The power of visualization looms large in the imaginative compositional mind of The Forest Effect’s primary songwriter, Elliot Page. The evocative and viscerally dynamic indie-rock artist looks to its band name as a conceptual beacon for songwriting and arranging. “I try to create an interplay of light and dark tones, like capturing the way the late-afternoon light filters through the layers of the forest,” says the Boston, Massachusetts-based singer, songwriter, guitarist, and educator.
The band — fronted by Elliot and featuring a fluid membership of trusted musicians, including his right-hand man, keyboardist and composer Ben Kuris — uses these expressive effects to bring out the strength and sensitivity in their songs.
Loosely saluting Jimmy Page’s affection for “light and shade”, the Forest Effect’s third EP, My Fractured Display, conjures the bold acoustic explorations on Led Zeppelin III through a modern lens. “This release is special to me because I started with simple acoustic songwriting, and then built up the arrangements with contributions from a lot of friends; and the results show more of the light side in the light/dark dichotomy of The Forest Effect’s sound,” Elliot affirms.
The band’s prior EPs—2017’s Photos on the Shelf and 2019’s Melody Left in Ruin—are darkly majestic, brimming with brawny alt rock-riffage, moody keyboards, and postmodern song arrangements. My Fractured Display, out in 2022, is a more accessible distillation of The Forest Effect’s adventurous musicality. With its acoustic guitar and piano-driven sensibilities, the 5-song EP is a release that harkens back to the immersive joys of vinyl records where you let them play and just lost yourself in the music. This latest EP—like the two prior releases—is self-produced, and mixed by tastemaking engineer Paul Q Kolderie (Radiohead, The Pixies, Portugal. The Man) of Fort Apache fame.
The Forest Effect has been favorably described as “if the guys from Dismemberment Plan met up at Wilco’s loft to play some Black Crowes covers.” The group specializes in a modern version of stately classic rock where songs whisk you away with literate and scene-setting lyrics, imaginative arrangements, virtuosic musicianship, and unforgettable hooks. On record, Elliot sticks to the lyrical side of guitar soloing, but he steps out on an improvisational tightrope when performing live.
Elliot is versed in an eclectic collection of influences, including jazz, modern classical, and world music—though these influences don’t manifest in obvious ways with the music of The Forest Effect. However, he does share different aspects of his musicality with his company Page Music Lessons, which won a prestigious “Best of Boston Award” from Boston Magazine. Built upon Elliot’s efforts to foster a unique community, the school boasts a staff of in-demand musicians who are patient and effective educators, paired with a wonderfully varied roster of students of all ages and skill levels.
My Fractured Display, the title, refers to a scrapbook of perceptions that endlessly paginate. The idea being that we try to freeze the moments—make the good ones last—while the relentless march of time overwhelms us. “Our worldview can be splintered by these images—the feelings they conjure, and a desire to relive or redo critical moments, while attempting to maintain a grasp on day-to-day reality. That’s the fractured mosaic,” Elliot explains.
The title is lifted from a line from the opening song “Mosaic Tiles,” a wistful indie-folk tune lavished with multi-tracked acoustic guitar, a rich harmony vocal bed, tasteful bass and drums accompaniment, and achingly beautiful lap steel. It’s a nostalgic track, with Elliot’s lead vocal sifting through the moments of a life laid out in a photo app, pleading for another shot.
“To A Heartbeat” is a pent-up indie-rock track that captures that feeling true love creates when everything feels cosmically in place. The aptly-titled “Darkening My Door” is a haunting indie-rock track with a show stopping guitar solo, evoking A Momentary Lapse of Reason-era Pink Floyd. Here, Elliot’s tone is juicy and his runs are lyrical but effortlessly dexterous. “Telling Me Off” is the EP’s aesthetic centerpiece, epitomizing its sonic palette of understated drums and bass, layered acoustics, tasteful keys and stacked harmony vocals. The EP concludes with the dreamy “In The Wind” (music written by keyboardist Ben Kuris), a delicately dynamic track with a poignant and well-written fictionalized romantic narrative.
The 5-song EP was recorded during quarantine, and Elliot colored his production with remote performances from musicians both near and far. It features drum tracks from London by Vennart’s Joe Lazarus; drums tracks from Somerville’s “mayor” Mike Piehl, best known for his work with Reverse; lap steel courtesy of Boston guitar ace Kevin Barry; and vocals and bass from the mountains of New Hampshire by longtime collaborator Ben Thibault. Carrying on a practice from the first two EPs, Elliot dipped into the Page Music Lessons’ pool of talent, calling on members of his faculty for backing vocals, bass, and keyboards.
Elliot’s story in music is delineated by fevered activity, lost years, and a strong return back to his original music. He recalls lying on his college’s quad in the Colorado sun, declaring a music major, realizing that music was his true calling. Post-college, he pursued his dream with the acclaimed Boston-based jam band Zyrah’s Orange. In 2003, he founded his successful music education company, Page Music Lessons. Six years later, he began working with iconic engineer Paul Kolderie at Camp Street Studios on what would eventually become The Forest Effect’s debut EP. But this creatively fertile time was cut short as Elliot was sidelined by band lineup changes, business ownership responsibilities, and the need to completely restructure his family life. After reemerging in 2013 to help resurrect Boston indie-rock favs Vic Firecracker, he went on to form The Forest Effect in 2016, while also beginning his relationship with his partner Angela.
“I’ve been into music as long as I can remember, but it has been a winding journey,” Elliot acknowledges. He continues: “I was always into being original as an artist—maybe to a fault—but I am at peace with that. I enjoy the music so much more now. It’s like a forest of sounds, and all my friends are there.” — Lorne Behrman
BANDMATES / CONSPIRATORS
Led by Page and Kuris, a varied cast of characters from the different corners of the Boston and New England music scene help round out the studio productions and the live sound.