During the day, Tyler Devos works at a group home, more specifically with residents who exhibit moderate to severe psychosis. It’s more than just a job, however. It’s a source of inspiration for the songs he writes for his band, the seven-piece Portland-based indie rock ensemble Forget, Forget. It’s sort of like a Maine music version of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”
“It’s a pretty incredible experience, as you can imagine,” said Devos, a Hallowell native who also plays in the southern Maine band Ginlab. “People with psychosis often speak in their own kind of language, in these metaphors that are their own natural form of communication with its own kind of meaning. In listening to then speak, I decided I would try to take an honest look at what they are saying, and take excerpts from their words and put it to music. I work 40 hours a week and am constantly writing things down on sticky notes, so I’ve got a lot of material.”
Devos puts those words – cloaked in metaphor and wild imagery, and yet strangely universal – to a sweeping soundtrack that heightens the otherworldly nature of the words. Forget, Forget asks its listener to keep an open mind when it comes to its lyrical content, disturbing or mysterious though it may be. It delivers that message via some seriously beautiful music, in the style of the Arcade Fire, the National or Broken Social Scene; big, passionate bands with a great deal of technical skill.
“It’s all up for interpretation. I just want to give some kind of voice to these people, who nobody ever sees and nobody understands,” said Devos. “As soon as you say the word ‘schizophrenic’ you have all these assumptions, when really these are just people that have to live with a diagnosis, and have to deal with a lot of isolation and frustration in their lives. In some ways, what they are dealing with and what they are saying are kind of relatable on a basic level.”
The band started when guitar and banjo player McKay Belk, violinist and keyboardist Patia Maule and cellist Johanna Sorrell played with Devos and Ginlab in a cover to cover version of the Arcade Fire’s “Funeral,” about a year ago at the Big Easy in Portland. The four enjoyed playing together so much that plans were made to start a new project, aside from Devos’ work with Ginlab.
“There were so many guitars in that band, and I just loved that sound so much. I also found a new range in my voice that I didn’t know I had,” said Devos. “Something about it all just clicked.”
The band’s lineup is rounded out by drummer Aaron LaChance, who formerly played in now-defunct Portland band Grand Hotel, bassist Dominic Grosso, formerly of the band Boxes, and guitarist John Nels Blanchette, a Portland music mainstay who used to host the open mic night at now-closed Empire Dine & Dance. What was initially a low commitment side project rapidly became the main project for all seven musicians.
“Forget, Forget has become something really special,” said Devos. “Everyone is just so good and very professional. Patia is the most talented musician I have played with in Maine… John is the kind of guy that will sit in his room and work on a song for hours until it’s done. It’s pretty amazing how well it’s worked out. We’ve written a lot of songs really quickly.”
Forget, Forget has a demo EP on its Bandcamp page, and it has completed recording a full length LP, title TBA, which they hope to release in late summer. The band will work with Hotel 2 Tango for the mixing process, a renowned studio in Montreal that’s mixed albums for the likes of the Arcade Fire, Godspeed! You Black Emperor and Wolf Parade; Alan Douches, who has mastered albums for Animal Collective and Sufjan Stevens, will engineer it. In order to fund the mixing and mastering, the band will launch a Kickstarter campaign on April 15; they hope to raise a minimum of $6,000.
“I have a lot of ambition. I cold called about 20 studios that I knew were amazing and I knew I wanted to work with,” said Devos. “They happened to be really responsive. I think this has the potential to be something we’re all really proud of, and I wanted to put it in the hands of people we really respect. I’m extremely excited.”
Forget, Forget will play Wednesday, April 10 at the Portland Phoenix Best of Portland Reader Awards Show at Port City Music Hall in Portland, and on Friday, April 12 at the Sea Dog Brewing Company in Bangor, with Bangor’s Temperature of the Sun.