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'I'm A Boy Staring Up Into Space': Jay Forrest Talks The Return Of Hopesfall

Wednesday, 08 August 2018 Written by Jonathan Rimmer

Photo: Natalie Bisignano

Few bands have enjoyed a career as varied and colourful as Hopesfall's. Forming 20 years ago in North Carolina, they emerged just as metalcore and other forms of moody hard rock were beginning to take off. However, they aren't remembered for their contributions to the scene as much as how they subverted its tropes. Drawing from screamo and psychedelic space rock in equal measures, their releases 'No Wings to Speak Of' and 'The Satellite Years' to this day stand up as classics of the genre.

But by the mid-2000s, Hopesfall had all but abandoned their hardcore roots for a more accessible Deftones-esque alternative rock sound. Following a falling out with their label, Trustkill Records, they called it quits before reforming for a handful of local shows with an augmented 'No Wings to Speak Of' line-up a couple of years later. That was supposed to be that.

But this summer their engine started ticking over again with the release of a new record, 'Arbiter'. Perhaps fittingly, it encompasses aspects from every era of their music: a combination of harsh and melodic vocals, emotive guitar lines, panoramic soundscapes and lyrics that are more likely to conjure images of stars and galaxies than suburban break-ups.

“We wouldn't claim to be the first people to blend punk and hardcore with something more atmospheric,” frontman Jay Forrest says. “Grade, out of Canada, did something similar I remember, but we definitely had a unique influence from Hum and those spacey ‘90s grunge kind of bands. I first heard Hum when I was, like, 15 or 16. We're not metalheads – we came from that sort of grunge background. We were listening to Smashing Pumpkins, but then we got introduced to the hardcore, screaming stuff and thought that would be cool.”

In a way, Hopesfall's renaissance follows the pattern of many post-hardcore and emo-charged groups who have taken advantage of the recent boom and reunited, however briefly, from American Football to Mineral to At the Drive-In to Rival Schools. But Forrest says the oft-levelled criticism at such bands – that it's impossible to recreate the intense feelings of collective angst and frustration from their teenage years – didn't apply because “of proximity”.

In total, 16 members have played in the band at some point or another – all based near the city of Charlotte, where most of them grew up. The current incarnation, composed of Forrest, guitarists Joshua Brigham and Dustin Nadler, bassist Chad Waldrup and drummer Adam Morgan, have all known each other since they were school age. Hopesfall's reunion wasn't so much driven by romance and nostalgia as it was a natural urge to hang and jam with long time pals.

“It's an interesting story,” Forrest says. “Chad, Dustin, Adam and Josh were getting together maybe once a week because they'd joined a bowling league or something. They realised they just wanted to play together and have an outlet. They didn't intend to do Hopesfall again, but they'd get together and rehearse. Within the course of a few years, they had about four songs together.

“I live in Chicago now, but Josh and Adam wanted to see the Shiner reunion show at a venue I was production managing at the time. They showed me the songs near the end of the trip when we were chatting in my backyard and were just like: 'Dude, do you want to sing on this stuff?' I was like: 'Yeah, for sure'. We demoed vocals for a year or so and then we started talking about how much money it would take to get in a studio to record it. But when we passed it to Mike Watts, who produced the album in the end, he just thought we should make it a full length Hopesfall record.”

The result is an album that is steeped in the band's roots but is far more expansive in its scope. Forrest cites progressive outfits such as Oceansize and Dredg as influences on the band's more complex elements, but there's also a sense that 'Arbiter' carries out what the band had initially intended to accomplish on 'A-Types' and 'Magnetic North'. Where those records were let down by disruption stemming from label troubles and departing members, Forrest is positive that 'Arbiter' is a melodic rock record the band can be proud of.

“With 'A-Types', I remember it was rough at the beginning because there was some resistance from the fanbase,” he says. “We didn't have much time to put things together, so I don't know – it wasn't our intention to do a more rock-flavoured record but it turned out like that. I'm glad for it though because that album opened up the envelope for us.

“It's never been intentional to cross the two [the hardcore sound and the 'A-Types' sound]. What comes out is what comes out. Part of me, you know – there's a hardcore kid in me still. If there was to be more Hopesfall stuff, I'd lean in a heavy direction but it's whatever's best for the song at the time. For example, the way Josh strums a guitar – he's got a very unique style and rhythm and pattern. I think he plays very emotionally and I try to pick up on that. We all just tried to match our instincts.”

If there is still a hardcore kid in Forrest, it's tempered by a maturity and dynamism that has developed in the decade since the band's last record. He describes the group as “more meditative” and says “families, jobs and careers” come before any mad rush to return to Europe for a tour. Nevertheless, long time fans who were left open-mouthed by their early material can rest assured that his writing style is as starry-eyed as ever.

“I think when it comes to writing, I'm a boy staring up into space,” Forrest says. “I like using a lot of imagery and sometimes the songs just write themselves. You feel a conviction in the music and you just try and map that. I just tap into a creative universe and meditate on it and there's something else that drives the process even beyond myself. I've read lyrics later on and sometimes the meaning changes. I just hope other people connect to it in their own way.”

'Arbiter' is out now on Equal Vision.

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