cap our little mini tour, and I can honestly say those were my favorite shows we’ve ever done.
How would you describe Gainesville’s music scene?
Gainesville’s music scene has been a very pleasant surprise for a college town. The art and energy in Gainesville is fantastic, with the mix of college kids and long-time local residents giving the city a really vibrant feeling. I think there is music in Gainesville for everyone. Plenty of DJs, indie bands, rock bands, electro-pop bands, you name it. All the music is really quality and performed by talented musicians, and that is no small thing to say. I’ve enjoyed every musician I’ve seen here, and the fact that so many people get out and support local music is really amazing. It’s a good place to be as a musician or just a casual listener.
What should people expect from the band this year?
We have put a lot of work into getting on the road to spread our music to other cities in Florida, and we still have plenty of shows lined up both in Gainesville and out of town in the coming months! We’re starting to feel that itch to write again, so don’t be surprised if you hear new songs at a show soon. I’ve really enjoyed putting together shows for this semester, and we can’t wait to have an emphasis on performing live after such a long fall of recording!
Is there anything else you’d like to share?
Lots is going on in Gainesville this spring in terms of music, so definitely keep an eye on everything. If you don’t normally go to shows, plan on trying to get to a few, because it’s a whole other aspect of Gainesville and you won’t regret the experience. Hope to see new faces soon, and follow us across social media and Spotify!