For a little while it seemed like nothing was happening, and then suddenly everything happened at once. At least that was the case with Darrell Bazian, Nick Marko, and Sam Easterbrook of Float Here Forever.
The local post-grunge fuzz-rock trio might have a name that suggests tranquil inertia, but that betrays not only the expediency of their recent output, but also the momentum inherent to the almost punk-like tempos of their songs. In fact, each player describes both their onstage and in-studio modus operandi to be something almost athletic in nature. (Easterbrook admits that she once needed a sling after her first few rehearsals on bass, but more on that later.)
"There can be this lackadaisical, dreamy essence to the lifestyle of a musician, who might think they're going to 'make it' but not have to do anything," says Marko, Float Here Forever's drummer. The multi-instrumentalist credited the mentality embraced by one of his former bands, the Holy Fire (with Sean Hoen): He connected that band's heightened frequency for rehearsals (up to five times per week sometimes) with the eventual outcome of being signed to SonyBMG in 2006. "So there is a formula that seeped in and carried over into the business side of things." That business being the one Marko and Bazian started in 2010, a publishing company called ALP Music. "(Bazian) and I embraced the mentality of 'Don't put off what you can do today,'" Marko says.
But in other arenas, the three players of Float Here Forever finally reacted against various incarnations of stagnation that they had encountered. Bazian's previous band, Osmus, gigged as much as possible for about eight years, but didn't get around to finally recording songs until it was just about too late. With Easterbrook, it was similar — she grew up around recording equipment. "My dad has done it for years, so I was eager to try out some stuff," she says. But her previous band opted instead to focus on playing (and playing) shows. She was asked to join Float Here Forever one year ago, almost to the day, right as Bazian and Marko were starting to get discouraged by the lack of progress from other players they'd already tried out. Something clicked.
Easterbrook says the difference was amazing. Coming to Float from her previous band, she says, was something akin to jumping from high school way up into senior thesis college territory. Phrases that get repeated during our interview include "laser focus," "priorities," and "what are we even doing here?" And that final phrase — that stock-taking, not-so-rhetorical question that Type A/quasi-workaholics like Float Here Forever's bandmates might ask of themselves — sums up the epiphany they had one year ago.
"Once we really got our publishing company going, we almost kind of got bored," Marko says, thinking back to about mid-2016, when they started collaborating on songs that Bazian had written. "We missed playing music. We had been in bands all our lives, but at that point it was like, "Let's get moving!" (Bazian) started writing songs, I started adding drums, but we knew we needed a singer. But after those we auditioned weren't really clicking, Darrell just said that—"
"—that I would try it out," Bazian interrupts. "I've always played guitar in bands. This could be something new to challenge myself. And I enjoyed it."
The last ingredient to complete Float Here Forever's formula was Easterbrook's own vocals, which refreshingly flesh out each track not as a backing element, but as a co-lead.
"Obviously my favorite part of the recording process (for new record Tour the Ruins) was doing the vocals," she says. "That's where my creativity really comes through, because I've been a singer since I was 6 years old; it's really what I've always been meant to do, so it's nice now to have that kind of liberty and see how it comes together in harmony with (Bazian)'s vocals."
But back to that laser focus. Easterbrook joined the band in the late winter of 2018, which was about two years after Marko and Bazian essentially started. But "we immediately made a goal to record at [Ferndale studio] the Tempermill by June of that same year," says Marko.
They'd just initiated a new member into the musical mold, Bazian had a newborn at home while still running ALP Music with Marko, and now they wanted to bang out 14 songs and be in a studio within three months? Well. Yeah. It actually worked out perfectly.
Marko thinks that their momentum comes from a couple of things, shutting down any ego, and embracing a trust in each other. "You have to be willing to trust your mates and also accept that maybe not every idea you have is the greatest idea," he says. They also let go of any obsessive or self-righteous sense of control, and passed the mastering duties (for the record) on to substantial professionals. When their songs were completed at Tempermill (with engineer Dave Feeny), they sent them over to Alan Douches at West Side Music (notably, he just won a Grammy for his work with High On Fire). "(Easterbrook)'s joining took Float further, we hit our full stride." Marko says. "These guys made me a better musician," Easterbook adds.
There are a handful of influences referenced, but two that come up most often are Fugazi and Cloud Nothings. Those bands are about a generation apart in terms of when they were formed, but both, just like Float Here Forever, adhere to an aerodynamic arrangement, intent on discovering the potential for intricacy, impact, and evocation within a three-minute song that's propulsive by design.
"These guys were all about the downstrokes," Easterbrook says, remembering her first week or so, learning and adapting to their songs. "That creates a different drive to the song. There are parts that just need that downstroke! It'll start to hurt sometimes, but it does create a different dynamic. I can break a sweat with these guys."
"We're just very goal-oriented," said Bazian. "There's nothing wrong with a band that wants to hang out, or maybe drink and play some cover songs, but if you want to excel and be the best player you can be, it becomes about seeing where your goals are at."
As in, what are we even doing here? This band wasn't going to let that question remain a mystery. In fact, any lingering ellipsis is intentionally filled now, you might say: Bazian says there's an ambient side to the band now, and you can hear it on the new record. There are a few spacey, textural interludes free of melody, rhythm, or vocals, and that's the kind of stuff you'll hear between songs at their release party this weekend.
"We don't want anybody (in the audience) to get distracted during (our set)," Bazian says. At a Float Here Forever show, you're as laser-focused as they are.
Float Here Forever release Tour the Ruins on Friday, March 1 at PJ's Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave, Detroit; 313-961-4668; pjslagerhouse.com; Doors at 8 p.m.; Tickets are $10.
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