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Morella's Forest

Morella's Forest 
Cornerstone Festival 2000
July, 2000
By Nolan Shigley.

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.

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.

Four years later, I sat down with Shawn Johnson at the 2000 edition of Cornerstone

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 went through two drummers since Nate left the band about a year and a half ago. 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. He said he would do it in a second. 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, but we don't know yet. We really haven't got together enough to really see how it gels, 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 keeping up with Nate? What is he doing?

Shawn - He's playing in Johnny Q Public. They were here (Cornerstone 2000). 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 -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 - How do you plan to distribute your independent release?

Shawn - On the Internet. That'll probably be the only way. We are going to release it on our website. or 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 - What kind of places do you like 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 it's set up for music. As for a church, it's 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 - You're not on tour right now, but you traveled about 6 hours to come to Cornerstone and play about an hour show. What makes you take that trip?

Shawn - Well, there are 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. 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 five. We were blessed to play this year, because we weren't suppose to. A friend that works at JPUSA had a cancellation, so he called us. That was really cool.

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

Shawn -It was early April.

Nolan - Do you feel you have more freedom now?

Shawn - We've always had freedom on Tooth and Nail. 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. 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. 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 - Speaking of electronic stuff, I noticed that when you still had Nate you started doing a little bit of electronic drums.

Shawn - 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. It's on

Nolan - Are you going to further that?

Shawn - We'll see. We did five songs. People that have come to the website 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 five cuts.

One Bad Pig is overpowering us with their metal so the interviewed ended with a true Cornerstone Festival interruption.

Nolan Shigley is also a writer for Opuszine, a webzine devoted to independent music and cult cinema.  All of his reviews can also be found at
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