It was the dead of summer in Portland when members of Forty Feet Tall lured their friends—with the promise of free beer and pizza—into a gutted four-story house and convinced them to dance, masked and blindfolded, in the pitched-roof attic.
“That explains why people are so sweaty, because it was a million degrees up there,” says Haydn Cieri, who directed, shot and edited the band’s music video for their single “Cavalcade.” “Start at the bottom and spiral up as things get weirder,” were the instructions he was given, and he ran with it.
The video follows the band members, initially clad in white, as they get indoctrinated into an unknown cult of the faceless and brainwashed. The last thing you see is a mask being put over the lens of the camera as you realize you, the viewer, have been inculcated as well. The imagery is as off-kilter and unsettling as the message of the song itself. Lead singer and guitarist Cole Gann was inspired to write "Cavalcade" after reading an article about Donald Drumpf wanting to put on a military march. “They’ll lead you on, hounds on a chain, they’ll sing you to sleep and tattoo your brain,” Gann sings, backed by powerful rock that it is easy to imagine marching to mindlessly.
Yet, the workings of the song are anything but mindless, its trajectory moving from high-energy fuzz to melody and back again, ultimately descending into discordance. The ability to manipulate the highs and lows of a song, to find the perfect balance of nuanced vocals and guitar solos that go hard, has always been a strong point for the band, and this is no different in their latest iteration with new bassist Brett Marquette. In fact, experimenting with “the dynamics of going quiet and loud, soft and big,” as Marquette says, is precisely what they are currently interested in. “One of the new songs we have starts with one instrument, then gets louder and louder with more coming in, a continuous build that never repeats. It’s just an always evolving song, and that’s really fun.”
Still, when it comes to genre, they won’t be put in a box. “I do think we have a hard rock base, but then we go from there to get more of the punk and indie influences,” says guitarist Jack Sehres.
Originally from Los Angeles, the band has already been influenced by the Portland music scene, something they readily admit. “It’s definitely more do-it-yourself stuff here,” drummer Steven Driscoll says, “and more pop influenced, which I think we have shied away from in the past. But we have a couple of new songs that have more pop sensibilities, which I think is an influence of where we are.” Gann agrees, calling the Portland music scene “a bit of a collective” and pointing to the value of getting to see the “underbelly” of a close-knit musical community, an experience they didn’t feel they had in LA.