The lone swordsman of Liverpool music, Forest Swords insists he feels detached from the Merseyside scene but tells Getintothis’ Jon Davies he’s flattered to be included on the GIT Award shortlist.
Some Merseyside musicians try hard to shake off its traditions and its inherent ties with jangly guitar pop, but no other current artist does so with such individuality as Forest Swords.
Initially you’ll find little that is Liverpudlian in his music, save for an evocative title like Hoylake Mist, but whereas most of his contemporaries both UK and Stateside are synth driven plays on 80s pop music, much of Forest Swords‘ sonic palette is based around looping rock textures that bring to mind the modest surroundings of certain parts of Liverpool and the Wirral.
Forest Swords AKA Matthew Barnes has given little away in public, giving few interviews (Getintothis secured this one back in 2010) and even going as far as having his music being performed for him, as was the case last September for Mercy‘s Spectres of the Spectacle show with fellow h-pop artist Maria Minerva.
However, a listen to his two EPs Dagger Paths and Fjree Feather you can hear an eclectic collection of sounds without delving into the La‘s or Lightning Seeds.
Obscured lyrics from 90s RnB occasionally drop in among a melting pot of old school dub, post rock and bits of Californian psychedelia, captured in a dark room to create haunted soundscapes of songs deconstructed.
The feeling of his music is akin to heading towards the lesser knowns docks, absorbing the stiff breeze from the river and taking in the forgotten places of Merseyside.
Perhaps due to his suburban displacement Barnes has yet to find true compatriots in dark electronica.
‘Although I’m from the region and fully support it, I don’t feel actively involved in a scene here,’ Barnes told Getintothis.
‘I don’t hang out with musicians so I do feel a little detached from anything that goes on within those circles,’ but he does concede that the city’s music scene has a deeper picking of styles if you look for it.
He added: ‘Liverpool’s history is as a guitar city, but it does also have a strong reputation for experimental pop and avant garde stuff, and so I naturally feel more aligned to that than I do to its more traditional indie/guitar/folk lineage. But it all has an important place within a city’s music scene.‘
Forest Swords has been highly rated by Getintothis for sometime, having inviting him to DJ at our first show with Liars and Mugstar, so it was little surprise Barnes would be nominated for the GIT Award 2012, something which humble Barnes is grateful for.
‘It’s very flattering to be nominated, and it’s great to hear that people have engaged with the music on some level, and deem it notable enough to be included for a new award like this.
‘The fact that I’m on the shortlist is a big compliment for the type of thing I’m doing. The GIT Award is a nice example of that new willingness to push forward.
Barnes added: ‘Of the other nominees whose music I’m familiar with, my favourites are probably Ex-Easter Island Head and Bill Ryder-Jones. Both of them have made music over the past year that’s full of huge scope and ambition, and have a kind of singular, focused vision about what music can be that I really admire.
‘I like them in different ways – EEIH have this intense physical, primal thing going on and Bill’s album stirs up all kinds of emotions. I’m looking forward to going through the shortlist and listening to the artists I’ve not heard much of before, too, as I’m a bit behind with newer local artists. The GIT Award seems like a strong representation of what’s going on at the moment.‘
Forest Swords‘ debut record is expected to be released later this year. Dagger Paths (Olde English Spelling Bee) and Fjree Feather (No Pain in Pop) are out now.
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