Written by Erin Mathis
Meet Forever Losing Sleep, an emo post-rock band from New Jersey with a true passion for their craft. Frontman Joe (J.T.) Kelly and his six piece band, despite their recent formation in 2011, perform as if they’ve been together for much longer, creating intricate and complex sounds that could only come from mature, serious musicians. They’ve been playing locally, but are on their way up, about to embark on a full U.S. tour.
Pop-Beak got the chance to speak with vocalist/guitarist Joe (J.T.) Kelly and bassist Aaron Facher after they played an intimate backyard show in Forked River, NJ. We sat down in a cozy living room, among five excited pug/pomeranians to talk about their influences, their recent music video release, and their opinions on basement shows.
What is the origin story of your band? How did you guys start?
Joe (J.T.) Kelly: When I was eighteen, I went to a show with my friend Chris and he brought his friend Joe. And on the way back, Joe was talking about how he was starting up a punk band, and they needed a guitar player. I just graduated high school and I really wanted to be in a band, so I told him I would do it, and we formed a band called FLS.
And did FLS stand for something?
JK: FLS was just FLS. We watched a YouTube video of this old guy, Frank L. Sharp, and he did county park tour videos in Georgia, and the videos were just completely ridiculous, like he would walk around and be like: “Oh! And this park has a lot of garbage cans!” And it was hilarious. And we had no idea what to name our band so out of respect to our boy Frank L. Sharp, we named our band FLS. We did our first tour with a band called On My Honor, who decided to teach a younger band how to tour and network, and by the end of that tour we all just had the realization that we shouldn’t be in a band together. Me, being the person that had written all the songs, thought that I should start singing. So me, our guitar player Josh, and our bass player Cody decided to start something new. But instead of starting completely over we kind of transitioned, and called the band Forever Losing Sleep, and were able to bring over a lot of fans from FLS to Forever Losing Sleep. Then we brought in our friend Jason on drums, and Fred as the other guitar player.
What are your favorite bands, and who do you look to for inspiration for your sounds?
JK: I think Brand New is probably collectively our favorite band, and their third record, Devil and God is a record that we all look up to. A lot of us are really into screamo from the 90s and early 2000s, just chaotic music. Bands like Orchid and Rain, stuff like that. Some post-rock bands like Mogwai, Godspeed You! Black Emperor. I’ve been listening to a band lately called pg.lost and was like wow, they literally bring together every element of everything that I ever wanted to bring into my music, and it was just mind blowing.
A few weeks ago you released your first music video for “I Lost Myself Again.” Who shot it, how much control did you have over the making of it, and what do you want people to take away from it in terms of relating it to the song?
JK: It was filmed in South Wales. My now friend Michael O’Connor messaged us on Facebook and was like: “Hey I just found your music on Bandcamp and it completely inspired me visually and I would love to do a music video for you guys.” He told us some of the bands he had worked with, so I was like let me just see what he’s about, and I checked out his videos and was just like holy shit. And what I liked about him was that he genuinely reached out to us, and it wasn’t like he needed us or we needed him, it was like we needed each other. So we got on Skype, and talked, and from there got cracking on the screenplay for it. I’d say the work came in like a 60/40 way, I really wanted to give him the visual freedom, but I wanted to have at least a little bit control over what it was gonna be about. And in terms of what we want other people to get out of it, I hope people can watch it and maybe interpret it in their own way, and maybe apply it to something in their own life.
You guys were featured in a documentary titled “Safe Space” which highlighted the New Brunswick basement scene and all it has to offer. I noticed that on the Facebook event page for today’s show it said: No homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, drugs, or alcohol. And I think is really brave and honorable that you guys are kind of taking that New Brunswick scene and spreading it wherever you go. How important is it that your shows are safe spaces?
Aaron Facher: I think safe spaces are super important. Not just to make sure everyone is tolerant and all that, but I feel like it keeps venues around longer too. ‘Cause look at the things that get venues shut down, cops will come investigate a noise complaint and find underage drinking or people could be fighting, and when you take all that stuff out of the equation, there’s just a lesser chance that people are going to get in trouble being at these shows. I think every house venue should be a safe space just for that reason alone.
JK: Ultimately it all comes down to like, we’re all in this together, and if you were to single somebody out at a show just because they’re a little bit different than you, then what does that really make of you?
AF: Everyone who likes this kind of music has felt like an outcast in some way. And if you’re active in this music scene and treat someone as if they were beneath you, then you’re just as bad as those people who treated you like you were beneath them.
So let’s talk about basement shows. Do you prefer a house or basement over say a bar or something?
AF: I love basement shows a lot and I love stage shows a lot. They both feel very different from each other, but I’m able to have fun at both.
JK: I think one of my favorite things about house shows is that everybody that is at a house show, probably wants to be there.
AF: If you play a show at a bar, yeah there are people that are there to see you, but there are also people that just want to go there and drink.
JK: I think we’d always rather play to like five people who genuinely care than to a hundred people that are just like whatever. At a place like this it’s like we’re all friends, and that what it’s about, just doing this all together. But I definitely do love a nice stage, and I do think it’s really satisfying as a musician to just like be on a stage, and every once in a while we do get to play to a lot of people, and that’s really cool. But yeah at the same time, some of the best nights for me is when we play to like ten kids and I know that I can text any one of those kids at any time and they’ll probably remember my name and let me sleep on their couch.
You guys are on tour right now. You’ve been around NJ, PA, CT, NY. What is your favorite part about touring, and what is your least favorite part about being on the road?
AF: I just love hanging out with the other bands.
JK: I love meeting new people everyday and just getting to see new places everyday even if it’s just like a stupid cool tree on the corner that I never saw before I’m just happy that I’m here to see that stupid tree.
AF: And we weren’t really that far from home with this little run, but it still felt good to be out and doing stuff and meeting people. Like we met a guy who looked exactly like James Franco the other day.
JK: And in Connecticut we were like eight minutes from the Yale campus so we all went and bought Yale t-shirts because we thought if we wore Yale shirts people would probably take us a little more seriously.
And is there anything that’s awful about touring?
JK: Uhm, not getting to shower.
AF: You’re tired all the time.
JK: Yeah, you sleep like three hours a day.
AF: And you feel sticky.
JK: You’re always sticky. A lot of times you’ll be like I’m hungry, I have no money, I miss my bed, I wish I was watching Netflix, but then you play a show and a couple people buy your shirt or your CD or just tell you they liked your set and that beats being home any day.
And you guys have an upcoming tour with Arrows in Her. Where will you be going?
JK: Practically the entire U.S.
For more on Forever Losing Sleep check out their Facebook page.