Exclusive: interview with Ever Forthright


Earlier this year, The HAARP Machine toured Europe alongside Monuments, Born of Osiris and After The Burial with a completely new lineup, featuring Chris Barretto and Nicholas Llerandi from Ever Forthright on vocals and guitars respectively. Site moderator Daniel O' Connor (Klonere) talked to them at their gig in Dublin, Ireland. Read our interview with The HAARP Machine here.

Afterwards, we also had a chance to talk to Chris and Nick about their main band, Ever Forthright. This wasn't planned at all, but it was too good an opportunity to pass up. Daniel sat down with them and improvised some questions, resulting in an informal but comprehensive interview. Read it below!

Ever Forthright are Kevin Theodore, Chris Barretto, Nicholas Llerandi, Jon Llerandi, Billy Anderson and Jerad Lippi (from left to right).

Before Chris came into the picture, before you had a vocalist, what was Ever Forthright, in the beginning?

Nicholas Llerandi: Man, we are rewinding!

Chris Barretto: Oh shit, this is wild.

Nicholas: In the beginning I guess it was just me and Billy [Anderson]. At a computer. I was still in college. Kevin [Theodore] joined because he was also going to college for jazz.

Chris: What college were you going to?

Nicholas: Purchase Conservatory for Jazz Performance.

Chris: Let them know, let them know. It's important!

Nicholas: Actually most of us went there. Jerad [Lippi] has a masters degree. Kevin is about to graduate.

What about you, Chris?

Chris: I went to the Manhattan School of Music.

Is there a rivalry?

Chris: No, not at all.

Nicholas: So that was the beginning, yeah. So then Chris's friend got -

Chris: Wait now hold on. Before that, Nick had this inception of the band where Nick was shredded like the hulk.

Like John Petrucci?

Chris: Well no, fuck John Petrucci - wait no, not like that!

*All laugh*

Chris: Oh man, everybody on the internet is gonna love that shit. I'm going to have 20 million angry fucking butthurt guitarists coming at me. No, Nick Llerandi was a beefcake motherfucker, the first time I saw that photo, I was like "This dude is going to kill me".

Nicholas: Yeah the first time around on the demo I was doing a lot of the vocals.

«Fuck John Petrucci - wait no, not like that!»

So Chris, you had Haunted Shores, then you moved to Ever Forthright. What was that like? You guys live in New York together.

Chris: Well, Nick was saying... hold on. Tell him the story that happened.

Nicholas: So this was the beginning, we are talking Craigslist ads.

Chris: This was after my thing with Periphery had come to an end. I was in a really dark place, I was like "When am I going to pick this up". So then Nick -

Nicholas: Yeah, Craiglist ad on the internet, Chris's friend saw it, heard the music -

Chris: Wait wait wait wait, hold on! So, they apparently hit me up on my Facebook page, I remember exactly everything, Jerad was the one who sent me an email and I hadn't written back. But like I said, I wasn't feeling so hot at the time because of that breakup, I didn't reply to the email. They were like, check out our tunes, we need a singer. I had gotten a few emails like that, I just wasn't ready for stuff.

I probably gave some bullshit answer "Oh yeah, I like it but....". I wasn't in a place where I could take the opportunity. I overlooked it, like a dumbass. It was totally something that was just, over my head. They had tried to hit me up before, when I was doing my Friend For A Foe / Haunted Shores thing. It just got lost in translation, it was the damndest thing. So I moved to California when Haunted Shores was turning into shit.

Nicholas: He has to transcribe this...

Chris: Sorry buddy.

It's fine, my college course... well, let's not get into that.

*Chris starts laughing*

My college course affords me the time to do things like this!

Chris: Good, well you're going to have your work cut out for you. So then I moved out to California, I was doing my thing out there. Then Craigslist came into play.

Nicholas: I put out the Craigslist ad. His buddy saw it, listened to the stuff and just instantly thought Chris would be the man for this. This is months after we sent Chris an email and we just never really got in touch. Then Chris heard the music and said "I wanna be a part of this". And that was it!

Chris: It's funny because my friend Brandon was saying "dude, you've got to check out this band, they've got this Meshuggah vibe". Ten years ago I would have been like "Oh my god, I'm gonna jerk off". But everyone has that thing going on now, this whole "djent" thing. So I said, "That's cool dude, do your thing". Again, fluffing it like a dumbass, Jesus Christ what's wrong with me.

And then he hits me with it again. "You should check out this band man, I'm trying to do screaming but they want singing". I'm like, "Alright I'll check it out". So then I listened to 'Latency and Tendencies'. Two minutes in, I call him back and I'm like "Dude, what the fuck is this, where'd you find these guys?" He's like "Right, just listen to it!".

So I go back, it gets to the middle part where there's an open jazz section. Nick plays this solo, I'm like "What, this dude is playing changes? Are you fucking kidding me? Nobody plays changes in metal!". Nobody plays changes like Nick Llerandi, fact. You can quote me on that.

Then Kevin comes in. So I'm thinking "This band is fucking my life up right now, in the best way possible". Just the communication between the musicianship, you could tell it was on a whole new level. I've been very fortunate in my life to work with people that I considered better than me. I like to find stuff that's ahead of its time. I know this band is ahead of its time because they are so gifted. They challenge me every time I get up with them. Every time I get into the practice space with them, I have to remind myself of why I do this. Their caliber of musicianship is unrivalled. It was such a crazy thing to hear that in the context of metal as well. Which is something I've been dreaming about since I was a kid.

Nicholas: And thats were we are going with the new stuff. We really want people to say "wow" and feel something different. The jazz, saxophone and all that, we just want that to be tenfold.

«The way that Nick and Kevin write, that's jazz all the way. Just because you throw distortion on it doesn't change that fact.»

You both are graduated musicians. You've both got degrees -

Chris: I never finished mine.

Oh, alright. So when we're talking jazz, when you write, where does the jazz come in? You've obviously got the metal thing going on but you've clearly got this huge jazz background.

Nicholas: That's a hard question, I don't know if -

Chris: For me, it doesn't really work like that. It's all just tunes, it's all harmony.

Nicholas: At this point, if it's coming from a place that isn't internalised, chances are it's going to sound funky at least to me. Something I write that I'm way too focused on usually comes out sounding a little bit mechanical. At this point the way the jazz works its way into the music is just a very natural thing. It's what my ears like, it's what the guys in the band like. It's just a sound, it's just a feeling. We are just making that feeling happen.

Chris: It seems like most people equate those clean sections as the "jazz" sections. But to my ears, if you stripped away all the distortion, you'd have a jazz standard, almost. The way that Nick and Kevin write, they way they orchestrate their harmonic changes, that's jazz all the way. Just because you throw distortion on it doesn't change that fact. So it's all "jazz" to me.

Just because it changes to a different groove or a different vibe doesn't make it more or less jazzy. It's all jazz, it's all rock, it's all metal. It all comes from the same place. Deep harmonic writing, good musical understanding and Nick's idea, trying to make people feel something.

And obviously the big thing for us that we love to do is improvise. Not any pre-written improvisation either, no pre-written solos. We do some of the stuff from the record sometimes, but man, when we get up on the stage, we jam. I don't play a single note from the record, because quite frankly I don't remember it. I'd have to go back and transcribe it.

It's more fun that way, because that's the real nature of music. Music moves in any direction that it can go, and to have that freedom is exactly what we've wanted in our lives. To express ourselves both within the context of metal, but also to explore different places at the same time, and to be free within that musical realm.

Nicholas: We know when we've hit the mark and where we haven't within the past two years with what Chris just said. We are just learning and growing every day.

Chris: Absolutely.

Nicholas: We have a ton of stuff sitting around that's almost finished. We want an EP for somewhere around hopefully this year. We are working on a full length as well... we are just going to take all this stuff and learn from it.

Chris: I don't even think we've reached our pinnacle yet. One reason I love this band more than any other I've been involved in ever in my life is that we have just scratched the surface.

Nicholas: We've never written together as a band...

Music video for 'Lost In Our Escape', taken from the band's self-titled debut album.

That's a big thing with bands that start out on the internet. The second album is always the most interesting, because usually the first album is a collection of songs built up by different people in the band over the years. Whereas for the second album, the whole band is writing together.

Chris: The most interesting album is yet to come. You can't even put a number on it. Second album, whatever, because that shit's going to grow from the first album and from that one to the third. We might do a quadruple album with standards on one, ... anything.

I have a concept idea that I would love to use at some point, that... maybe we'll get to that. Barely scratching the surface. For me, that's exciting, because when I feel that way, when I know there's so much more emotional paydirt to dig into, it makes everything worthwhile.

«When we get up on the stage, we jam. I don't play a single note from the record, because quite frankly I don't remember it.»

Chris, you weren't there from the inception. There have been quite clear jazz sections, I'm talking about the saxophone bits, the clean bits. When you came into the band and you saw that and said "hey I think it should be like this!", was it all worked out in improvisation? The demo of 'Latency and Tendencies' is different from the album version for example, is that where the improvisation comes in?

Chris: Absolutely. That solo on the new version of 'Latency and Tendencies' was split down the middle in terms of fan reception. Which is cool. On the record I was going for a completely different vibe, there's way more augmented stuff going on.

Nicholas: You felt different that day.

Chris: Yeah, exactly. Literally just that. That's the spirit of improvisation. From my ears certainly it's what works. In that moment, that's what is and that's what comes out. By the way, your belt is fucking awesome.

Thanks, it's falling apart. Shoutout to my mom for buying it for me.

Nicholas: Some of the musical decisions we make are a bit polarising, like that solo for one. My entry for the Mayones contest would be another.

Or the hip hop bit on 'Infinitely Inward'?

Nicholas: Yeah. That's just how we hear it. It's fun.

Nicholas Llerandi's winning entry for the Mayones / Seymour Duncan solo contest.

We've talked a lot about improvisation and there must be this enormous body of material that you guys have played or recorded to fall back on. When it comes to putting together a record, it must be an enormous challenge to cut that down and say, "lose this, use this, I think I like this song".

Nicholas: We are the worst at that. We're always like "Let's cut this out, we are going to try to make it a little bit shorter". And then "Nick what about that shit?" and then we put in that part and it's 10 minutes longer than before. We could easily write 15 minute song. I mean, I'm totally cool with that but sometimes people are... not.

Chris: We put a lot of content on the first record on purpose. Interestingly enough it almost seemed like people were overwhelmed by that. People were saying it's too much content, the record's too long. And I was kind of surprised, because if I'm paying for a record I want all the music I can get!

Nicholas: We never told them to listen to it straight through. I rarely listen to records straight through.

I don't think it's long, it's just incredibly dense. But there's just so much going on and that makes the record kind of intimidating to approach. As you said, listening all the way through probably isn't the recommended serving suggestion.

Nicholas: All those things are fun though. Intimidating, challenging. I love music that's intimidating and challenging. I also love music that isn't. It all comes from the same place. It depends on what you want right now. Like what type of food do you want right now, spicy food or not spicy, it doesn't matter.

Chris: Maybe one day we'll write a legit 3 minute long song. Who knows.

That'd be interesting.

Nicholas: That's a challenge.

Just to go back on the history, could you fill in the gaps between Chris joining the band and your self-titled album being released?

Nicholas: I think we had most of it written. Then Chris came in, gave his heart on everything. Changed some things. He did all his vocals. We probably wrote another two songs while Chris was already in the band.

Chris: 'All Eyes On The Earth' was one of those songs that was worked on when I got in.

Nicholas: Then we just kinda wrapped it up pretty quickly. I guess you could say that the inception of the band is really happening right now. I didn't think the band would be this when we were writing the first record. It just kind of happened like that. The first record is a lot of ups and downs, finding people. It really solidified probably just after the first record was released, when we realised "we have a cool band here, people like our music, let's keep on doing it". That made us carry on with it.

«I think forgiveness is a great thing in life, but sometimes the right thing to do is just saying "fuck you".»

One song on the album that really sticks out to me is 'Spineless', which is just uncompromisingly heavy. Do you go into a practice room and say "God I really fucking hate that guy, I'm going to write a really heavy song", or is it a natural thing? Because 'Spineless' seems to be so focused, it has to come from somewhere.

Chris: Yeah I definitely channeled some anger on that one. Normally I'm not that kind of dude. I love being a happy guy and I love positivity. But you know... I'll say this it this way: I think forgiveness is a great thing in life and you should always feel that way and you should always feel connected with your fellow man. But sometimes the right thing to do is just saying "fuck you". And that's my "fuck you" song.

Those lyrics are by no means cerebral or intelligent. It's all straightforward, to the point. It was the closest thing to get my anger off my chest. That's what we did, we went in and we got pissed. The lyrics are very to the point about this internet generation that is spitting hatred from their sheltered rooms. It's sad, but at the same time that's what I had to say about that. I got my anger out.

From an instrumental point of view, is there another song like that in the tank from Ever Forthright? Have you written another extremely uncompromising heavy song, or was that just really in the moment?

Nicholas: Eh, no. I'll write more heavy stuff, I love it. Being on tour with After The Burial, I mean I love that, when those huges drops come, those huge groove hooks. I would feel like the album was missing something if we didn't have a at least a little spot where we just dropped a bomb on people.

Chris: That atom bomb effect.

Nicholas: Yeah, it's just fun. Generally a metal show is like a party...

At this point, Born of Osiris start playing 'Bow Down' in the background

Chris: Exactly!

Nicholas: I mean why not get a little heavy. People can hate on it online all they want, but if they come and see it happen... it's just fun.

Chris: There are no limits musically. I feel like we have the ability to access so many different sounds, why not use all of them? From the cleanest of the clean to the happiest of the happy to the prettiest of the pretty to the darkest of the dark. Wherever we can go, we will go. That is a fact.

John Browne from Monuments passes by

John Browne: Fuck Ever Forthright!

Shoutout to John! In our interview with The HAARP Machine we had a quick question about Ever Forthright for you guys, and you talked about how you wanted to tighten up production on the next release. Production is a really big deal nowadays. On the first album, was it just that you really wanted to get it out there? Because as you said, you're so "in the moment". Then you listen to it a week later and maybe you thought, "oh we could change that..."

Nicholas: Well... it was more that we didn't know how. The record is 2 years old now. I was 22, Billy was 22, my brother was 19. We put demos on the floor, we looked out for record labels, all sorts of help. Nobody wanted to help us. So really, that was the best we could do. People tell us all the time, "I wish the production was better". We just couldn't.

Chris: When you hear the mixes for the new stuff, that's Billy, primarily. Obviously he has grown as a producer. Nick said that's exactly where we were at. That's the best we could offer at the time, not perfect by any means. For a self-produced DIY band from New York, people still working day jobs and stuff like that. It was the effort that we needed to make. It wasn't some fucking multimillion or high end super quality production. We were really focused on the music carrying the message rather than the production having the focus.

Nicholas: Even if we tried to make it better, we probably couldn't have. Just lack of help.

Chris: We gave it our best shot.

Nicholas: Why sit on it, we'll just put it out. Let's see if we can play some shows.

«Sometimes you just feel like, "Damn I wish we could just bust out some James Brown tonight". And so we did!»

Earlier on, you mentioned that the band doesn't tour per se but when you have a live show you do a lot of improvisation. How is live Ever Forthright different from the record?

Chris: It's almost like two different bands sometimes. We had this gig in Peterborough, Canada, only like 6 people showed up. But it ended up being on of the best gigs we ever did, because we just jammed. That shit isn't on the record at all. You aren't going to get that unless you come to the show! Because you never know what we're going to do. Of course we are going to play some tunes, but one night maybe Jon and Jerad want to be in a fucking pocket, it doesn't matter.

Nicholas: A lot of bands, when they are on the road are like, "let's open with some funk stuff!". And they just kinda laugh about it. Sometimes it's a good idea! You play a bunch of shows back to back, and you just feel like, "Damn I wish we could just bust out some James Brown tonight". And so we did! It went great, everyone was totally into it.

Chris: No boundaries.

'Riot: Part 1', a new song released last month, taken from the band's upcoming album.

We've talked a lot about the writing process and improvisation and all that. What's the source for that? When you listen to music yourself, what do you look for? Or when you were a kid what blew your mind?

Chris: I just stick with the classics. My dude on the horn has always been Kenny Garrett, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane. You can pick out so much even listening to the same stuff. Man I can't even think of newer stuff right now...

Nicholas: I have to pull out my iPod...

I have to do the exact same thing when people ask me that question.

Chris: I love classical music too, I listen to a lot of Debussy, Tchaikovsky, Ravel. That shit always gets me. So inspired, it's just so much more than I feel I could ever offer. It's amazing to be able to produce music like that from a single mind, blows my mind every time. Michael Jackson is a vocal hero. That dude inspires a lot of my vocal work. And I listen to stuff like After The Burial. Anthony Notarmaso has the craziest scream. I try and study everyone. Fuck I still can't think of anything recent.

Nicholas: It's tough... what do I have on here... some neo-soul, some good old church music. That stuff is always happening.

Chris: Recently I've gotten into Fair to Midland, Dead Letter Circus. We played a show with them and they changed my experience, Fair to Midland especially, they were insane. That's the most recent stuff I can think of. I'm kinda shot like that, people know a lot more about recent shit than I do. I used to be good at keeping up but now I'm just keeping up with my shit. Honestly this dude *points to Nick* gets me more inspired than anything.

Nick is blushing.

Chris: I mean that with great respect. This dude writes amazing music. That is awesome.

Nicholas: Alright, we have Avishar Cohen, amazing bass player. Deerhoof, Deftones, Esbjörn Svensson Trio, Flying Lotus, I'm sure a lot of people know who he is. Jeff Buckley, Joe Bonamassa, John Abercrombie, I took lessons with him in college, Kaki King. Lamb of God, I've been going back to Dimebag a lot, I feel I skipped that when I was growing up. Right now I feel, being surrounded by this, being in my first metal band and stuff, "you know what, Dimebag is pretty sick".

Full band playthrough video for 'All Eyes On The Earth' off the self-titled debut album.

Chris, when it comes to writing lyrics, we talked about 'Spineless', that was just a mode of anger. This music is incredibly complicated and dense, how do you go about putting a lyric or a story to it?

Chris: The first thing I wrote for this band was 'The Counter Shift'. I just sat in my room in California and I was thinking "how the fuck am I going to write this". It's always that first little bit, man. I don't remember the first thing I wrote for 'The Counter Shift' but once it came I was like, "there it is". And from there it became a snowball, it grew and grew and got a little easier, slowly. I think everything really started to piece together nicely when I came back to New York, like 'All Eyes On The Earth' was so much fun to write. I had such a great concept for that song, do you mind if I explain it?

Sure, go ahead.

Chris: It's one of my favourite things I ever wrote, and I mean that in the most humble way possible. It's so exciting, I wrote the story about having a moon base. This evil genius brings up all the world leaders to the moon base, sometime in the distant future. There is this grand opening at this moon base, everyone is... this is half music video as well, you've got ships panning into the landing bay, greeting each other. Somewhat futuristic, yet also 50's...

50's retro futurism stuff?

Chris: Exactly, almost animated Batman. So you get to the main entrance and the doors open up into this grand ballroom, all these delegates and people are mingling. The evil genius comes over a balcony, he's addressing the crowd and there's this big red curtain in the background. This is all in the lyrics of the song. The curtain opens, you see this beautiful shot of the earth. It's a grand celebration.

And then he goes "Now for the grand finale". He fucking flicks a switch and you just see missiles and all kinds of shit flying at the earth. So the earth blows up and everybody on the moon base, it's like 200 people, realise they are the last 200 human beings ever. The lyrics go "running for the gate, never gonna make it out alive".

Then there is the perspective of a woman that's up there, I like doing that, I find women that are very influential for me, the dynamic between man and woman is old as shit, it's a very special dynamic. It's not just sexual, it's passionate and loving as well. It's not just petty girlfriend stuff, a real deep loving experience, like Helen of Troy stuff.

So following this woman, she's trying to escape too. The evil genius is ready to bring the house down, he's going to blow up the moon base too, his goal is to destroy all of humanity. So they are running out, the base is coming down and at the end, that last atom bomb breakdown, that "No escape, bound to drift eternally", that's when the whole ship comes down. That was so much fun to write.

The first chorus I wrote was more like party rocker. Nick was like, "try singing on that instead". So I went back and wrote the chorus the way it is now, and it came together. So from that point to get back to the original point is that the snowball progression of my writing came from being more and more comfortable with these songs. When we did 'Screen Scenarios', that was challenging but stimulating at the same time. It just got a little easier every go. I eventually felt comfortable doing it and felt like I was good at doing it.

«He fucking flicks a switch and you just see missiles and all kinds of shit flying at the earth!»

We did shoutouts in the previous interview so we'll just do a quickfire round. Favourite alcoholic beverage?

Nicholas: Oh shit... beer, some kind of beer! Oh god I'm in Ireland... Guinness!

Everybody gives that answer! Chris?

Chris: Jack Daniels.

Dream car?

Chris: I'm not a car person....

Nicholas: Something fuel efficient. Seriously!

Chris: I wanna fly, so get some quantum physicists on that, get me some space boots and I'm ready to transport myself anywhere.

I think I know the answer to this. City you see yourself living in 50 years?

Chris: Tchh... you know. New York Fucking City.

Nicholas: Same.

Band you liked when you were young that nobody else would guess you liked?

Chris: Oh shit...

Nicholas: That's a hard one...

Chris: Limp bizkit.

Nicholas: Limp bizkit as well I guess.

Double Limp Bizkit.

Chris: Everyone hates that band, I fucking love that band.

You can only ever play one song from the album live ever again, which one?

Nicholas: 'All Eyes on the Earth'... you mean an Ever Forthright song?


Nicholas: Yeah, 'All Eyes', it's so much fun.

Chris: Shit...

Nicholas: From a guitar standpoint, 'All Eyes' has enough parts where I can just forget about what I'm playing and have fun, the audience can have fun too.

Chris: That's hard... 'City Limits' has a special place for me, because I kinda get my Michael Jackson on during it. I love that. I get to talk to the girlies, that's cool. I mean, we haven't played it yet. Actually 'The Little Albert Experiment', because we shred over the end, it's fucking gnarly.

You can perform with any musician, alive or dead, but afterwards YOU die.

Chris: Frank Sinatra.

Nicholas: God... I can't do this!

*All laugh*

Nicholas: Wayne Krantz.

Thanks guys, it has been an absolute pleasure.

Ever Forthright are currently touring the Canada and the US with Auras on the 'Do You Even Riff?' tour. View the dates on their Facebook page.

In October, they will play their first shows in Europe as part of the Shuriken tour with Twelve Foot Ninja and Skyharbor, and at Euroblast festival in Cologne, Germany, alongside Meshuggah, Textures, Monuments and many more.

The band's self-titled debut album is out now on Myriad Records and is available for streaming and purchase on Bandcamp.


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