A Dead Forest Index
The percussive sluice of Adam Sherry’s voice, layered upon itself like a spanikopita, is given careful room to move beautiful steps on A Dead Forest Index’s EP Antique. The aural world Sherry and his brother Sam have created for it is not threatening, exactly, but it’s a place where light and dark can be oddly interchanged. Having just signed with Denovali Records in Germany and OSCL in Melbourne, the Sherry brothers are about to re-release Antique on vinyl as a joint venture between the two labels. Adam speaks from the home he shares with Sam about how the two came to play together, the imagery evoked by their music, the Federation Bells event of earlier in the year and the international interest their singular sound has garnered.
“They sort of wanted something before an album,” Sherry says of the dual label release, “so instead of doing a single, we had these recordings, and it’s nice for them to be released in a way that has some weight instead of them being so throwaway.” The four tracks were recorded in Auckland, where the boys predominantly grew up. “I was born in London and Sam was born in New Zealand so we go back and forth. We have a lot of family and friends [in Auckland] so we go back quite a bit.” With the project about three years old, Sherry speaks warmly about his musical relationship with his brother. “He’s the only one that can fit in with what I’m doing,” he says simply. “He’s a drummer but doesn’t come from a drumming background; he’s more of a guitarist and singer and pianist so it’s not a traditional way of playing. It’s very instinctive. I think my timing is pretty shabby so it’s really good having Sam here. He’s put so much energy into what we’re doing. It’s equal parts now; the time was right to work together again.” Sherry also plays guitar, but is self-taught. “I have the guitar skills of probably a 14-year-old boy,” he laughs, “but Sam helped me find a way to play that kind of works. I play a few different instruments like harmonium and organ. Harmonium is a beautiful kind of drone instrument; like a reed organ, pretty much.”
In February, A Dead Forest Index played at the relaunch of the Federation Bells sculpture, an installation of 39 harmonic bells. Originally created in 2001 by Anton Hassel and Neil McLachlan to mark the centenary of Federation, it had been closed while various restorations were made including new striker mechanisms, computer controls and lids. “We had an idea to get a couple of bands to intertwine with the bells, and we wrote a few pieces,” says Sherry. “We had a friend with a midi-controlled trigger kind of [set-up]; he controlled the bells for us and we played with them. It was a great experience. It was pretty funny, the actual performance,” Sherry laughs huskily, “because at the MCG there was a Collingwood game that’d just finished. It was surreal, all these football fans streaming out of the stadium.” Pies fans would certainly add a certain something to the ambience.
On the band’s Facebook page there are links to write-ups from Italian and German publications, which Sherry credits Denovali with putting up. “[They] have really good distribution and promotion behind them in Europe, through Cargo,” he says. It’s cool that interest has been sparked abroad when long distances, travels, and faraway lands are some of the ideas communicated through the band’s songs. Images of such are always part of the creation. “I do a lot of line drawings, original little fragments of whatever,” explains Sherry. The band’s tour poster features a simple but evocative drawing of a series of little tipped lines or slashes, “kind of like a blur to another time.” Immediately reminiscent of the symbols in Jim Jarmusch’s 1996 film Dead Man, there’s an odd parallel. Notwithstanding the fact the Sherry brothers’ sound is often very like Neil Young’s incredible soundtrack for the film, Jarmusch’s focus on Romantic writer and artist William Blake resonates with Sherry’s own visual interests. “He’s always been the biggest inspiration because of the kind of atmosphere he created; the power of what he was doing. So revolutionary,” he says. Although Blake is well known for his writings, his art is truly staggering and iconoclastic in its depiction of scenes from Dante, and Blake’s own imagined visions of biblical events coupled with alchemic mythology. “I just came across it in a book in my mum’s bookshelf,” Sherry says. “As a kid I was always fascinated with the imagery. The engravings are just so beautiful. The lines are so strong and precise, and the light source in most of his work is pretty breathtaking.”
Now proper Melbourne boys, Dead Forest are keen to show us a little more of their stuff in their upcoming show at The Toff, a venue Sherry rates highly. “We supported a friend’s band there and the sound was just so good on stage it’s ridiculous. For sound, it’s got to be one of the best places in Melbourne to play, for sure. I’m really looking forward to it.” For a band that is all about light, shade and space, the venue will surely be appreciative too.
BY ZOË RADAS
A Dead Forest Index play The Toff In Town on Saturday July 21. Tickets here. The newly remastered and rereleased EP Antique is out now.