FM DUST ARCHIVES: Forever Stoked

I had very little good to say about Portland when I moved back to Ann Arbor in 2007. I didn’t know it then, but it was every bit a smokescreen: the only real problem I had with ol’ stumptown is that it did nothing to magically get my shit together for me. It took six years of getting said shit together to be able to publicly admit that, but there it is.

I was always (well, almost always: my moods swing like a pendulum) proud of what I did musically in my first Portland stint, though. There was a lot of action on the Actual Birds front, some of my favorite stuff that I’ve done, but most of my musical energy for that year and change along the Willamette was focused on FOREVER STOKED.

Forever Stoked was a booze-fueled rock and roll powerhouse, with a rhythm section that could do no wrong (well, almost no wrong: there was that one show where so much wrong was done that I nearly quit the band): Chris and Thomas Hoganson. Chris and Tom have been in so many bands before and since that I dare not deign to list them (for a bit more info, though, see the previous entry on Teenage Tit), but they also hosted shows at their house, Dekum Manor, which means we had no trouble getting onto cool gigs (all of the best house shows that year were at Dekum). We had a series of tambourine players (Zac Parker, Ali Lutz, Amanda Duncan, and Cait Lamborne), which I always insisted were an integral part of the band even if they were occasionally replaced (Ali stuck around longest). Every band should have a hypeman (person), after all.

Forever Stoked also featured some of my best songwriting to date. I wonder sometimes if this is because I was taking pains at the time to distance myself from any notions of “proper” songwriting… maybe it’s like falling in love, where it happens when you’re not looking for it? Whatever the case, my as-yet-officially-undiagnosed anxiety disorder had kicked into high gear, which was horrible, but the concomitant dread and awareness of my own mortality made for good songs (it also made me extremely impatient with any other kind of writing, but that’s another story).

There was nothing about Forever Stoked that reinvented the wheel, but we played rock and roll the way I like it: sloppy, ill-practiced, catchy, and often half-naked. Our best shows played like a jam session between Alex Chilton, Johnny Thunders, and Marc Bolan, all three-chord nuggets played at full volume, usually with sub-Replacements tightness. Our worst shows would also fit all those descriptors, used as slights instead of praise. Either way, they involved lots of beer.

The beer was always part of the plan, but the sound wasn’t. When I broached the idea of jamming with the Hogansons, I wanted to start a band that sounded like The Brainbombs, Drunks With Guns, Flipper, etc… that is to say, slow, drunk, repetitive, and gross (I got my chance a couple years later with Blood Necklace, but more on that next week). That’s kinda what we were messing with until about halfway through our first practice, when Chris stood up behind the drums and shouted “God-DAMMIT, I wanna play pop songs!”. After that moment of clarity, that was all we ever did: play pop songs. It was a good choice.

I’ve never been in love with these recordings. Even though it’s about 75% live and all-analog (well, I think the effects unit we used to occasionally add absurd, gurgling delay effects may have been digital… but everything else) in Dekum Manor’s basement, the Flaming Deathtrap recordings always felt a little stilted to me. Then again, maybe I just wanted them to sound shittier… I kept insisting that we should re-record everything on a cassette 4-track, but that never came to pass.

So it goes that this is what we have to document an era (minus a few live performances on radio shows, all of which are marred by the lack of vocal monitors, combined with vocals that are WAY too high in the mix. This is a deadly combo if ever there was one, ESPECIALLY for a band with a decidedly “limited” singer). The Hogansons and I live in the same city again, so who knows what’ll happen… Forever Stoked will never officially break up, after all, so maybe we’ll play again. That said, we’ll never sound like this again, so it’s reasonable to view The Complete Flaming Deathtrap Recordings as the definitive document.

Dustin Krcatovich is a cartoonist, writer, designer, founder of FM DUST, and a collector of certain curios and ephemera (with a focus on 20th century "junk culture"). His writing and illustration work appears frequently in The Quietus, Tiny Mix Tapes, and Esquire's Culture Blog. He is also a former editor and contributor to Secret Zen Garden,Saagara's illustrated mindfulness/wellness blog for young people. He currently resides in Portland, OR.

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