Oct. 9 sees the release of Forest Standards Vol.2, the new album from guitarist David Lord and his second collaboration with the BIG EGO label.
As with its predecessor, Lord tracked the majority of the music in Los Angeles, then finished work at his own Air House Studios. Joining him on the sessions for the second Forest Standards collection is the core band of Jeff Parker (Tortoise, Isotope 217) on guitar, drummer Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground Duo) and bassist Billy Mohler (Dolly Parton). Sam Hake adds vibraphone throughout.
These two releases find Lord moving into new musical terrain, striking out on a path that is increasingly his own and increasingly singular. Veteran music critic Bill Milkowski (DownBeat, JazzTimes) wrote of Lord, in 2018, "This is an inventive player freed from convention, the peer pressure of conservatories or a need to fit into any competitive big town scene. He's creating on his own terms and what this rara avis comes up with here are subversive little gems."
Lord recently spoke with KMUW from his temporary home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, about Forest Standards Vol.2 and his approach to composition.
Did you always know you were going to make Forest Standards Vol.2 or did the idea for a second record come later?
Volume 1was such a great experience that I think it was sort of understood or in the plans when that session was finished. I think we kind of started planning immediately for Volume 2. We actually recorded the second one before the first one was even released. And now Volume 3 is actually done before this one is released. I think we've had this trilogy in mind, at least I have for this whole time. Any chance I get to play with Chad and record with Chris, I'll take it.
Tell me a little bit about the band you assembled for this recording.
Jeff has been my favorite guitar player since high school, first discovering Tortoise and then getting into his solo albums and Isotope 217 and all the different Chicago related projects he's involved with. Same with Chad Taylor, who's been my favorite modern drummer since I discovered him on a Chicago Underground release back in high school. Both of those guys had just an enormous influence on me and my music. They sort of set a foundation for me to start building from in a way.
Jeff's on guitar on this album, Chad's on drums and then Billy Moeller, who's a fantastic bassist, currently Dolly Parton's bassist and plays with Jimmy Chamberlin from Smashing Pumpkins and a whole bunch of other stuff as well. So, so yeah, that's the band. Getting to play with these two guys that that had really influenced me and then getting to write music for them and knowing I would be playing with them, was interesting: To have them influence me and then me get to write music for them, which I think it works really well because we're sort of coming from a similar perspective.
What was it like for you to record with another guitarist because, to my knowledge, you haven't done much recording with other guitar players?
The way I play, my language is so specific. There are very few guitarists that I could ever imagine honestly, like collaborating and have it make sense. Jeff? Obviously, it worked really well. And once again, I think it's because he had influenced me so much. Not that I'm doing the same thing that he does, but it's sort of from the same world. So I think it was easy for us to work together. And it's easy for me to compose things with him in mind. There are very few people I could imagine doing that with, but that was a really fun, new challenge for me. I write pieces all the time where I'll overdub myself and have several guitars going but to write for another voice like that was a great, a great challenge. I couldn't be happier with the results.
The music isn't jazz. But it's jazz-inspired. I guess that's a question most musicians hate, "What kind of music is this?"
I know, I don't have a good answer for that at all. I don't think of it as jazz; like you said, I think of it as jazz-inspired. But, you know, it's the easiest overall genre to slap on it. I understand why it gets put under the jazz category. But to me, I really don't try to define it beyond that; I just make the music and then let people like you … decide how to talk about it. But I really don't have any better words for the style. But the term jazz doesn't really seem quite appropriate.
You wrote this album using the Lydian mode. And maybe for people who aren't super-schooled in music theory, can you talk a little bit about what a mode is?.
Let's just say it's a collection of seven notes. It's a scale. The Lydian mode is a major scale with a sharp fourth, but then I also add on some extensions with a sharp five, flat nine and then have various ways of applying that over different chord changes. My harmonic system is really based off the Extended Lydian, so it' the Lydian but also including those extra notes.
I don't think I did a good job of simplifying it there necessarily, but that's what I use as a harmonic framework. It can it go all different directions.
Guitar players seem to favor that mode.
I haven't really thought about why guitar players love that some so much, but I hear what you're saying. I think I'm not the only one to be drawn towards that as a guitar player. For me, there's something about the use of open strings and the Lydian sound that really works well for guitar. I can just hear that sound so instantly on guitar, and I can hear it on other instruments as well. But it's almost its own thing, Lydian on guitars. I've never really thought of it like this.
I was just kind of drawn towards the mode, pretty early on in my studies. The major mode has a lot of dissonance in it between the fourth and the seventh. There's a lot of conflict and resolution. The Lydian mode, to me, was a little more of a complete mode, almost like a Pentatonic where all the notes work equally at any given time. I found the extended Lydian to be the same, you know, adding the sharp five and the flat nine to have the same effect, where it's sort of a consistent system.
Tell me about the reception for the first Forest Standards record. Were you surprised by how warmly it was embraced?
I was playing in all these indie rock bands for so long, but then in my own time, I was more working on the type of music that's in Forest Standards Vol.1. This was really my first chance to really seriously record and display that type of music. So as far as what I thought the reception would be, I had no idea about that. I wasn't even really thinking about it. But it was sort of a piece or a record that felt like, "OK, now I'm going to really do my stuff, I'm not going to try to fit into an indie rock scene or Wichita, ICT scene or whatever, I'm just going to kind of present this stuff I've been working on for a long time."
So I think that had something to do with the reception was just the fact that it's like, "Oh, he's doing something different than what he did with Wonder Revolution or Solagget or that sort of thing," even though it's what I'd really been working on, and primarily pursuing, kind of behind the scenes.
One thing that was great was that it introduced me to a new network of kind of avant-garde newer jazz musicians, through the connections with Chad, and Devin [Hoff] and Chris, and all the people involved with the record. It's sort of like it was a nice little introduction of, "Oh, here's this guy. And here's his sound." That was the thing I think that surprised me the most. After that, I started to meet a lot of people and make a lot of connections in the music world.
Tell me about your relationship with Chris Schlarb.
He sort of made this whole thing happen. I met Chris on a Solagget tour. We played a show together in Los Angeles in 2005. Then, when he was touring through Wichita, he got in touch with me and set up a show. We played a few shows in Wichita. At that point, he invited me to come to Long Beach and make a record at his studio. He set up [the session] with Chad and Devin [for the first Forest Standards record]. He was really my first exposure to really having a producer, having somebody there to really guide the process.
I sent him an insane number of demos. He listened through a bunch of them and gave me feedback, and he kind of curated it. "You should do some of your ambient stuff, let's mix that with these other kinds of tunes, then some stuff in the jazz realm," that sort of thing. He had a huge influence on that first record. Without Chris' invitation, I don't even know if I would have gone that direction.
These last two records have come out under the David Lord name but there was a lot of music by you that came out under the Francis Moss banner. How is Francis?
Francis is mostly spending time just hiking in the mountains and forests these days. He hasn't been doing too much music. The Francis moniker that was sort of a certain … sound, this kind of dreamy ambient indie guitar stuff, and then I just felt like what I was doing here with Forest Standards was a whole different approach, a whole different sound. I didn't want to keep going with that name.
The better option was to go with my own name. Like I said because this music feels like the most genuine from me. I'm just doing what I want to do without any consideration for what scene I'm fitting into or who I'm playing for. It's kind of cool that I didn't put anything out under my name until the time was right.