Interview: John Van Deusen of The Lonely Forest

Back in March, The Lonely Forest released their first album on Chris Walla‘s Trans Records. Arrows has received mixed reviews but for my money, it is one of my favorite albums of the year so far. Having listened through the album countless times, I was left with some questions. When I was presented with the opportunity to exchange emails with lead singer/guitarist, John Van Deusen, I jumped at it.
MP3: The Lonely Forest “Coyote”

How do you think Arrows differs from your previous albums?
I think Arrows is less cluttered and more straightforward than our previous records. It has less going on musically.

What was it like recording with Chris Walla and what effect did he have on the album?
Chris is an extremely pleasant person in and out of the studio. You can clearly hear his influence all over Arrows. The entire record has the sonic feel of a Death Cab For Cutie record (which is awesome).

What were the recording sessions like for Arrows?
We spent a lot of time laughing and listening to good music. When we weren’t recording we were barbecuing and playing video games. It was pretty relaxed.

A lot of your songs seem to have to do with life and living life to the fullest. Why do you think this theme is prevalent in your music?
I’m a pretty dramatic guy. I overanalyze everything and I’m pretty hard on myself. I usually write my best lyrics when I’m depressed or mad at myself (which is more often than I’d like to admit). For this reason, a lot of The Lonely Forest’s lyrics serve as self-motivators. For example, “Turn Off This Song and Go Outside” was an attempt to get myself off of the guitar and outside on the hiking trails.

Another theme that is obviously present in your music is nature – you make allusions to Walt Whitman’s poetry. What kind of influence does he and transcendentalism have on your lyrics?
I have always been a supporter of spirituality outside of organized religions. Growing up in a legalistic Christian church taught me a lot about the sincerity of spirituality and the dangers of religious regulations. Being outside and in the woods (in my opinion) can be one of the quickest ways to have a genuine spiritual experience. Writers like Whitman understood this in a way I don’t think I will ever fully grasp.

You guys just finished touring with Death Cab for Cutie. What was that like?
Touring with Death Cab was one of the coolest things we have ever done. They are such good people and a really great band. It was really strange to see them playing our favorite songs from The Photo Album and We Have The Facts And We’re Voting Yes from side stage.

What is next for The Lonely Forest?
We plan on touring as much as we can in the next two years before starting work on our follow up record to Arrows. We go out with Two Door Cinema Club in September.