There’s a strong chance that you’ve seen Kyle Forester around. You might remember him from his stint in the Elephant Six-associated indie pop band The Ladybug Transistor, or more recently playing in Woods. You may have even stumbled into one of his showcase night’s at Otto’s Shrunken Head, an off-the-wall, off-the-cuff residency he’s held in the Manhattan bar for over 10 years. You may have even seen him hanging at an Au Revoir Simone show, which is fronted by his wife Erika Spring.

Most likely though, you would recognize him bopping around a keyboard on stage with Crystal Stilts, one of the larger pillars in Brooklyn’s decade straddled noise pop scene. While the group enjoyed a quick rise with their 2008 debut Alight of Night and a steady rise in notoriety for 2011’s In Love With Oblivion, they stalled after 2013’s modest affair Nature Noir and have been inactive since its accompanying tour. With the band’s future plans on indefinite hold, there seemed like no better time for Forester to take a stab at the solo life–not as a side project, but as a potential new career path.

Forester’s self titled is his first album of original songs and is hardly the sound of someone with nothing better to do. The record is a fantastic set of lush indie pop with engrossingly candid lyrics that ping back and forth between humorous and sweet. Forester is a born storyteller—his Otto’s shows are always peppered with digressions of anecdotes and ponderous observations and it carries over into this songs, with lyrics about getting stuck in a conversation with a distant acquaintance or that feeling when someone can ever remember your name.
As a frequenter of Kyle’s Karaoke Korner, a now defunct subset of his Otto’s shows, I looked very much forward to chatting with Forester about the record, which we did over at Manhattan Inn right before he played a set of instrumental tracks with local musicians and his label head Clint Newsom (the dude keeps very busy). Despite being a bit of a luddite in terms of being part of the Internet-savvy world of modern music, he’s an extremely friendly guy, and when you’re lucky enough to catch his ear, he’ll happily talk yours right off. Here’s a snippet of some of our pre-show conversation where we talked about the luxuries of being not-famous, the epiphanies of one’s mid-thirties, and the charms of being off the grid.
It’s funny, I feel like your song “Downtown” is the only tune I can think of that captures that feeling of just not being in the mood to bullshit with someone you run into.
It’s just about running into somebody you haven’t seen in awhile. You know, it’s funny, I’m not on Facebook–and I feel like Facebook has really ruined that for a lot of people. Like, the mystery of people you used to know, and just having no idea what happened to them. It’s a rare thing now because it’s actually super easy to find out what happened to somebody.
And you like that charm–that charm of not knowing.
Yeah, yeah, yeah, I mean I think there’s something evocative about the idea [that]. You know, it’s interesting, I’m 35 now, and one of the things that’s interesting about this age is that I’m just old enough to have things that happened in my adult life that are legitimately a long time ago. Like, oh wow, that was somebody I used to be good friends with as an adult, and I haven’t seen them in a decade. That kind of stuff–so it’s kind of about that.
I never really thought about that before.
It’s also this thing where people think that their little worldview is the world, and that’s not true. And I feel like people do that a lot with. It’s interesting, in New York City because there’s so many parallel scenes. In smaller cities, everybody who is interested in underground music or whatever, would all know each other. But in New York, there’s people that I’ve never met or seen, who have been around just as long as me, playing all the same places, doing all the same shit, just in a slightly different world, and it’s totally different. So, it’s kind of about that [laughs].

Kyle Forester Woods Crystal Stilts

What’s the place in Brooklyn you recorded most of this? I know the Crystal Stilts used and other bands used to make a lot of stuff there.
Marlborough Farms. Me and Gary [Olson, from The Ladybug Transistor] messed around with a bunch of synths down there. Gary’s a really fun guy to do this stuff with–he’s really creative. I then upgraded my home studio and got a better interface thing, a preamp, a better vocal mic. And Erika [Spring] owns a lot of cool synths, so we had a lot of those. She also sang some backup vocals and really got me through the vocal process. I would be doing the vocals and she would just be sitting there listening and she would just tell me what to do.
Do you see yourself going with being a solo artist for the indefinite future?
It’s weird when a record comes out. I’ve never experienced being this close to a project. When I went through this process with the Stilts, I didn’t know as much about it, so I took it for granted. I don’t think that I could go tour the States and have anyone really show up in most places unless something happens. So I kind of have to see what happens. But I definitely wanna keep doing this, so I hope it gets enough momentum to become a thing.
I’ve been playing in the band Woods, and I just went on tour with them. One of the reasons I want to do that is that it’s a nice way to be back in that world and being in a band that people care about, while working on my album which isn’t something people care about. It’s a nice outlet because it’s hard, man. Especially with shows, it’s really hard to get to the point where anyone comes to your shows that you don’t personally know. You have to play a lot of shows.

I mean what’s good is that this record does not sound like a side project kind of thing. It’s a fully realized statement, and it definitely doesn’t need the prerequisite of being a Stilts fan. People who will become aware of it will like it.

I actually feel really fortunate that I was in a band that was at exactly the level we were at because I feel like, any bigger, then it is too much of a burden. You know what I mean? It’s right at the level where it gets some people to care, where people will be like, “Ok, cool, I’ll listen to that.” But it’s not like a crushing weight.
Are you going to do more solo shows?
I’ve been toying with the idea of when we’re in London–don’t tell Woods this, but I’m gonna try and do an in-store [performance] in between the soundcheck and the show. But don’t tell them I’m trying to do that.
Oh, ok so I won’t put that in the article then.

No, put it in, they won’t read it. No offense!
Kyle Forester is out now on Flying Moonlight.
Lead image by Bek Andersen.

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