In The Republic, Plato discusses “forms” as the ideals of perfection for each object in this world. All items have forms, from the inanimate chair to the living animal, which represent an unachievable goal. Fast-forward a few thousand years and you have The Forms, a rock foursome from New York striving to reach the same ideal of perfection in music. We sat down with Alex, a self-described ancient Greek enthusiast, who explained the band’s name as well as their widely acclaimed debut album, the Steve Albini-produced Icarus.
Does the name of the group simply reflect Plato’s philosophy, or is there something else to it as well?
Well, if you search the Internet for “the forms,” you get a lot of mundane things, like tax forms and things like that. You have to dig pretty deep to find us. So it’s kind of funny, referencing Plato and also the mundane at the same time.
I noticed a lot of the artwork associated with The Forms, from your album to your Web site, is anything but mundane. Is that intentional?
I think the art, like the music, reflects the effect that our music aims to have on people.
So what is that effect?
Music is the way people communicated before language. If you listen to music, especially something that you really like, it affects you in a strong way. Makes you feel happy, sad and everything. It’s more complex than can be articulated, and a lot of our music is like that. There is more to music than pinning it to something concrete-that cheapens it. We try and make music that isn’t mundane and overly understandable.
The songs on the album are very short (total running time of 18 minutes) and often they are broken up over a couple tracks, what’s the purpose of that?
We split the songs up over a couple of tracks mostly for convenience’s sake. A lot of our songs don’t repeat; sometimes it’s nice to go right to the different parts you want to hear. Like some of the intros, after you hear them one or two times, you might never want to hear again, so you can skip right to the song. In concert we play some other stuff, expand a little bit. We’ve also got a new album coming out later this year, and we play some of that as well.
What are your major influences, and how do they show up on your record?
We have some direct influences musically from Sunny Day Real Estate; certain parts of songs are modeled right after them. Also, My Bloody Valentine’s ethereal aesthetic, some Nirvana and that Midwest Slint type rock. Our band actually met at a battle of the bands in high school, and two of us were from one school and the other two from another, and we both happened to cover songs by Shudder to Think and we thought maybe we should hang out.
Is there a lot of pressure for your next album? After working with Steve Albini and reading all the good reviews, has that changed anything?
Steve is actually not your typical “big” producer like Rick Rubin or something. First and foremost he’s a musician, so we respected him a lot and he related to us the importance of being independent musicians. As far as reviews, I’m definitely interested in seeing what people think, but I try and not let them affect us musically. There’s a little bit of pressure, though, but we don’t deal with what Radiohead or someone huge like that has to deal with. We definitely don’t want to disappoint anyone though.
A lot of critics have referred to Icarus as a “concept” album. Do you accept that?
It wasn’t a preconceived thing, but looking back there is one idea driving every song on the record; this sort of unimprisoned music, just do whatever rhythms you want, do whatever song structures, who cares if it’s not original, anything goes, it sort of ties the songs together in a way. But it’s not a rock opera or anything.
So is the title, Icarus, significant to the music?
The story of Icarus is of a boy who’s very impulsive. He takes his father’s wings and flies too close to the sun, then his wings melt and he crashes. With this album I just kind of had this idea to do this music, I didn’t care what anybody thought, if everybody hated it, so what? So I just went with it, kind of impulsive, and if it crashed, so be it.