Local Rock-Jazz-Rapper Forrest Day on His Crazy Sound, Passing Out During a Show, and Landing a Record Deal
Forrest Day, with the band's frontman and namesake at far left.
It was easily one of the most memorable moments of our very first All Shook Down festival last year: Forrest Day, the physically imposing, fast-rapping frontman of his own uncategorizable band, was exhausted and leading an enthusiastic crowd in a humid room late that Sunday night. Just as the energy seemed to peak, something went wrong: Day, who had been drenched with sweat, suddenly faded from view -- he'd passed out mid-song and hit the floor.
Day was fine, it turns out -- and the intervening year has been good to the 31-year-old San Leandro-based musician. He and his band finished recording their self-titled debut album, which comes out Oct. 11. He got signed to local label Ninth Street Opus, which has helped him spend most of his time doing music. And he's playing lots of shows with his band, whose mix of rock energy, jazz instrumentation (Day was originally a sax player), and the frontman's own turbocharged rhyming sounds like pretty much nothing else.
Forrest Day plays Friday night (Sept. 9) at the Independent. Before the show, we caught up with him to talk about getting signed for his new album, concocting the strange brew that is his band's music, and how he fared after collapsing in the middle a show.
Right before you passed out at All Shook Down, you guys were destroying it. It was maybe one of the most energetic performances I've ever seen.
That was shaping up to be one of the most amazing shows of my life, and I passed out in the biggest climax. I knew that I was starting to fade, like my consciousness was starting to fade, but I just kept going. The last thing I remember, everybody was rocking in the whole place. You probably remember how the windows were all fogged up and shit. It was a crazy scene. Everybody was jumping up and down. And this one dude was going crazy, and we looked at each other, and our eyes locked and we were both screaming -- and then I just toppled over.
Were you okay?
I couldn't keep on playing. I was real out of it for the rest of the night.
You were on very little sleep and had played the night before somewhere far away, right?
Boise. We played a show in Boise, we left Boise at midnight, and drove straight to All Shook Down all through the night. So I didn't get any sleep at all, and drank way too much coffee. We were just so psyched.
Despite passing out, was the All Shook Down fest a good experience for you guys?
That was like the best break we had ever had at that point, and probably the best break we've ever had to date. That was just like a really killer thing for us -- for a band that's completely grassroots. No one had ever decided to give us a chance on a big stage, that was the first one. We did get a chance to play [Live 105's] BFD recently. It was really a great way to catch some new ears.
Tell me a little about your background in music.
I grew up playing the saxophone and played mostly jazz, and then started playing in a kind of experimental rock band in high school. I didn't start singing until I was 20. This project started in pretty much 2007. I recorded this little five-song EP, and a couple of songs started to catch on on Myspace.
Did you set out to design this sort of hybrid of jazz and funk and hip-hop and rock, or did it just come out that way?
It just came out that way. You're the first person who's said it like that. Because everybody else seems to think that this stuff is all cerebral, like, 'I'm going to do this: I'm going to make an interesting hybrid here.' But yeah, it just comes out like that, because that's all the music that I've loved and I've listened to my whole life.
What's interesting about your music is that it reaches in all these different directions genre-wise, but it has a lot of intense feeling in it, too. You said you were working on electronic stuff before this?
When I made the first Forrest Day EP, I was very much into making beats and trying to produce rappers. I was taking a step back from being the frontman in my own band. That's what I had been doing for like 10 years. Around the same time, I started screaming in this punk-ish band. I was a screamer in it. So I was exploring a lot of parts of myself that I hadn't really done before that. Unknowingly, I wound up throwing all of those things into the blender. Not on purpose -- the first year of my band, we were way more hip-hop than we are now. And now, I consider us way more rock. I think a lot of that had to do with me quitting the punk band and then suddenly not having an outlet for that energy. I brought that energy and that need for release into my band, and I think that's when my band got really good.