Cornerstone 2000: An Interview with Morella’s Forest

Morella’s Forest made me a believer in Christian rock.
Morella's Forest
 (Tooth & Nail Records)

This interview was conducted by Nolan Shigley at Cornerstone 2000. The first “Christian” band I ever saw was Morella’s Forest. During their live show I became a believer in Christian rock. They didn’t come out sporting mullets and singing the cheesy, commercialized praise songs that most people associate with Christian music. They came out with their Sonic Youth-ish noise rock and impressed me from the start.

I was fortunate enough to meet Shawn before the show and we had a serious conversation about glam rock and James Bond movies. My stereotypical thoughts of Christian rock had been shattered (and shattered for good when I went to see them at my first C‑stone that summer), as I watched and listened to a delightful mixture of feedback and distortion similar to My Bloody Valentine.

4 years later, I get to sit down with Shawn at the 2000 edition of Cornerstone and talk to the guitarist of a mellower sound. He still remembers me from that show. Life is very generous much of the time and it’s bands like Morella’s Forest that help it out.


Nolan: What’s been going on with the band? I know you said you’ve been having trouble with drummers, can you elaborate a bit on that?

Shawn: Well, we’ve had two drummers in the past… well, since Nate left the band about a year and a half ago. We’ve had two drummers and it’s just never worked out. They weren’t our style. We just didn’t feel good about them drumming in Morella’s Forest. We played Jesse Sprinkle’s church up in Dansville, New York quite a bit and the last time we played there he and I were talking about the frustration of drummers. It was then he said he would do it in a second. So, we were really excited about that, because we think he is a great drummer.

Nolan: More of a permanent thing then?

Shawn: He’s going to do a lot with us this year, so we don’t know, yet. He will be definitely playing with us for the next 5 months or so. I think we’re looking at something permanent. We really haven’t got together enough to really see how it gels, you know, but the time we have been together in the last couple weeks has been really great. We are really excited about having a good drummer for once in the band.

Nolan: Are you guys keeping up with Nate still? If so, what’s he doing?

Shawn: Oh yeah, he’s playing in Johnny Q Public. Yeah, they were here (C‑stone). We’re still on great terms and he’s a great friend. It’s all good.

Nolan: Are you working on new material right now?

Shawn: Yeah, we’re going to have a new EP out at the end of summer with 5 songs and its going to be independently released. We are no longer on Tooth and Nail. We are also going to release a 45 minute documentary about the band. It’s kind of like a weekend thing we did. It’s just kind of cool.

Nolan: You say you are independently releasing the new EP. How do you plan on doing the distribution?

Shawn: On the Internet. That’ll probably be the only way. We are going to release it on our website which is http://www.morellasforest.com or http://www.morellasforest.net. They are linked together, either one. We’ll release it through there and we might do MP3s also, just for other sales, but as of right now we are pretty much just focusing on putting it out through our website. Possibly, we could have some indie label put it out, but we’re not sure. We’re still discussing that.

Nolan: Who are you thinking about with that?

Shawn: I would love Scott Hatch to put it out from Burnt Toast Vinyl. I think he’s very cool. I don’t know if he would be interested. I’ve talked through other people and he might be. I was going to talk to him before I left about it. I think that would be cool. We just don’t want anything that’s non-committal, unless its something really big that we feel good about. As of right now, we are free and we want to be like that for a while.

Nolan: They (Burnt Toast) don’t put shabby stuff out either. They put some quality stuff out. Talk a little about the tour that’s set up for September if you would.

Shawn: Yeah, we’re going on tour in September, I think it starts the 3rd Thursday in September. I don’t know the date right off hand. We are going to go out for about 10 days. I think we’re starting in New York City, in Long Island. I’m not sure of the routing yet. Velvet Blue is booking it. Jeff Cloud and Dirk from Stavesacre started a new booking company.

Nolan: Jeff’s doing absolutely everything right now, isn’t he?

Shawn: Yeah. Dirk’s the main focus of it, I believe, because he works for Dafton Booking. Now, he and Cloud are going to do a booking company together. We’re really happy about that, because I’ve been having to do the booking and I don’t have the time to do it. It’s rough, so I’m glad they are doing it.

Nolan: What kind of places are you looking to play? I know a lot of Christian bands don’t enjoy playing at churches. Is it more for a reach out thing, or crowd wise?

Shawn: Well, I think a lot of bands don’t like playing in churches because most churches aren’t set up to do rock shows. You sound like garbage in a lot of them because of the acoustics and I think a lot of bands, us included, will play pretty much anywhere. We’ll play bars, churches, Christian clubs, coffeehouses, you know, we’ll play anywhere. I like a more club setting, it’s just because people come there for music and its set up for music. As for a church, its kind of like… a lot of kids won’t come to churches to see a show. They think its square or something. If it’s a neutral Christian club even, a lot of kids, including non-Christians, will come out. That’s what’s cool about those shows.

Nolan: So you’re not on tour right now, but you travelled about 6 hours to come to Cornerstone and play about an hour show. What makes you take that trip?

Shawn: Well, there’s a lot of people here (laughs). It’s like playing 40 shows in 1. You get a lot of people and you can do a lot more in a short time. Instead of traveling across the country, they come to you, really. Plus, Cornerstone is cool if you’re here for a couple of days.

Nolan: How many years have you been playing here?

Shawn: I believe 5. We were blessed to play this year, because we weren’t supposed to. A friend that works at JPUSA had a cancellation, so he called us. That was really cool.

Nolan: That would have been Blaster, correct?

Shawn: Yeah.

Nolan: I noticed you were actually on the Tooth and Nail schedule, so the incident (break-up with Tooth and Nail) must have been pretty recently.

Shawn: Yeah, it was early April. They just took forever to take it off.

Nolan: Do you feel you have more freedom now?

Shawn: We’ve always had freedom on Tooth and Nail. He’s (Brandon Ebel) never censored anything we’ve done. We’ve always got to put out anything we wanted. It’s just that you don’t make any money off of your records and you write the music. It’s nice to make money off your own music. I can’t complain about him and I’m not going to put him down, because he did do a lot for us. He got our name out there. Without that, people wouldn’t come to our website and stuff. We wouldn’t be able to sell records on our own. I can’t say anything bad about him, it was just time to go our separate ways.

Nolan: What have you been listening to lately?

Shawn: I’ve been listening to Groove Armada, which is an electronic band. I’ve been listening to Air, a French band.

Nolan: Very good band.

Shawn: Yeah, I love Air man. They’re pretty much my favorite electronic band. What else have I been listening to? I like Everything but the Girl’s latest record. I think that’s a great record.

Nolan: Yeah, Walking Wounded is an incredible album, too.

Shawn: What else? I’m trying to think what’s in my CD player.

Nolan: Speaking of electronic stuff, I noticed that when you still had Nate you guys actually started doing a little bit of electronic drums.

Shawn: Yeah, well the EP is pretty much all electronic sampled drums. There’s a little bit of live drums a friend did, but there’s a lot of sampled drums and stuff. The whole EP is going to be that way. It’s not fully electronic. There’s going to be more keyboards and it’s still going to be Morella’s Forest, but there is going to be a different twist to it. Its a pretty upbeat EP. It’s all upbeat, but one song. It’s not as hard rock, since we’re trying to get away from the harder stuff. It’s more just pop. I do have a side project, though, called TiMo, that Sid sang stuff on. It’s an electronic thing I did with a friend. Yeah, I’ve been doing the TiMo thing that’s all electronic. It’s on MP3.com.

Nolan: Are you going to further that at all?

Shawn: We’ll see. We did 5 songs. People that have come to the website seem to like it. They seem to really dig it. We’re going to do more writing for it and just see what happens with it. It’s more of a fun thing, you know, but Sid sang on four of the 5 cuts.

Nolan: Well, I tell you what, I’ll let you go since One Bad Pig is overpowering us with their metal.

Shawn: OK.


Read more about Cornerstone 2000 and Morella's Forest.