Small Forward is a band from Los Angeles that creates breezy psychedelic rock and is the perfect soundtrack to your fall season. The group consists of Michael Stevenson, Rounak Maiti, Campbell Scott and Nick Waldram.
The band started in 2013 when all four of the members met at Occidental College in LA and shared a fondness for music. Elaborating on their start, Stevenson said, “Rounak was the only one who had an ‘established’ SoundCloud presence of his original music that we all were really into, so I was itching to collaborate with him in some capacity. We all ended up living together at some point and the rest is written in the wind.”
The band has been gaining momentum over the years playing shows around LA, and their song, “Afternoon Takeoff,” was featured on the hit NBC show, The Blacklist, this year.
Like popular indie bands such as Real Estate, Beach Fossils, and Mac Demarco, Small Forward has a preference for creating lush and easygoing music that sounds beautiful and melancholic.
“I think we have an affinity for a sweet spot between Psych Rock and 70s AM Pop,” stated Stevenson.
While Small Forward has an affection for the psychedelic pop sound from the past, their music, however, is unmistakably modern and is not a retread of the past.
As a band, the members find influence from a variety of music genres outside of their sound.
“There’s so much variety in music we like and listen to. Part of that comes from our different backgrounds–whether that’s jazz, more acoustic folk, or electronic, there’s plenty that creeps in apart from our usual ‘sound’ when we’re playing and recording together,” stated Stevenson.
Lyrically, Small Forward writes songs about the growing pains of young adulthood. However, they do not do this in a visible or direct manner. Like the lead singer’s reverb-heavy vocals, the lyrics are subdued and reflective and capture a specific melancholic mood.
“We like to pontificate quite a bit. I think we like keeping things intentionally open-ended, so that whoever’s listening can find a little bit of themselves in the words, or apply their own lives to them. Usually we write things in a very stream-of-consciousness manner, without ruminating for too long on the inherent ‘meaning’ of things,” added Stevenson.
When it comes to songwriting, Small Forward is a collaborative project. “Typically, Rounak and I, will come to each other with a verse / chorus idea and then we’ll sit down together and flush out the arrangements and piece together all these different sections we’ve written,” stated Stevenson. “Since Rounak sort of plays drums we’ll often throw a demo together to show the band as a whole.”
From there, Rounak and Michael will show Campbell (bass) and Nick (drums) their demo and will develop the track as a full band to figure out how the song moves dynamically and transitionally.
“Outside, the Leaves” from their, The Moon You Stand On album is an example of what the band does, creating a laidback, downtempo sound but lyrically contrasting to how the song sounds. The track is about the anxiety of adulthood and it was a track that Rounak originally wrote as an acoustic piece, but the song expanded when the band decided to add more instrumentation.
Their new mini-album, Affections, which was released this year, is a continuation of their sound with some slight variations. Stevenson adds that “there’s a bit more experimentation with structure and sonic texture on this one”
Being in the studio and playing live are two aspects that the band enjoys and they treat the recording process somewhat independently from how they play songs live.
“We’re definitely not hesitant to add a sonic layer in the recording that we know may not be able to be performed live. Some bands will think that’s sacrilege, but I think the live arrangements should be able to have a mind of their own and not necessarily be tied to the recording,” said Stevenson.
Affections is being released through the record label Forged Artifacts, which specializes in cassette tapes. There has been a recent resurgence in cassette tapes as they have become trendy again and have been showing up in pop culture like Guardians of the Galaxy and 13 Reasons Why.
In an age of streaming, the record label Forged Artifacts is catering to people who have a nostalgia for cassette tapes and appreciate the physical aspect of an album.
“I think getting the album out there digitally is the priority but I love that we’re going to have a physical ephemera to complement the release,” said Stevenson.