Forrister, formerly known as The Star Killers, provides honest punk-visceral songwriting minus the angst and war flashbacks to middle school. Singer and guitarist Julien Baker’s silky voice propels the already powerful emo indie rock outfit to a new level.
The Memphis-based group has one full-length record, “American Blues,” and a split with the band Little Moses.
“Our first record you could hear a lot of bluesy, weird rockabilly influences,” Baker said.
However, the 19-year-old English major noted that the band’s evolution is continual.
“We keep moving towards the experimental,” she commented.
The Forrister’s newest single, “Choked up,” was released Jan. 27. It was recorded straight to tape at MTSU’s studios and produced by the Department of Recording Industry’s program’s own Christian Jenkins and Kyle Starrett.
Jenkins watched their performance at Boro Fondo and offered the session.
“I was like, ‘yes, because analog’s what’s up,’” Baker said when describing the process. “It was actually a 12 or 14 hour block that started at midnight. So I had worked all day and got to the studio at midnight and we just stayed up all through the day.”
Baker balances being a student, touring and recording with a band and a rising solo career. Her dedication is unquestionable.
“I take Greyhounds home a lot,” Baker said about travelling from Murfreesboro to Memphis between band things, school and work. “It’s difficult but doable, definitely.”
What is most remarkable about Forristers and Baker’s solo work is that they embody the true spirit of D.I.Y.
They credit their scene in Memphis, such as Smith7, a nonprofit record group, to their success. The diversity and overwhelming support of the Murfreesboro house show scene benefits the band as well.
“They’ll turn out to a show if they feel like they’re invested in it, and I feel like there’s a good little community that exists,” Baker said of MTSU students and others involved in the scene.
Baker cited fellow local bands such as Pillow Talk, Wicker and Grayscale in addition to their favorites, Circa Survive and Manchester Orchestra, as influences, saying “Those are our good friends and that whole scene makes us what we are.”
The bands’ sense of community is just as strong as their musicality.
Baker recorded a solo album, “Sprained Ankle,” with MTSU student and personal friend Michael Hegner. She toured the record this winter, selling CDs she burned herself with a cover her friend Madison and she designed. She plans to tour again this summer because it was so well-received.
“I guess that looks really good on MTSU,” Baker said. “Hegner and Christian are probably two of the best engineers I’ve ever recorded with.”
At the end of the day, the band does it all for the sake of what really matters. The music.
“You know, that’s what makes it worth it, when you can tell that someone connects to your music,” Baker said.
Her gratitude and efforts to relate to others are obvious.
“I think whether there’s 300 people there or three people there, if somebody ever comes up to us and is like, ‘That got me like somewhere inside,’ then I’m just like yeah, we did it, we accomplished the goal,” Baker said.
When the band played with pop punk fan favorites The Front Bottoms, the turnout was amazing.
“When we got up there on stage I was just like uh, this is what I wanna do forever,” Baker said.
The band’s spring tour, March 6-12, will kick off with Daisyhead and Pillow Talk at The End in Nashville.
“We are so freakin’ stoked about that show,” Baker noted.
Both Forrister’s albums and Julien Baker’s solo album are available on their respective Bandcamp.com websites. Their new album will be recorded and released this year.