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East Forest and the art of slowing down

Trevor Oswalt of East Forest
Trevor Oswalt of East Forest
Trevor Oswalt

Let’s get this out of the way first, for the record. East Forest creator Trevor Oswalt did get rid of the bike.

At this point, you’re probably wondering what’s going on, but to catch you up to speed before Oswalt stops in the Big Apple tonight for an 8pm show at Pianos NYC, a serious bicycle accident in Portland almost ended his promising career in 2012.

“It was scary,” he said. “The thing that was strange about it was that it happened twice. The first time was years ago. I was doing two things at once, I was in Brooklyn and I fell. The way I fell was really bad and I broke my left arm really viciously. It was super painful, they put in hardware, I went on with my life, and then five years later, I was in Portland, and I was on the same bike. I was cruising to a movie, it was a beautiful night, and I was kind of doing two things at once again. I wasn’t going fast and I fell in the same fashion, and as soon as I fell I broke my arm exactly the same way. I was in the hospital for the same amount of time, had the same surgery, just bigger plates, and it really screwed with my head. Is there a message here? That whole thing really spurred a lot of introspection for me and ultimately this whole journey, where I was digging into some deeper stuff in my life.”

The result was East Forest’s second album, Love Bomb, and he is currently on tour behind the recently released EP Prana, showing that despite everything, you can’t keep a good man down. And that’s a good thing for those who have already embraced the atmospheric music Oswalt describes as “musical technology.” And while that description may sound sterile and simply studio-driven, the end result is nothing like it, something those who show up to his shows find out immediately.

“I think for a lot of people, they haven’t heard something like this,” he explains, “and the sound that’s coming at them and the elements that are put together to make that sound, like field recordings and the live looping is unique, so there’s always that moment where people are just trying to figure out what’s going on, and then they realize what is going on, and it’s usually more engaging for people because it’s something new for them. And I’m also a big believer in the live looping stuff. It’s not a gimmick; for me it was the only way for me to do this music on my own originally, but I also think it’s interesting to watch because it’s something being created right in front of you, it’s the moment, and it’s gone when it’s done. So people feel like they’re part of something happening, versus someone just pressing play.”

Reminiscent of groups like Explosions in the Sky and Sigur Ros, while making extensive use of field recordings as well as studio work, Oswalt’s project is starting to make headway with listeners at a time when music like this is becoming more accepted and embraced. And even those that wouldn’t normally gravitate to this genre usually stick around once they get a dose of it.

“I think what’s hopeful for me is that it’s when people hear it, a lot of people get turned on to it, so at this point, it’s about getting it out there, spreading the good word, and getting it in front of people,” said Oswalt. “There’s a lot of music out there these days, and that’s not a bad thing, but there’s a lot of saturation of sound in the world, which is beautiful, but as a musician it’s really important to have your own voice and to really stick with it, and hopefully it’s authentic and genuine. I just hope people hear something that’s coming from a place that is genuine and most people respond to it pretty positively. But I’m not trying to make music that’s digestible for everyone in the world. I really just hope that it’s there for people who need to hear it.”

The only requirement is that in a world that craves instant gratification, you actually have to listen to “get” East Forest.

“The world is speeding up and the work I’m putting out is often asking people to slow down,” he said. “So you have to hit the people at the right time, and that’s not something I can control.”

East Forest plays Pianos NYC tonight, June 6, at 8pm. For more information, click here

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