A chromatic choral carriage

Kat Burns of Forest City Lovers talks to the Journal about buried wit, Toronto and dendrophilia

Kat Burns (second from right) turns up the heat with Forest City Lovers, effectively shedding their rep as the best band you’ve never heard of and solidifying their space in Canadian music with their latest release, Carriage.
Kat Burns (second from right) turns up the heat with Forest City Lovers, effectively shedding their rep as the best band you’ve never heard of and solidifying their space in Canadian music with their latest release, Carriage.

The Forest City Lovers are a band from Toronto who craft orchestrated, string-laden nuggets of indie pop. The group developed out of the solo act of singer-songwriter Kat Burns, a recent OCAD graduate. Today, the band is comprised of Burns as well as violinist Mika Posen, bassist Kyle Donnelly, keyboardist Timothy Burton and drummer Christian Ingelevics.

They are currently touring in support of their newest album, Carriage, and are playing in Kingston on Sept 18 at the Grad Club. The album is the band’s fourth and strongest effort to date.

“I think it’s a step forward,” Burns said. “I don’t know if it’s a departure in the sense that it doesn’t leave anything behind and builds on what already existed.”

The most immediately recognizable and popular song on Carriage is “If I Were a Tree”, a melodic and sunny tune with some witty and coy lyrics. In the middle of the first verse, Burns sings, “If I were a tree I’d give you wood/Make you a dendrophiliac.” A quick Google search and we learn that a dendrophiliac is a lover

of trees.

Burns’ vocals are somewhere in between the sultry purr of Cat Power and the bouncy malleability of Feist. The sound puts her squarely in the post-millennial generation of female indie-pop singers. The style is a combination of twee innocence and urban maturity. Kat’s delivery allows her light-hearted voice to subtly belie a far more knowing persona. It’s as if the singing voice is performed with a wink of the eye at the audience.

Burns describes her approach as one that can be appreciated on different levels.

“I like writing with layers, anything that I make is meant to be looked at or listened to a few times and speaks to the composition, lyrics and wit that’s buried.” On first listen the tunes are sweet and breezy, while repeated listens reveal depth in the arrangements and lyrics.

The band is very much a product of Toronto and its music scene. They seem to understand the importance of regional artistic communities in an era when so many people are connecting online. Burns explains that it’s “really important to have a physical scene [to] connect with people who have shared interests.” The Forest City Lovers’ wider circle of musicians and friends includes The D’Urbervilles and The Evening Hymns, two Toronto bands with similar tastes. Burns said she sees her band’s musical environment as key to its continued success.

“All of our friends are in amazing bands … lots of talent flowing around,” she said. “Someone’s drinking the talent water.” When asked, Burns listed her desert island, all-time, top-five albums as OK Computer by Radiohead, On The Beach by Neil Young, Hounds of Love by Kate Bush, Downward Spira by Nine Inch Nails and Get the Knack by The Knack. The Forest City Lovers integrate all these eclectic influences into their own unique sound. However, perhaps the most apt amalgamation is Neil Young at his most acoustic and woodsy moments with the alternative romantic pop of Kate Bush.

Yet ultimately, The Forest City Lovers are a band of individuals with their own brand of baroque chamber-pop that is equal parts rustic and cosmopolitan. In fact, Burns said that she is “moving to Toronto Island and will be there for the winter. Hey, that’s sort of a combination of forest and city!” Forest City Lovers play The Grad Club tomorrow night with Steve MacKay at 9 p.m. Tickets are $10 in advance.

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