When Holly Forrest decided to travel half a world away to Canada to pursue a career in music, she never expected her artistic dreams to come true so quickly and so completely.
Twelve hours after landing at Toronto’s Pearson airport, the Australian native met the person who not only helped her accomplish this epic creative quest but who would also become her music partner and confidente, Toronto singer/songwriter Matt Fuentes. The serendipitous meeting was the beginning of an exciting and fulfilling collaboration which they aptly named FXRRVST (pronounced forest).
Since that life-changing, summer day in 2015, the soft-spoken, low key creative duo behind the masterfully composed songs continue to be as approachable and relatable as their music, as evidenced by the success of their 2017 debut release, May XXVI.
The momentum has continued unabated through to the early days of 2020, as the anticipation for the upcoming release of the new FXRRVST EP, Dear Friend; (Side A) has become incandescently hot. The first two singles, Bad Things (slated for release on February 7), and This Rough Patch (March 27), are palpably buzz-worthy for how compelling and memorable the compositions are, and for the depth and evocative nature of the stories they tell.
The EP was produced by Alfio Annibalini (Arkells The Tea Party, Our Lady Peace, Danko Jones) and as the title intimates, Dear Friend; (Side A) is the first of an expected two-part release with Dear Friend; (Side B), coming out towards the end of 2020.
“With our first album, we were just discovering our sound, and learning our way around the studio and Alf was a huge help to us. Working with him again, this new material was easier. We had more confidence in our songs, in our playing and we had a really clear idea of what we wanted the EPs to sound like,” said Fuentes.
“The first album was more just a collection of songs, everything we had written up to that point. We had nine songs done, so let’s put them on the album. With this new release, the songs fit together with one another. It feels more cohesive because we were intentionally writing an album, not just a bunch of songs,” added Forrest.
The past two years have been a whirlwind for the band, who saw songs from their debut get airplay on major radio stations such as Toronto’s The Edge 102.1, 94.9 The Rock, The Verge on Sirius XM and also at FOX FM in Melbourne, which is the most listened to radio station in all of Australia.
FXRRVST also garnered a nomination for Best Indie Act at the highly competitive Toronto Independent Music Awards in 2017. That same year they participated in the Guinness World Record-breaking longest concert ever in Stouffville, Ontario which lasted 437 hours, 54 minutes and 40 seconds.
In 2019 they embarked on a whirlwind nine-city acoustic tour of Ontario in partnership with Sunrise Records, before taking a break to start writing songs for the new EP.
FXRRVST brings together the traditional Canadian upbringing and musical influences of Fuentes alongside Forrest’s more global life experiences. Fuentes grew up in Toronto and was influenced by the local folk, indie, and alternative scenes, while Forrest was born in Australia, but spent most of her youth in Indonesia but spent most of her youth in Indonesia where she was exposed to that nation’s unique cultural landscape and started her own personal artistic journey.
On a creative level, it took a while for Forrest and Fuentes to find their groove as collaborators. The formula that worked was to allow Forrest to handle the bulk of the initial melodic structures and all of the lyrics, while Fuentes would bring in his compositional skills to surround and infuse the potently poetic words crafted by his partner with a solid musical foundation – one that is as compelling, memorable and emotive as the themes Forrest writes about.
Forrest’s lyrics are deeply personal and cathartic. For the singles Bad Things and This Rough Patch, as well as the two other tracks on their forthcoming EP, she chronicles the struggles of living with mental health challenges lending an exceptional depth and relatability to FXRRVST’s songs.
“Bad Things is about having someone or something to help you. One of my school counsellors would always use the metaphor where I am in a hole and I can’t get out on my own, so she gives me a rope. I want people to understand that I always think that it’s okay to reach out for help if you need it. It’s really a song that’s just saying that it’s okay to not be okay,” she explained.
“All these songs are very personal to me; I always felt like I was writing in a diary. In the chorus for This Rough Patch it’s like, ‘look out your window, watch the silent wind blow, if we try hard enough, we’ll get through this rough patch.’ The verses are more like war metaphors, so they are very tense and very unpleasant, but then the chorus eases up and tells listeners there is that light and that more positive ending.”
“Holly told me that she wrote that song when she was still in a dark place, but wrote it from the perspective of how she wanted to feel. It wasn’t from the experience of getting through it, it’s how she wanted to feel in the moment, so it’s pretty powerful when you look at it from that context,” added Fuentes.
Besides the exceptional quality and memorable nature of their original songs, what also shines through is the alt/indie duo’s commitment to sustainability and environmentalism which is an authentic extension of the kind, caring and compassionate people that they are.
In all they do, FXRRVST’s actions and attitudes are meant to lead by example and demonstrate their eco-friendly approach is a deeply held approach to life. For example, rather than printing physical copies of the new EP, they will be issuing eco-friendly download cards containing seeds so fans can plant flowers. As they grow and become more successful, they will take an eco-friendly approach to other aspects of their careers such as the types of stage lights used, being cognizant of where the energy is coming from, and touring with buses and vans that are electric.
As more and more fans begin to discover FXRRVST and connect with their music the band’s mission and mandate to make the world a better place will come to fruition; one song, one show, one seed at a time.