From records to the road: a chat with Forever Son at Loch Hart

Updated: Dec 17, 2019

Left to right: Max Fletcher, Jack Robbins, James Harrison.

Forever Son performing at Loch Hart Music Festival, 17 November 2019. Photographer: Ivy Emily Trim.

What better way to melt away your worries and weariness on the third day of a music festival than with acoustic harmonies in bare feet? Loch Hart Music Festival 2019 was brought to a perfect close with a dreamy, lazy Sunday performance by folk three-piece Forever Son. We caught up with 28-year-old ("That'd be my guess") singer-songwriter and Forever Son front-man Jack Robbins after a beautiful set to talk growing up in Anglesea, the magic of making music, and good old fashioned rock 'n roll.

I just had a real respect for people who could just get up there with a guitar and just capture an audience ... I just wanted to see what that was like. So I wrote a couple of folk songs, gave it a crack, and that's how it started.

Well that was good for me, how was it for you?

So much fun. I did not expect to be playing in a tent, so that was a nice treat. I've played in a tepee like this a few times, and it's just a beautiful time. Tepees are magical places.

What are your favourite kind of shows to play?

Today was really nice because everyone was sitting and listening and present; just taking it in. But then playing a really big stage with a huge sound system in front of a massive crowd that is dancing is a whole other thing.

I think they're all good. They're all different, and fun for different reasons.

How has growing up on the coast influenced your music?

We were so disconnected from everything. I remember not having the internet for ages. We played a lot of music because, if there's no surf and it's raining, you've got to make your own fun. We used to jam at a friend's place at this little no-window studio we made called the 'Bat Cave'.

I think if I had lived in the city, maybe I would have gone into something else. Maybe I wouldn't have had as much time to just be like: 'what do you want to do now?'. Because there's not much else to do in Anglesea, you know. There's a fish-and-chip shop, that's about it.

Who were your formative musical influences?

Real early on, it was my Dad's old record player. That's when I started to realise that there was more than just what you could listen to on the radio.

It was all Hendrix, Zeppelin, The Who... just loud rock 'n roll. It blew my mind. I'll listen to anything now. I'll listen to jazz or world music or Brazilian psych - anything that's going down. But it all stemmed from that classic rock, classic folk records.

How did you begin playing folk music?

I just had a real respect for people who could just get up there with a guitar and just capture an audience. It just blows my mind when someone can do that. That's all they have. Nothing to hide behind. No whistles, bells, lights. Just them with a guitar, and they have everyone. I think I just wanted to see what that was like. So I wrote a couple of folk songs, gave it a crack, and that's how it started.

What does songwriting mean to you?

Part of it is like a diary. I have a pretty shitty memory, so I like to try and write in little bits that will help me remember bigger things. And lots of them. So some of the songs will be made of 50 different little memories. Then I read back through it like, 'Wow, I totally forgot about all those things'. They're like little triggers.

But sometimes it's just an outlet to put your feelings out, to be done with them. It's definitely very important, that's for sure. It's like therapy.

How do you go about turning those feelings into music?

I was talking to Ruby [Gill] about this. We were saying it's so easy to write a sad song, and we're not sure why.

Sometimes it's so frustrating, because I'm not always sad. But for some reason with sad songs, you'll start and the floodgates open and you're just writing and writing and writing and playing. Maybe sadness is more reflective, and happiness is just such a good time. I don't know! I wish it was easier to write happier songs.

What is your creative process, then?

It could be anything.

There's always lyrics and music. And sometimes they come together, sometimes they don't. Or sometimes parts and bits and pieces will give you ideas for something else.

Sometimes, I'll find I have a song stuck in my head. I'll realise the whole thing was in there and I've been humming it for a few days. Then I'll just record a bunch of parts, maybe I'll hum the bass and I'll do the drums with my mouth... then I'll play it, record a demo of it, and that'll be a song. And I have no idea where that came from.

Sometimes it comes really fast, sometimes it comes really slow. Sometimes it will develop, like the single we put out a few months ago, 'How To Smile'. We've been jamming on that for three or four years, and it's changed so much over the time.

As you put together your next album, how has the Forever Son sound developed since 10 Months, released in 2017?

It's not really a decision, it's just kind of happening. Originally, it was real folk-y. Then we started to progress to more like rock 'n roll.

I want people to dance and move and I want to dance and move. I still love playing solo, but with the band, it's just fun. When I started playing with the guys, it was real folk, three guitars at the front. Then we started bass and drums. Now everything is grooving - there's space, there's room ... I just want more of that.

The new songs are more rock 'n roll. Influences are like Drug Dealers new album... a bit of a 70's rock thing going on, but not really... I just say it's rock n roll.

Do we know when the new album might be released?

Next year. No date yet. It's getting there, but we'll see where else it goes, whether there's any new songs. It's on it's way.

With the upcoming album in the works for release in 2020, how much of it is being recorded in your bedroom studio in Torquay? Is it just you, or the band as well?

The whole thing is recorded there. It just depends. The last album, I recorded everything myself all in my bedroom. The album we're working on at the moment will be similar. I'll do a lot of it myself, James will do some drum stuff, Max will do some bass stuff. But sometimes it's just easier, because the room's pretty small and so you've got to make some compromises.

I spend a lot of time doing it myself. But that's fun ... that's when the good stuff happens.