Smile Politely

Gone, but not forgotten

It’s been a long and beautiful journey for local emo/indie rock group So Long Forgotten. The group that was originally formed way back in 2003 recently announced their plans to release one final album and playing a couple of shows before calling it quits for good. The self-titled album is now available and is probably their finest work yet. I had the chance to chat with Micah Boyce, lead singer of So Long Forgotten, ahead of their final show this Saturday at The Accord. 

SP: So for those of us who are not familiar with So Long Forgotten, tell me a little about how you guys came to be.

Micah Boyce: So Long Forgotten actually started in 2003 when I got the opportunity to try out as the singer of a band that our bassist Joe, drummer PJ, and guitarist Dustin had been playing in called Nothing Public. I had been playing drums in a punk band called Flak Jacket with our guitarist Cameron during my senior year of high school. We played a show with Nothing Public, and then I left Flak Jacket to sing in Nothing Public not long after high school graduation. We renamed the band So Long Forgotten. We actually recorded a few albums and an EP over those first few years as a 4 piece that we never really released outside of the few small shows we played in those early years. Eventually, I believe in 2005, Cameron joined the band as a second guitarist. I think it took us a few years to figure out exactly what SLFs “thing” was. When Cameron joined it kind of pulled the whole thing together. We released what we consider our debut album  “Beneath Our Noble Heads” in 2007. From there it was a bunch of touring and a few more records. Eventually Cameron left the band in 2010 and our friend Todd Reese took his place. Cameron apparently couldn’t stay away for too long cause he’s back and we wrote our last record with him. I think that brings us up to speed.

SP: Congrats on the new album, I really think it is something special. What prompted you guys to come out of hiatus and create this album? What does this album mean to you?

Boyce: Thank you so much! We’re super excited about this new record!

You know it’s interesting because we never intended to be on hiatus. As I mentioned earlier, Cameron left the band to focus on his career in 2010, about a year after the release of our last record “Things We Can See and Things We Cannot”. We’d been touring with our friend Todd Reese for awhile at that point. Sometimes he was touring as a songwriter, opening our shows. Other times he was just along for the ride, helping us sell merch and being an all around good friend to have on the road. Todd’s a phenomenal guitarist, he was a close friend and roommate of the band, so it only made sense for Todd to take Cameron’s place when he moved on. I think we went on our last tour in 2010. A few of us had gotten married at that point. I’d moved to Chicago. We thought why not take some time off the road and focus on these new lives we were creating, and start working on the next season of “so long forgotten”. We started writing the beginnings of what would eventually become our final record. As time went on and our mid twenties became our late twenties our focus naturally shifted. If I remember correctly at some point in 2012 we started talking about putting a nail in the coffin. I can’t remember who presented the idea first, but eventually we decided the best way to go out was with a final record, and we thought it’d be awesome if Cameron came back to write it with us. We planned to get together as many weekends as possible and write with a goal of getting the record out some time in 2013. Cameron and I would drive down from Chicago, and we’d write all weekend. All of the sudden we were hanging out as group focusing on this band that brought us all together in first place for the first time in years. This time was different though because Todd was a part of it. The 6 of us had spent so much time on the road together in the past, writing songs that involved all of us brought about a feeling of catharsis that I don’t think any of us were expecting. We realized pretty quickly that SLF was something we all wanted to continue putting time and energy in to, even if it wasn’t at the level that it had been previously. We realize that this band had always been an amazing excuse for the 6 of us to hang out.

When we finally announced that we would be writing and recording a new album we’d actually decided to stick it out and see where this thing went. Luckily we were able to fund our record thanks to a few hundred incredibly generous fans, friends, and family. We had the good the fortune of getting to record with one of our closest friends Will Newton here in Champaign. It was the first time we’d ever recorded an album without doing over a consecutive number of days or weeks. Things ended up taking quite a bit longer than we’d initially hoped. After awhile we decided we needed to just take our time and make it the best thing we’d ever done.

All of us are incredibly proud of the record. It’s so special to us because it took all of us. We wrote the songs we wanted to write. I think it shows a maturity for us as song writers and it highlights the things that everyone in the band is great at on their individual level. To me it’s the perfect way to end SLF. It’s something we can look back on and be proud of. It captures this moment. It’s something we can share for the rest of our lives. as 6 best friends that represents the end of a really beautiful era in all of our lives.

SP: It seems like So Long Forgotten has been an incredible adventure for you- looking back on it all, what are some highs and lows from the 13 years?

Boyce: Oh man where do I begin. To start off simple I’d say a high was just getting the opportunity to travel around the country with your best friends through your mid twenties. I think when all was said and done we played in 37 different states. We played well over a hundred shows a year for years. It seems crazy looking back on it. At one point we drove around in a 17 passenger airport shuttle bus that we bought from another band. We converted it to run on used vegetable oil and we’d drive around from restaurant to restaurant asking if we could take their used grease off of them to fuel our bus. It was disgusting. It saved us a bunch of money, but we had to put a lot in to it and it was a lot of hard, disgusting, and smelly work.

We got to play lots of shows with bands that we looked up to like As Cities Burn and Colour Revolt. We created lots of friendships that are still meaningful to us. A few of us even met our wives playing in this band.

As far as lows go, there were just difficult times that we had to figure out how to work through. Members leaving the band. Regrets about what labels we could have worked with. Lots of emotional moments between band members. Frustrating things like stolen equipment, asking members to leave the band, being broken down on the side of the road and having to miss great shows. There were even a few scary moments where people in the band fell from really high places on their head or back and we didn’t know how they’d recover. But everyone that should be involved for our last record and last shows are upright and will be playing these new songs at these last shows. Seems like things turned out alright. We’re still the best of friends. We’re family.

SP: So you guys started off as a Christian band… how has your songwriting focus shifted over the years?

Boyce: Every member of the band was raised within the Christian Tradition. When we first started out a lot of the bands that heavily influenced our music (Further Seems Forever, mewithoutYou, As Cities Burn, etc.) were on christian labels. We knew that world because we’d all grown up in it. We went to Christian music festivals and went to Christian shows. I’ve always been most influenced in the way I write lyrics by bands that are very open and vulnerable about whatever their experience is. And that was the way I approached writing for SLF. I wrote about my experience. And for most of SLF’s existence we were playing lots of christians shows and festivals and practicing the tradition. When I look back on the lyrics now I see how much of it was working through different theological, philosophical, and existential ideas. I think our music connected with a lot of kids who were in similar places. We played everything from small baptist churches to mega churches to bars and colleges to huge legitimate music venues. I think for all of us touring and playing music in such a wide variety of places opened our eyes to a lot of experiences that we never could have gone through in the small towns where we grew up. Don’t get me wrong, 10 years ago, there was certainly an evangelical agenda to our getting up on stage and playing our songs. Over time things shifted for us. Most people work through the things that were handed to them growing up through their 20s. We were no exception, except that we were doing it together, away from home, in churches one night, and smokey bars the next. Speaking strictly for myself I can see that experience spanning the entirety of our records through the lyrics. I don’t think I’ve written any differently for this record than I ever have. I’ve just written about my experience. So much of that for me over the last 13 years has been dealing with my ideas about my place in the world and how to navigate it. I think our new record falls perfectly in line with that. We don’t take for granted that we’ve built a good portion of our fanbase from playing within the christian DIY scene. We’ve already had quite a few interesting responses to the new record. We were expecting it though. And it seems that people are getting what they’ve always come to our band for, engaging music thats open, honest, and vulnerable. If there’s a specific message that all of us can get behind and have always been able to get behind its to seek truth, and do it honestly without expectation. I didn’t go in to this record trying to convey a specific message. We wrote this record for us. I wrote the lyrics from my perspective, which is simply A perspective. Hopefully people see a purity in that and the music meets them wherever they are.

We’re all in different places than we were when we started. I think theres a lot of things this band holds on to very tightly that we learned growing up. We’ve built an incredible community that takes care of one another and encourages each other. We support each other whether its moving to New York for a new job or working through an existential crisis. Its really a beautiful thing, one might even say its divine.

SP: I’m really looking forward to your final show this Saturday, you guys have had a good run. Do you have any interest at all in continuing to make music in the future, either with a different band or as a solo musician?

Boyce: Thank you! We couldn’t be more excited for these shows. I don’t think any of us knew what kind of response we’d get when we finally let the cat out of the bag about us deciding to call it quits. The response has been overwhelming.

This band has been a massive part of our lives for more than a decade. At this point it’s in our blood. It’s reshaped the rest of our lives in more ways than we can realistically understand. I don’t expect this group of guys to give up on making music any time soon, or ever for that matter.

Joe and Dustin have already been playing in a new band called Tried and True. People who love Joe’s bass stylings should get very excited about this. He is playing guitar and singing in this band. Joe has always been a song-writer at the end of the day. The members of SLF have always felt fortunate to have him on bass because he’s so good at it, and he does so much more than bring the low end. He drives melody. Current SLF fans should get excited to hear what he can do on a guitar. Tried and True will be working on a record very soon with Will Newton and Bryan Bachman at CU Sound Studios in downtown Champaign.

Cameron is currently living in New York editing videos and looking real dapper all the time. He still writes music. Not sure when we’ll get more from him, but don’t worry the rest of us won’t let him get away with not making any.

Todd is actually one of the more prolific song-writers I’ve ever known. He’s always got a pile of songs he’s sitting on waiting to record and release in the right way at the right time. I think that that time is just around the corner for him. I’m very excited about the projects he has in the pipeline. Expect a new solo record, a new band, a few other side projects with friends.

Our crazy talented drummer PJ has been putting all his energy in to law school. We’re incredibly proud of PJ. He’s worked his ass off for this. He’ll be fully-fledged Philip Pence Esquire by the end of the year, so we can count on his energies continuing to flow towards being a great lawyer.

As for me I have every intention to keep making music. I am in the early stages of starting a new band in Chicago with a good friend. We’d like to have music recorded within the next year. I am also working with Todd on a project that’s very different than anything either of us have released before.

Overall there’s always ideas cooking among the 6 of us and the crazy talented friends we’ve made thanks to this band. So while it may not be So Long Forgotten, you certainly haven’t heard the last from us.

Don’t miss So Long Forgotten’s final show this Saturday at The Accord in downtown Champaign. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door.

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