The German band Man Behind Tree has four singers and no frontman. That has been going very well for three records now. Hans Forster explains how that works.
Pieces of Power Pop, Jangle, Dream Pop, and Shoegaze combined with beautiful harmony vocals. It’s all there. How did this sound originate, or does it just happen when the four of you get started?
It all started back in the late ’90s in a small town in Northern Bavaria. Me and my friend Andi deciding that we were done with trying to be as innovative as possible but wanted to play the music we like the most, no matter if people might call it anachronistic: Noisepop, Janglepop, Powerpop, Manchester Rave – music from at least a decade ago, melodious and very guitarish. Our band Seaside Stars is still around. Greg of Man Behind Tree is in that band, and Sutti was for a while.
Later in Berlin, we were lucky to find like-minded people in our bass players. First Sylvain with strong roots in Shoegaze, then two guys that came here from Chicago: Sean and Graham. They had this amazing band, Mincer Ray, with multivocal harmonies and a DIY spirit the same as we had, so we started collaborating, and when Mincer Ray split, the guys ended up in Man Behind Tree.
How did ‘3’ come about?
Though maybe not officially, „3“ is our third album, as we regard our initial home recordings, published without a record label, as an album too. This first one is also on Bandcamp, so it’s a decent record release for us. And personally, I like numbers as album titles: the first two Van Halen, Beach Boys’ 20/20, Teenage Fanclub – 13 …
When I first listened to ‘3’ I didn’t expect to start dancing spontaneously the third time I heard Don’t Lose Grip. Would you take that as a compliment?
Definitely a compliment! I guess the guy described in the song would see it differently. Waking up, he realizes that his girlfriend has left him again to explore the world. He’s more the sleepy sort, whereas she’s always looking out for the new and exciting. He wishes her all the best in the end, just hoping nothing bad happens to her.
Still, the guy in the story’s a little sad. But why not dance to a melancholic song if the beat is alright?
The meaning of success has changed over the years. What would success look like for the new record?
I’m definitely not a success expert. Having not much of it over the years, we’ve learned to focus on the music and its joy. The market, product and sales, and fame take place entirely on a different planet.
It’s nice and cozy in our little musical world. Still, we’re amazed and happy when people we don’t know listen to our songs. Next to the music itself, this is what keeps us going. So, success with the new record is all about spreading the word.
That singing together must be a joy to do, right?
That’s absolutely true. Puts a smile on our faces mostly. Even more so when we’re doing it surrounded by overdriven guitar sound (you miss the flat notes in all that noise ;-).
Sometimes singing together seems to alter the mental state, like creating collectivity or like meditation, maybe which I’ve never really tried. Also, I’ve never played in a frontman-led band, and I guess I’ll keep it that way.