Austin's Royal Forest are noted as the sons of creative audio inventions. Their 2013 album Spillway from King Electric Recrod Company boasted hosts of audio innovations made from rural settings, sand dunes, submarines, and even airplanes. But on the debut of "Keeping Time", Royal Forest wrote, recorded, and shot the song/video within the constraints of Vine's six-second intervals. Created on the locale of Austin's Balcones Park, the field recorded song comes to life in a cluster of moving parts and pictures through the help of four iPhones connected together through Vine and some savvy assembly.
Aspects of the park, greenery and canals prove as best a host as any for a Royal Forest video. The band sets up shop, an old portable piano, drum kit, guitars, and stick strewn shapes of antlers. Exploring the acoustics of drainage tunnels, and the air of opened spaces; sounds become as free or as muffled as the band intends based on the environments. Throughout the span of the six-second minded recordings that comprise, "Keeping Time", images morph, expand, shrink, and collapse into each other like four kaleidoscopes working together to make a song and music video. And by the time the video concludes with the last chorus of "ooohs", night falls upon the park, as we wonder where and how Royal Forest will make their next multimedia vignette.
But stick around, as Royal Forest takes us behind the scenes of their latest creation:
Okay, so for "Keeping Time", you all wrote six-second instrumentals at 150 bpm and stitched it all together. Tell us about about the art of using Vine for writing, recording and filming. This must have been one heck of a project.
It's extremely time consuming, difficult, and frustrating for starters. Creating a (near) perfect musical loop on a format that isn't intended for that purpose took a lot of patience. Particularly since in Vine you can't see the loop until it's uploaded to the server, and we were in an area with really bad cell service. So you do a take, upload it, then play it back. If it wasn't spot on, you did it again. Sometimes 30 or 40 times. There were some parts we recorded dozens of times and just gave up on.
We did the drums first by recording a ton of different beats in interesting acoustic spaces, taking them back to the studio and arranging the structure of a song out of the drum loops, or in some cases, combinations of the drum loops. We then wrote basic music to the song and went out and shot that, then went out again and shot a bunch of random bits. Again we brought everything back to the studio and sifted through hundreds of loops to arrange the song as it exists. The quantity of content we wound up with was pretty overwhelming, so it took a few sessions to whittle it down to what we felt the song and video were asking for.
Additionally we are locked into using the iPhone to record all the video and audio. The camera isn't bad, but the little microphones in there are really lo-fi and not very directional, so we tried to make that work towards the song instead of against it by choosing spots that enhanced the tone of whatever instrument was playing. The vocals, for instance, were sung into an old tape recorder mic and a battery powered amp facing into a walled off cement drain, so they're kind of filtered and have this terrific natural slap-back echo throughout.
And so even the title "Keeping Time" is like a commentary on the process of clock work imperatives. What is it about the art of time keeping for all around aesthetic and professional reasons that we obsess it constantly?
I think we were intrigued by the restrictions of writing a song with Vine. Deconstructing the song into 6 second increments created combinations of sounds we wouldn't have thought of in the normal writing process.
What installments are coming up next in your field recording series?
We're not sure, but we have a lot of ideas in the works ranging from implausible to downright stupid. The real difficulty with these is they rely heavily on luck. Some are reasonably fleshed out and just require the time and execution to make happen and others are just bad ideas.
What other releases do you all have in the works?
We're working on writing a new full length to release later in the year. It's just getting off the ground now, but we're really excited by the direction things are taking.
Further plans and surprises for 2014?
At some point this year we'll be writing an original score to a series of really trippy old silent movies and performing it live in theaters.
Royal Forest's album Spillway is available now from King Electric Record Company.