Hello Forever brings eternal sunshine to musical minds.
The Los Angeles art pop collective brilliantly emits abundant ‘60s-infused rays of doo-wop, jazz, skiffle, R&B, classical and baroque rock throughout their sparkling 12-track, full-length debut, “Whatever It Is,” which drops Friday.
“It’s about acceptance and equanimity, and it’s about making peace with yourself,” said Samuel Joseph, Hello Forever’s lead vocalist. “It wasn’t a choice or decision. I find that when I try too critically to control the music, it doesn’t work out. The things that came through on the songs came on their own.”
Along with bandmates Gabe Stout, Andy Jimenez, Joey Briggs, Molly Pease, Anand Darsie and Jaron Crespi, Joseph spent 200 days in bedrooms and borrowed studios throughout Santa Monica and Castaic, Calif., to create and record elaborate arrangements for a sunny collection of concise pop songs.
“Some songs I wrote in five minutes and recorded the entirety in a single session. Other songs took a little longer than that,” he said. “I was doing everything I could to serve the creative process. It was awesome having the time and places where I could write and record these songs.”
Hello Forever’s scintillating “Whatever It Is” adventure starts with “Some Faith,” a two-minute head trip filled with high-tone energetic guitars, lush mash-ups of Beatles and Beach Boys-inspired harmonies and sticky pop melodies – “I saw you in the light for the first time/Heaven cried ‘open’ and rained down on me/It was love, it was love/Why’d it terrify me?”
“‘Some Faith’ is about trusting your feelings or at least learning to trust your feelings when you care about somebody,” said Joseph about the band’s first single and video.
Another heartwarming track includes “Anywhere is Everywhere” with upbeat Vampire Weekend a capella-like vocals intertwined with soaring sha-la-las – “I would love anyone just to feel it/And I won’t question who I’m loving/I won’t question who I’m loving/I’ll just love, just love, just love.” The track’s video also features Hello Forever painting blank canvases while gathering in the bright California hills.
Meanwhile, the band’s third single, “Colors in the Sky,” blends high-tone acoustic and electric guitars with vibrant Local Natives-ish percussion and exquisite soprano harmonies – “I asked my friends if we could pray/They stare, reviled and turn the other way/But they swear they believe in colors and the sky/Though they’re colorblind/Sometimes we just don’t know why.” The video’s vintage psychedelic feel of a tripped-out live performance nicely complements this Hello Forever track.
‘Colors in the Sky’ is about wanting to search for answers that aren’t there when things are hard, and ‘Anywhere is Everywhere’ is about exploration, discovery and enjoying the journey as you go,” Joseph said. “I am not a videographer or a video director, so these videos were kind of throwing spaghetti at the wall. For ‘Colors in the Sky,’ our good friend Zac Wolf directed the cinematography as did Russell Tandy in ‘Anywhere is Everywhere.’ Everything else was disorganized but passionate experimentation.”
That passionate experimentation thrives on “Get It Right,” a lively ‘60s-fueled ditty that elegantly combines harmonies, percussion, tambourine, guitar and bass to stir the soul – “Do you know the reason why I get hung up sometimes?/I hope I get it right, I hope I get it right/It could be so simple but I’m stuck here in my mind/Thinking about the other ways that I could end up in my life/Will it make a difference if I never can decide/I hope I get it right.” It’s an ideal anthem for questioning where one’s life is headed and changing course at any point in time.
“I would really be stoked if anyone finds any meaning in the music, and it brings them information about themselves or their experiences or frees them from themselves or their experiences,” Joseph said. “As long as they feel or think something, then that’s great.”
Toward the end of their “Whatever It Is” adventure, Hello Forever decides to form a permanent union on “I Want to Marry You.” In January, the band released their latest single and video, which rolls bright acoustic guitar, soulful beat box rhythms and beautiful Beach Boys-like harmonies into this groovy romantic ode to wedded bliss – “Sitting on the grass beside a stranger/Memories of a time when we were ageless/Offer her my hand and then she takes it/Rupturing inside, here I’m awake and warm.”
Hello Forever started honing their signature harmonies and jovial retro “pocket symphony” sound at their Topanga, Calif., studio-compound, a former late ‘60s nudist commune they found on Craigslist. Joseph recruited his six bandmates at various beach bonfires, club gigs, art school gallery expositions and meditation retreats throughout Los Angeles.
“We’re all exes who stayed really close friends. I don’t wanna be too grandiose about it, but our name is kind of a metaphor for cosmic unity and greeting eternity,” Joseph said with a laugh. “We’re still in our early days right now. We’ve been a band for a little over a year. It starts with making records, learning them, connecting with each other and finding the truth in music.”
Joseph credits his early exposure to The Beatles, The Beach Boys and Debussy with influencing Hello Forever’s eclectic art pop sound. While growing up in Los Angeles, he followed the Orff method, an educational approach that combines music, movement, drama and speech into play, at age two and took up percussion and singing. Joseph later added piano and tuba to his musical roster before secretly playing guitar at age 13.
“The Beatles and The Beach Boys wrote such exquisite concise songs, and both of their unique senses of melodic structure and lyrics are so inspiring to me. I grew up in South Bay right across from the house that The Beach Boys grew up in,” Joseph said. “I went to the same high school as all of The Beach Boys. My mom was a huge Beatles fan in the ‘60s. My grandfather impersonated an officer to sneak her in to see them live.”
While “Whatever It Is” will bring new refreshing sounds to listeners’ ears Friday, Hello Forever already has plans for two more albums and several live dates in the Midwest later this year. It’s truly the start of a beautiful multi-part sonic adventure that will visit and return to different genres along the way.
“We’re all living here, rehearsing here and making our records here. Having an isolated place to do that keeps us immersed in the creative process,” said Joseph about living and recording at the band’s Topanga studio-compound. “On top of that, it’s in nature, which helps us reflect and keep ourselves clear. It’s really healing.”